Some 55 years ago a retired Plymouth Brethren missionary lived three doors away from my home. He came across as a bully. He and his wife had a son about my age. I rang their doorbell one day and Mr. M. (the retired missionary) came to the door. I asked if I could speak with his son K. “Why?”, asked Mr. M. “Because he is my friend” I replied. “He’s not your friend” bellowed Mr. M “he is an acquaintance”. And I was not allowed to speak with K.
Of course Mr. M. was right. K. and I scarcely knew each other, we were not yet friends. But I still wish that the red-faced Mr. M. had explained this to me without yelling. Indeed, he came over as a bully.
D. is a colleague in the Episcopal Church. He and I occasional serve in the same parish. D. took exception to one of my blog entries. I’d attacked the Tea Party message.
D. is a Tea Party sympathiser and he chose to take my words personally. Part of his complaint was based on his assertion that he and I are friends.
I did not take him up on this (no use in adding fat to the fire), but it’s the case that we are colleagues not friends.
We’ve never eaten in each other’s homes; never had any relationship other than a working relationship at Sunday Eucharist; never had a deep conversation about any matter.
If we had been friends he’d have well known that my generalised comments were not a personal attack.
A parishioner once asked me if I would be her friend. I gently expressed my belief that I could not be both her pastor and her friend. I added “but as your pastor I will try to be as honest and faithful as would be a friend”.
I long resisted joining Facebook because I do not care for its designation of mutual contacts as “friends”.
Most of those I “know” on Facebook are folks with a range of life interests which are similar to mine.
I've never met many of them.
Just a few are truly my “friends”.
Now, based on some algorithm or other, Facebook has moved some of these people into a category called “close friends”. “Close friends” in the Facebook playbook are those with whom I have the most regular or frequent interactions.
But not many of them are designated as “close” in my heart and mind.
Facebook has some value for me. In using it I have re-connected with folks I knew many years ago, and I have been able to be more connected with some of my extended family members (nieces and nephews).
But it is not, nor will it ever be an arbiter which decides who are my friends, and who are my close friends.