By Mike Shoesmith
The Acquaintance Stage
You meet someone, you learn the person's name, perhaps shake hands, and that's it. You now know enough about that person to say "hey, how are ya" at your next encounter. The person has not added anything to your life, positive or negative. Every relationship begins at this stage: The Acquaintance Stage.
At this point you may encounter this person more frequently, at parties or birthdays or at work. The person may even be a newly acquired in-law. And it is precisely at this point when this person will begin to affect your life in a personal manner. It may be aggressive at first or mild but inevitably this person will affect you at some level corresponding with the level of your interaction.
In many cases relationships which move beyond The Acquaintance Stage remain neutral as far as give and take is concerned. Most people understand the whole "reaping and sowing" concept of interpersonal relationships. So this information is not a one or the other proposition, meaning, either a person is a friend or an enemy. As long as the scales are equally balanced an acquaintance may forever remain neutral and nothing more.
The Friend Stage
It's an easy judgment call to make. As soon as a person begins adding to your life in the positive sense that person has moved from mere acquaintance to friend. Often this is the result of a first move. Somebody has to begin the move toward adding to the other person's life and then, perhaps, the move is reciprocated through mutual benefit i.e your child is friends with my child and so we begin hanging out for their benefit (birthday parties and the like), then we hit it off and, as an example, you come over and help me with a brake job and I come over and help you with your new deck. All of this is very manly but hey, I'm a very manly man.
Since acquaintance is the neutral spot, nothing lost and nothing gained, friendship is a move upward, toward the gain side. It may not always be agreeable, but it is always mutually beneficial. It is a true friendship.
The Enemy Stage
By now you may have noticed a pattern. If The Acquaintance Stage is neutral and The Friend Stage is a gain upward from neutral then The Enemy Stage will be a loss, downward from neutral. When people with whom you are acquainted begin taking from your life, be it peace, money, time, whatever, and there is no balance in this relationship then the person is a thief and has literally become your enemy. In the study of chemicals we know that acids have a negative pH level. They are constantly eating away at other substances trying to reach that higher pH. This is why acids are so damaging to human skin, for example. They eat away at you trying to absorb your higher pH (possible hydrogen) in an attempt to level out. It is a type of anger boiling as a metaphor for the types of people which constantly steal from others yet never seem to be satisfied.
It may be a general problem the person has, always needy for attention and sucking the life out of everyone they encounter. Or it may simply be a case of not being a compatible match between the two of you. Perhaps you possess certain qualities which resemble a person with whom this 'enemy' has unresolved issues. Whatever the case, you have a very important decision to make.
Whenever a relationship becomes poisonous (acidic) we have to ask ourselves: is the Lord asking me to sever this relationship? Better yet, we should ask if the Lord wants us to see this as a ministry opportunity. In this case He will support you as you be His vessel to reach this person. However - it is often the case that the Lord will ask you to end this relationship, for your sake and the sake of your loved-ones. You cannot be the best man or woman you can be if an enemy is sucking the life out of you and especially when the Lord hasn't given you the grace to stay with it in a ministry capacity.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:Hebrews 12:14
I have not had a relationship with my biological father for ten years. He resented my faith-walk and constantly argued about world-views etc. He was crude and disrespectful toward my immediate family members and finally, as an act of love toward each other we agreed to end our relationship. It was definitely a good and wise decision. Ours was a tumultuous, acidic, affiliation. DNA does not spell "dad."
Decisions, decisions. At the end of the day we are left with a certain amount of ourselves to give out. People are taking and people are giving. Be a giver, for sure, but also be aware of those who are taking from you to the point that they have become your enemy. And perhaps it is time to do a little relationship house-cleaning. Cherish your friends, deal wisely with your enemies, and God bless you.