what love is

…continued from yesterday’s (this morning’s really) post “What Love Is Not”.

I have been in such a tizzie about this question that I’ve been researching like I was back in high-school trying to write a term paper.

The last time I was this frantic about finding my truth, I was just starting out my search for the important questions to my answers. Because this quest also feels very much like a spiritual journey, I decided to once again look towards faith teachings for answers.

(Did you know that you can find information relating to almost EVERYTHING in holy texts? Pretty cool, that.)

Anyway, The Hebrew Bible (or The Old Testament for those Christians who’ve adopted it and call it their own) references four types of love that exist between people: storge, philia, eros and agape

Storge  (storgē), the first love between people is literally the first love between people.  Storge means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural biological affection, like that felt by parents for offspring.  This ‘love’ is the type that binds families together so that, no matter what external forces come against them, the unity of the group remains complete and unbreakable. Even though suffering and heartache may come into their experience, storge love binds the family together and strengthens its ties.

Philia (philía) means friendship or affectionate love in modern Greek. It is a dispassionate, virtuous love. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. Philadelphia, The city Of Brotherly Love, derives its name from the root word philia. Philia would be the love that defines patriotism, school pride or the relationship between the fans of a sports team. Although it would appear to be benign, a negative aspects of philia may present as prejudiced behaviors and mob mentality.

Éros (érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. Eros is the type of love that we usually think of when we first ponder ‘love’. It is often exciting, overwhelming, and wonderful. Eros is the type of love for which we long, the love for which we may indeed wile away the hours and commune with flowers, the love that inspires poets. Eros is the type of love we are referring to when we say “Love hurts”.

Agape is the final Greek word for ‘love’ used in Scripture. Agape is defined as being unconditional, pure love. It is a love that stems from the ability of the individual to see the divine spark in all life. Agape distinguishes its character from ‘eros’ which has more sensual associations. The word was used extensively in early Christian writings to express the love of God or Christ or the love of Christians for one another and was translated in Latin to caritas or ‘charity’ in English.

So, by these definitions, Love is then about passion and sexual intimacy. All the angst, the crazy butterflies in our stomaches, love is about all of that too. But, sadly, that kind of love is fleeting.  We so desperately want to live in a state of agape that we trick ourselves into believing eros is so much more than it really is. And then, then when the shine is off the penny and the newness of a relationship has faded, we find that we have “fallen out of love”. With our naive and unrealistic expectations of love we are literally setting ourselves up to fail.

I think the primary difference between agape and other manifestations of love is intent. When we strive to experience agape, we consciously tend to our relationships with others. We cultivate and work at maintaining such love. Agape is love in action; if relates to  what we do rather than how we feel. Eros, storge and philia are more passive than overachiever agape.

Sadly, way less emphasis is put on the role of agape in our culture than other types of love. We convince ourselves that eros is the end-all-be-all and that all we need is love. Hmmm. Crazy, huh?

So, Seal and Heidi…. I guess they held tightly to their eros for the duration, so sad that in the monotony of the day to day they didn’t have the skills to shift along the continuum from eros to agape. Passion fades, good looks are subjective, belt-lines expand and hair falls out or turns to grey. For love to last, honest hard work must be part of the program.

At this point, I would like to state that I think the worst thing to ever happen to the status of love in western society would be the release of the movie Love Story based on the book by Erich Segal and starring Ryan O’Neil and Ali McGraw. The famous quote, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” comes from this movie. Unfortunately people still believe this claptrap and behave accordingly. We all know, though, that love means having to say you’re sorry all the time, don’t we? Love is not about being right, it is about being… well, being loving.

Love you (and all your quirks – cuz they’re what makes you you)


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