The Four Loves

Love goes farther than passionate romance.

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Kalli Thommen/THE CHIMES

Catherine Streng, Writer

During my childhood, I asked my father “What is love?” To this day, his response of “love is respect” stayed with me. “You respect the people you love,” he replied. Now that I am older, I understand he explained only the foundation of the complex emotion. He always reminded me not to mistake love for the warm fuzzy feeling we tend to get when crushes begin to bloom. That feeling goes away, but that does not mean the love will too. We do not always get the butterflies for those we love. Love contains many complex layers for different people.

The Greeks summarized this indescribable word by splitting it into four different kinds — agape, philia, eros and storge. We should not deem any love more important than another. They often intertwine with each other, creating that respect. These definitions attempt to describe the different layers and types of love we have toward other people.

EROS

“Eros” describes intimate romantic love, the kind Valentine’s Day reminds everyone of. The Greeks used the word “eros” to express sexual love or passion between two people. The English language derived the word erotic from eros. This love leads to marriage, children and family. However, they did not believe eros sufficient to sustain a relationship long term, since it can diminish after many years. Not surprisingly, the Greeks named their god of love Eros. You might be more familiar with his Roman counterpart, Cupid.

STORGE

Storge refers to the naturally occurring familial love one feels towards their family members, community or co-workers. It describes the strong relationship between a parent and a child. Storge can also blend with other loves and create an underlying foundation. Storge lovers’ relationships gradually grow from friendship, which can survive after a breakup from a romantic relationship. Do not fool yourself into believing we must feel this love. It can be dutiful or even unfeeling, but strong nonetheless.

PHILIA

People find the third love, philia, within friendships of those who enjoy the pure delight of simply spending time together. Philia forms the word philanthropy, originally meaning “love of fellow man.” It refers to the warm brotherly affection for others in a platonic relationship. Those with philia love wish for their friend’s happiness over theirs. The Bible exhorts us to love our fellow Christians with philia love in Romans 12:10.

AGAPE

The fourth and final love, agape, represents a love similar to eros in that the bearer will make sure they always provide for the loved one, no matter the cost. Those with agape love will sacrifice anything, including their possessions, self interests or even their own happiness for the sake of their beloved. Thayers Lexicon describes agape as “to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it.” God has proven his agape love for us by sacrificing his one and only son.

Although these definitions help divide the word love, the different forms of love work together to create a deeper care for someone. For instance, one can have both agape and eros love for someone, such as the love two spouses have for each other. Someone could also have a mix of philia and storge love towards a family member. Though a person may feel a different type of love for a significant other or a mother, each love remains just as important. Do not focus on one specific love this Valentine’s Day, for we should cherish each love.

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