Valentine’s Day was just a few weeks ago and many of us found ourselves buying cards and sending or giving flowers or candy to those we love or even something more substantive like jewelry. We live in a society that places value on love (and of course Hallmark cards does it share of marketing to encourage us to participate!)
In recent blogs I invited readers to consider that we are neuro-biologically programmed to want and need to belong to those groups that offer us a sense of safety and connection. We have our own unique Membership Circles with the people who are the closest to us at the center. Those we are closest to our people we typically love deeply.
Part of the reason this exploration of love is so important is all the new research that shows how incredibly important relationships are, especially relationships involving love. My invitation to you is to consider gaining a better understanding of this big subject called love. As you read this, I invite you to notice your own thoughts, feelings, sensations, beliefs, images and memories that pop up.
In doing some research on defining love it turns out there are a variety of descriptions. I think the following one captures the essence of what love is: “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person · a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.” This is a good starting point for understanding the meaning of love. But there is so much more!
I often seek guidance on important life issues from the Bible, in discussions with others and in articles or blogs online. The following gives us some important information about different types of love and what the Bible says about love. From Sarah Currie in a 2019 entry: “The ancient Greeks had more than a dozen words for what we translate as the word “love.” Eros, physical desire or passion, scared them a bit, as it threatened a loss of control—very different from our obsession (especially this month) with romantic love and the experience of being “madly in love.” Philia, or friendship, was highly valued, centered in the kind of loyalty formed among fellow soldiers on the battlefield, and also referred to the love shared between parents and children or family members. Ludus, playful love, was thought to be the lighter side of loving, engaged by children or in childlike play between casual acquaintances and was seen as one of the delights of being in society. Pragma, mature, realistic love, was considered the ground of enduring relationships between mates, family members, and others one considered essential. This kind of love involved compromise, commitment, and beyond “falling” in love, the effort to “stand” in love. Philautia, or self-love, was thought to be natural and essentially good as grounding the individual in self-awareness, though it could descend into narcissism and self-centeredness, if not balanced in relationship to concern for the needs of others.
The deepest, most complex, and most demanding type of love, according to the Greeks, was agape, selfless, self-giving, empathetic love, extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. Later translated into Latin as caritas, the origin of our word “charity,” this is the kind of love of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 13: “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate…no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, doesn’t always say ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything; trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies….until that completeness (when we can see as God sees), we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, and love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” (The Message, Eugene Peterson)
As I read this I invite you to consider what an amazing gift love is and that it is a gift given to us from the Creator. For me that is God but I know others have other ways of defining the Creator or have their own ways of recognizing what life is about. Many of us are on a journey to figure all that out and others are totally confident in our beliefs.
I think there is a lot to digest in this information. I encourage you to take time to think about what it means to experience love towards and from God however you believe Him to be and to be someone who loves others and experiences love from others.
To be continued….
Invitation for Reflection
- As you read this what did you notice in terms of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, beliefs, images and memories? I encourage you to take time to notice each of these and learn more about yourself as you do this.
- What are some of your own personal reflections on the definition of love? To what extent do they resonate with the information in this blog?
- In what ways have you experienced the many types of love described from the website I shared: Eros (physical, sensual love,) Philia (friendship love), Ludos (playful love), Pragma (mature, realistic love), Philautia (self-love), and Agape (selfless-self-giving, empathetic love)?
Diane Wagenhals, Director, Lakeside Global Institute