February, it’s the time of year when we think about love, mainly because of Valentine’s Day. I remember as a girl, buying valentines for every single one of my classmates. Each of these had silly little sayings about love, but I would be very intentional about picking out certain ones for specific friends. At that age, love was more of a feeling I had for my family, friends, and God. Of course, through the years, my Valentine celebrations morphed into romantic expectations, you know, the kind found in books and movies. Eventually I experienced those early stages of puppy love but also some disappointments.
Love has now expanded far beyond the celebration of a February holiday and those early days of conversation hearts. As a believer, love is something I strive to demonstrate to God and others. Being a wife, mom, and nana, I want my actions of affection to be intentional and impactful. In English, we use one word Love, as a noun or as a verb with various definitions and degrees of emotion. But in the Greek language, love has eight different words! (listed alphabetically)
- Agápe: empathetic, universal love- This is the unconditional love we have for God and others as in the two greatest commandments: You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself, Matthew 22:37-39.
- Eros: romantic, passionate love- This is the passion you have for your spouse or significant other.
- Ludus: playful, flirtatious love- These are the beginning, tingling feelings without really knowing the other person.
- Mania: obsessive love– This is a one-sided and very unhealthy desire for another person built on possession and control.
- Philia: intimate, authentic friendship- This is the affection you have for your dearest friends. It’s referred to as brotherly love-as in Philadelphia, and intended to mean a closeness and intimacy without physical attraction.
- Philautia: self-love- Remember Matthew 22:39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself, Philautia is the positive emotions we should have for ourselves. I think many of us struggle with this type of love. Even Aristotle said, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” If this is true, I need to learn to love myself better so I can love others well.
- Pragma: committed, companionate love – This would be the sacrificial love of a caretaker or a mature marital love. It is a love that commits to the well-being of the other person without expectations.
- Storge: unconditional, familial love- This is a family and parental type of affection. Unconditional like Agape but intended for our family members. (found in the Greek City Times; comments-mine)
Defining love using the Greek words helped me realize that even as a little girl, I was learning different ways to demonstrate affection to others. My Dad often reminded me that Agape love was the most important mission in life- love for God and fellow man. His verse was Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony, Colossians 3:14 . Another beloved minister taught me that I should have more than one type of love for those closest to me. But the biggest lesson from my “love” definition exploration is how my own Philautia-self-love or lack thereof can affect the impact of my love for others. How about you? Which of these definitions of love are new to you? How will that impact the way you love God, others, and yourself?
Dear Lord, What a marvelous God You are! Without You, we would not know what love is, for You are the creator and exemplar of love. You loved us so much that You gave Your only Son, that if we believe; we would have new life through Him. May we learn to love You deeply, others empathetically, and ourselves unconditionally. For the love we have for ourselves, impacts the love we are capable to give to others. Amen.
As always, thank you for your support and encouragement.