Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Perception Today...What is Love?...Pt 1

Recently, I made a blog post entited "The Ones We Love."  Today, I'd like to talk a little bit about what that word really means.  Love.  For some, it is a 4-letter word in the derogatory sense of 4-letter words.  For others, it is simply a "chemical reaction in the brain."  Other people will think love is flippant, associating it with sex.  For others still, love has a deep, profound meaning.  So, what is love?  Is there such a thing as true love?  Love at first sight?  My thoughts after the jump.

The word "love" is tossed around quite a bit in every day speech.  People say, "I love my wife," or "I love pizza," or "I love my kids," or "God loves me."  I think that is where the first bit of confusion on what love is comes from in our society.  Are all of these "loves" equal or the same?  Would somebody love pizza in the same way as they love their kids?  Would they show love to their kids in the same way they show love to their wife?  I would certainly hope not!!  Unfortunately, we only have one word for love in the English language, and no real way of differentiating the different kinds of love.

This is where the Greek language can be helpful.  You see, the ancient Greeks actually had four different words for the idea of love.

Eros--Eros was the word the Greeks used when they wanted to describe physical love, such as that which a husband and wife share, a physical intimacy.  This is where we get the English word "erotic".  So if you were to say you "made love" with your spouse, you would basically be saying you "made eros."

Philia--This is the word used when speaking of "brotherly love".  This doesn't have to do with your love for your family though.  This has to do with the love we have for other people just because they are other people.  It is the love that compels us to help a person crossing the street, or helping a stranger in trouble.  The city Philidelphia is called the city of brotherly love because Philidelphia is derived from the word philia.

Storge--Storge is the type of love we have for family.  It is the affectionate love we have for our children, siblings and parents.  Think of the idea, "blood is thicker than water".  This would be storge love.

Agape--This is the strongest use of the word love in Greek.  This is unconditional love.  This is the love that says, "I would do anything for you, and will stand by you and care for you no matter the circumstances, even if you do not return the love, even if while I love you, you hate me."

Using the Greek definitions of love, you can certainly see the different types of love that there are.  I think another thing that can cause confusion for people, is how they were shown love when growing up.  Some people are blessed to grow up in a home where they are shown proper affection, told they are loved, given encouragement, and taught how to respect themselves and others.  Other people, unfortunately, grow up in a home where they are torn down verbally, emotionally, phyiscally, and even sexually.  They're berated and beaten, growing up not entirely sure if that is what love is supposed to look like, or if there even is such a thing as love.  Some people will equate love with sex.  How many times have you heard of a boy telling his girlfriend something like, "If you loved me, you'd sleep with me."  Or have you ever heard of a girl, insecure in herself, afraid her boyfriend will leave her, thinking something like, "Maybe if I have sex with him, he'll stay with me."  Still others will say things like, "Love is never having to say you're sorry," or "Love is blind," or "God is love."

So, what exactly is love?  Can we straighten out the confusion?  What are the characteristics of real love?  I would assert that love, in essence, is caring deeply for another person.  How do you really care for another person though?  How do you love them?  Personally, I think the best answer on that is found in the Bible.  Even if somebody is a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, or an atheist, I think they could probably agree with this definition.  Let me share what the Bible says love is.

From 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Tomorrow I'll dig into this passage in depth, and discuss what I think it means, and in light of that, how I think people should act toward one another.  Until then, what is your definition of love?  What do you think it means?  And what do you think is the greatest way to show a person love?  Have a LOVEly day!  :-)

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