When I say, “I love my husband, I love my son, I love my friend, I love everyone,” it’s clear that I’m talking about different kinds of love.
The ancient Greeks had four words that describe different types of love: agape (charity), phileo (friendship), eros (sexual), and storge (affection).
I had a profound ‘aha’ moment when I learned these four love definitions during a personal development seminar a few years ago. They transformed my understanding of, and ability to express ‘love’.
Agape is the most unconditional, noblest type of love that involves caring for another, nature or God – regardless of the circumstances.
Agape love is a choice – an act of will, not a feeling. This type of love is altruistic. It desires the welfare and betterment of others regardless of how we feel about them. This includes people whose personalities clash with ours and those who hurt us and treat us badly.
Agape love is of, and from God, whose very nature is love itself. Christians are taught to love everyone with agape love. The apostle John in his chapter of the bible wrote “God is love.”
Phileo or philia love refers to the love of between friends or siblings. It’s most often expressed in a close friendship. Best friends will display this generous and affectionate love for each other as each wants to make the other happy. Since phileo love involves feelings of warmth and affection toward another person, we do not have phileo love toward our enemies as we do when we feel agape love.
Phileo is friendly love based on feelings or emotions. When men hug each other to say hello, they’re feeling phileo love. When women get together for dinner with their girlfriends, they’re feeling philia love.
Storge love is an empathy bond – affectionate love. Typically, it describes the type of love you feel for your child, and your child for you. It’s a naturally occurring, unforced type of love. It’s interesting that over time, Eros love can evolve into Storge love – fondness born out of familiarity or dependency – think of an elderly married couple.
Eros love is passionate or sexual love. It’s what we call being ‘in love’. Eros focuses primarily on sexuality and self. While eros is important within a romantic partnership or marriage, it can also be abused or mistaken for storge love.
A relationship based solely on eros is doomed to failure. If you want a successful long-term relationship, consider how important it is to also have philio, agape and storge love to sweeten the experience and help you manage the rocky times.
I wonder what would happen in the world if these words that define the four types of love became part of our everyday vocabulary. Would more people express more love freely? Would they feel loved and connected to all that is – no matter their romantic relationship status? Would they be better equipped to identify a relationship that could last a lifetime? How much more love can you send out into the world now that you know how to define love?
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