I love words.
Can you tell?
I love the English language. I love the beauty that you can find as you string words together. I love the music and cadence you can almost feel in a well written script. I love the depth of words well turned. I’m often horrified by the lack of respect our words hold anymore. I’m appalled by how carelessly words are used.
Language has its faults though. Some things can’t seem to be caught in words, no matter how hard you try. Some feelings are just to big to be pinned down and understood in this form. Some concepts are just beyond its scope or measurement.
Some languages do better than others in this. American English is the only language I actually know, but I have studied some words from other languages a little. After all, my middle name became my middle name simply because it was a Greek word my mother came across in her studies, and she thought it sounded pretty.
There is actually one area that Greek trumps English’s butt where words are concerned. One word, or concept, in particular, where Greek just plain rocks and English pretty much fails.
That concept is the concept of love.
Why does English fail and Greek rule?
Well, in English, for love we have one word to use, love. In Greek? There are four.
Four words, entirely separate words, all for love. Does it seem a little redundant to you? Do you think we don’t need so many words for this concept? I’ll prove to you we do, and I don’t even need to do much to do so.
“I love you! I mean, I don’t love, love you. But I love you!”
“I love Ashton Kutcher! He’s such an amazing actor! And he’s so HOT!”
“I really do still love you! I’m just not “in-love” with you anymore!”
“Well Hunny, when Mommies and Daddies really love each other, then they make a baby.” “You mean like when I love my friend Danny? Will Danny and I make a baby Mommy?” “Uh, no…. Mommies and Daddies have a different sort of love.”
So what are these four words?
Eros: In Eros, comes passion, physical desire, romance. Here in Eros comes the heady feeling of being “in-love.” It’s a love we tend to lift up above the others in our esteem. Throughout history this is the love that has been lifted up in sonnets, this has been the love written about and glorified. It’s probably the concept of love we are most familiar with when we think about love.
Philia: Philia is a friendly sort of love, but it isn’t in any way a weak love. Philia calls for loyalty and strength. It is the love born out of a knowing of a person and a dependence on each other. I’d imagine soldiers are familiar with this kind of love as they depend on each other and trust each other without question in the worst sorts of situations. Not driven by desire or romance, but in some ways just as strong and passionate. As a child I remember having a friend I was so completely devoted to that I worried I might someday love her more than my husband. I voiced my childish concern to my dad and he explained that there were different sorts of loves and none of them needed to threaten each other. I still have this friend, and I still love her just as much, if not more. I’m still just as devoted to her in my heart. But my Dad was right, my love for her in no way threatens my love for my husband. She’s the sister of my heart.
Storge: Storge is the kind of love you have because you just naturally do. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s that natural familiar love of family. You love your parents or your children with it. Even when you hate them you still love them. It’s a bond of family. Not chosen, but naturally inclined.
Agape: Agape is a love that is selfless. It is unconditional love. You can love basically anybody with an Agape love, from you spouse to your children to your best friend. But its a very deep love, in very many ways its a spiritual love. It’s not about being “in-love” with a person, but in many ways its a deeper concept than the whole “in-love” idea anyway.
Agape love is the kind that we understand the least.
We understand Eros. Eros is incredible, strong, wild. But Eros can be fickle. Eros is full of needs and desires that want to be met.
We understand Philia. Philia is faithful and dependable. But Philia can be broken and betrayed.
We understand Storge. Any mother who has held her new child to her heart understands Storge. But even the best of families can fill it up with expectations that overwhelm.
But Agape? A love that will always love, no matter what? That gives and gives and asks for nothing in return? A love that continues to love, even when betrayed and hurt? That can’t ever break? A love that has no expectation, but will give its very life, just because it loves?
Oh there are shades of the others in His love. The jealousy of Eros is there, the friendship of Philia, the caring father of Storge. But it was Agape that drew Christ to a cross to die. And its Agape that He calls us to. To love unconditionally, because He loves unconditionally.
Agape may not have the heady feeling that is almost addictive that is Eros, but it is so much stronger that it leaves Eros in its dust. So why is it Eros that we idealize? Nothing wrong with Eros, but still, there is something so much more to love than Eros. There is Agape.
~Joy Aletheia Stevens