Four Kinds of Love; Eros, Agape, Phileo & Storge

The Greeks had four words to describe what we call love, Eros, (romantic love), Phileo, (enjoyment, fondness, friendship), Storge (family loyalty) and Agape (unconditional love with stick-ability). I like to think of them broadly as;

  1. Eros-A love felt particularly within the body (trembling excitement, elation, joy), coloured and underpinned by deep and beautiful procreative urges. C.S. Lewis distinguishes Eros from natural sexual urges and lusts, because Eros is a state of the heart and while it is intimately related to sex, sex can exist, and often does exist, without Eros enlivening it. It leads to children, family, joy and laughter. It is good and right, but it is usually not enough to sustain a relationship long term. Eros is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love, usually between a man and woman, but can also be “platonic” and extend to deeply intimate friendships.  Socrates defined Eros as also working with the soul to recall knowledge of beauty, and in that capacity contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth;  While Eros can simply be an earthy thing, when Spirit infused and elevated to it’s true position, it speaks deeply of universal mysteries, and is usually most keenly expressed within the most sacred of all relationships, that between husband and wife. Eros suggests that even sensually-based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence.  The elevated buzz of Erotic love is said to naturally fade within a year of its beginning. Perhaps it is too exhausting and all consuming? Perhaps we just get lazy? I don’t necessarily think it has to fade at all, and part of the purpose of this blog is to record my thoughts and experiences on Eros and how we can nurture and maintain this beautiful love in our lives.
  2. Phileo- If Eros is the love of the body, Phileo is the love of the soul. It is easy love and affection, it is bent towards our natural tastes and preferences. It embodies culture and beliefs. It’s about the friendship you feel towards people like you, with the same interests, social graces, and style. In the scriptures, this kind of friendship love is used to describe many relationships. God is said to have this kind of love for us and Jesus. Jesus felt this kind of love for his disciples, parents felt it about their children and children to their parents. It is not then a shallow love, but rich in emotion and feeling, like when your heart beams towards your child when they do something wonderful. However it is also described as a negative shallow love, natural and exclusive and conditional. Phileo is soul love, and it’s strength and value will depend on the elevation of the soul of the bearer.
  3. Agape-Is more of a parental, mature, sacrificial kind of love. The Thayer Lexicon describes agape beautifully when it says “to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above all other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it.” In a way it is as idealistic as Eros, in that it is a crazy love that will not let go. Agape loves, usually at cost to the bearer. Agape puts the beloved first and sacrifices pride, self interest and possessions for the sake of that beloved. This is the love that God has for us which inspired him to sacrifice His son and for His son to obey and sacrifice himself. It is the kind of love we are commanded to have for one another. It is a love of supreme greatness.
  4. Storge-This is the love of community and family. Often dutiful, sometimes unfeeling, but very strong none the less. It is a natural, carnal love, but powerful enough to be a real hindrance to spiritual growth, especially when family and culture are holding you down. It is a love that may pull you towards a lesser path. 

Obviously, all of these loves work together, but only Agape is free from the error of our humanity. Agape is the glue that holds the other loves fast and gives us the wisdom and patience when the other loves fail. If we make it our goal to always be forgiving and merciful and believe in doing good to all men, and then do it, the other loves will stand, and your life will be full of the rich blessings of Phileo friendships and intimates of the sweetest and loveliest kind. You will stand up in the midst of your family and people and call them back to walk on pleasanter paths and on smoother highways. So, seek first the high love Agape; that sacrifices, forgives and believes; the love of Christ, freely given to those who ask and receive. Drink deeply of Christs love for you, for the fathers love for you, of this eternal and perfect love and all these other loves will be added unto you.

17 thoughts on “Four Kinds of Love; Eros, Agape, Phileo & Storge

  1. Think about this. How do we truely love anyone in our lives. Love is not performance based in God’s eyes. True love of all is a matter of the heart. I pray for the Lord to heal our hearts, past hurts that have build a protective hedge around our hearts that blinds us from his love. And alters our ability to love others. All types of Gods love I pray will become as natural as breathing for me as I grow to know and trust him more and more. This is a process not an event. We can’t “do” love, we can’t “do” humility, this comes with from God’s grace as he transforms us and heals our hearts. Love you all, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart………………..

  2. Love this blogâ˜ș I wanted to say love is a verb, therefore an action it’s not how you feel but instead how you act towards those that you love (what you do). It is often confused with lust or infatuation which are feelings. If it were a matter of the heart why would Jesus die for his enemies that were also sinners? It was a selfless act, an act of love!

  3. Is dere any way that uu can stop lovin someone u loved before! Cos am tryn to get someone out of my head n mind bt evry minute I try dt, it seems am hurtn myself n its like his footprint hs been printed in my heart, pls I need answers cos I love hhim jst too much! Tnk uu

    • I feel your pain. It’s happened to me too. What do we do with the love we feel for someone who no longer loves us? A lot of people turn that love into bitter hatred and resentment, usually towards the lost love or worse, yourself. But those of us who understand, cannot give any room to such negativity.

      After my marriage ended I fell in love hard… really hard. If Hollywood was right about love, if fairy tales were true, he was without a doubt my one true love. When we were together it was electric. He so inspired Eros in me that all night I would tremble. My heart was more alive than ever, there was no way I could sleep, my being was elated by the highest expression of all consuming love I could imagine possible. It was as if every other love was nothing and for the first time I was experiencing true love. Nothing changed that, I never lost those feelings, even after five very stormy years of his abusive, broken, off and on love for me. Eventually he married someone else and I was left processing what on earth happened and how to survive the pain of this unrequited love.

      One thing that helped me a lot was to identify with Christ’s suffering. He is the one who loves us in all purity, who is longing to share his rich and deep love with us, but is the most rejected and despised and misunderstood. Yet He continues to love and pray for us and seek our good. Christ is the rejected lover. I’ve rejected Him and so have you. Have no doubts, if anyone knows what you are feeling right now, it is Jesus.

      Agape is the high love that sustains Eros. Right now you are in great pain because you long for Eros. You long to share that kind of intimacy with the one you love. You can’t and possibly never will be able to experience that love with them again. People have their own wills and many avoid intimacy. The only true option left is to transform that love into a higher love, Agape. We do that by blessing them, praying for them and setting them free whenever we long for them. Time and time again, lift them up to God, but not asking to possess them, for you cannot.

      But what about the desperate craving you feel? What about the deep aching loneliness now that love has gone? You have experienced something, you have tasted love at its best and it is hard to be without it. I’m still processing my loss, I still miss and long for him, but I have learnt to let Christ be my lover. I rest in His arms and listen to His heart and He fills my longings. Ask and you shall receive. Read Song of Songs and open your heart to the great Eternal Lover. Let this trial be transformed by love and you will shine again.

  4. Pingback: 2 ways to love in Turkey | Love.Life.Istanbul

  5. I’m 63. For the first time in my life I found true deep love. It lasted 9 months. Very long story to go into. I know God has no left me. But I have cried day and night for the past three months. First time for true love for both of us. I don’t know if I can explain this but, I have loist my soul to this man. I don’t feel bitterness toward the breakup because he took my heart and soul. It lives in him from now until death. He told me to always remember no matter what, whether he was there are any where that he loved me and always will. How do 2 people love so deep and be apart? I have forever changed. We both believed God brought us together to love each other, but circumstances had a different idea. He ask me once to wait on him and I promised I would. There are days I feel God speaks to me and says have patience my child, you will be together.

    • Wow. Do I get your pain! Not even Solomon with all his wisdom could understand what happens between a man and a maid. It is very deep and does inspire us to give all of our heart and soul.
      Firstly you are blessed to know such love, Eros. But we are not perfect and stuff happens, circumstances intervene and we are apart. All I can say is whenever you think of him, bless him despite the pain he has caused you. We must always forgive but especially in love. Second draw near to God and find him as the eternal lover, as he is. Give yourself time and even one day be courageous to love again if you are so blessed. Hugs sweet one.

      • I do pray for him always. I could never not love him as he said he could never not love me. I just have faith in God we will eventually be together. I also don’t see my question to your reply. Thank you so much for responding. I hope it was for me.

      • It was for you. I’m still figuring this software out, sorry. You sound so gorgeous. More hugs. It takes courage to love. Never let it go and it will become a butterfly, dissolved of all impurity, agape infused; all bitterness of the old flesh dissolved and replaced instead with a thing of great beauty; fragile; delicate; perfectly balanced and totally gorgeous. Your morphing!

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