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;
- Eros-A love felt particularly within the body, coloured and underpinned by deep and beautiful procreative urges. 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 contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth; While Eros can simply be a hormonal earthy thing, 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 thus suggests that even that 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. Perhaps we are too 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.
- Phileo-This we could call 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. God is said to have this kind of love for us and Jesus, and Jesus for his disciples, parents to 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 when people love praise or the accolades of others. So phileo is about soul love, and it’s strength and value will depend on the elevation of the soul of the bearer.
- Agape-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 concerned that the loved one is always provided for, 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.
- Storge-The love of a community and family. Often dutiful, sometimes unfeeling, but very strong none the less. Jesus seems to indicate on a number of occasions that it is a natural, carnal love that may be a hindrance to your spiritual growth. A love that may pull you towards a lesser path. That is not to say that it is not important and that it does not have a place, but higher love exists and should be pursued at the cost of Storge if necessary.