Love is a complex topic, and very hard to understand until you actually experience it. It’s kind of like planning to travel to some distant country: you can look at pictures of it and imagine what it will be like to finally step foot in that new territory, but it’s just not the same experience of actually visiting the country itself. In my opinion, Love is very much the same kind of idea. You can read about it, watch sappy romantic movies, look at pictures of couples online. Heck, you can stroll the street and observe happy people holding hands, sharing a laugh, or stealing a kiss. Nothing is the same as the actual experience of actually being in Love. It’s beautiful, terrifying, whimsical, hurtful, sweet, and in the end, it’s overwhelmingly worth it.
I sincerely wish that there were more than just one word in the English language to describe the multitude of feelings associated with Love. However, since there’s not, I’ll try to break it down. I’m certainly not attempting to reinvent the wheel, so I’ll base my thoughts off of the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. My main intent of this is to try and make sense of the different emotions that are associated with this amazing feeling we call, Love.
Agape / ἀγάπη (unconditional)
The first type of Love that I’ve experienced is the unconditional Love that most parents provide. The ancient Greeks referred to this kind of Love as, “agape,” meaning unrequited and non-expecting. This is the kind of Love that knows no limits, and the Love that we experience from God. In our humanness, we cannot help ourselves from sinning and continually doing wrong. Somehow, miraculously and supernaturally, He is able to see past the obvious shortcomings, and Love us despite. A beautiful analogy of this God-to-human Love, is the Love that most parents have for their children. I am fortunate to have two of the most agape-Loving parents, and it is truly my privilege to be their daughter.
Both of my parents are incredibly hard-workers, and honestly my top two role-models. The sacrifices they’ve made throughout their lives in order to provide for my sister and I are remarkable. My mother decided to stay home with us for thirteen years. My dad has never missed a dinnertime or an opportunity to spend time in the kitchen with either of his daughters. My parents’ selflessness is quite difficult for me to comprehend completely. Perhaps I won’t understand this type of Love until I have children of my own.
However, Love isn’t always this picturesque. Some Love can be incredibly hurtful. Going back to the “agape” Love and the confusion that surrounds it: how is it that when one person so deeply wrongs another, agape Love has the ability to remain strong? My parents are again another illustration of this. A little less than two years ago my sister was undergoing some kind of undefinable psychological trauma. In her delusion, she falsely accused my dad of abusing her as an explanation for self-induced deep-bone bruises on her face. This false accusation left my dad behind bars for four nights, massive legal fees, suicidal thoughts, persistent insomnia, ineffective antidepressant pills, lasting resentment, years of therapy, and strangely enough: Love.
To this day, I still hold bitterness and anger towards my sister and claim that I want nothing to do with her. My parents, on the other hand, have never ceased in Loving their youngest daughter. They make an effort to visit her at her college, talk with her on the phone, and continue to Love her despite the atrocity of her allegations against them. It’s a rather otherworldly relationship to observe. Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated, jealous, and even downright outraged at some of their actions. I don’t understand why they continually go out of their way to repair this broken relationship, and I fail to see the hope that my parents see. My only explanation to this behavior is this evident presence of agape Love.
Eros / ἔρως (passionate & erotic bond)
Another obvious type of Love is romantic Love. Again, the Greeks were brilliant enough to realize that simply one word for such a dynamic concept was not enough. They referred to this passionate and intimacy-building Love as, “eros.” Turn on any radio station and I’d venture to bet that the first song you hear is about this type of Love. Whether the song is about the feelings associated with passionate Love, the physical act of Love-making, or simply saying the word, “Love,” I bet you wouldn’t have to listen very long.
First Love: Few things are more innocent and pure than a first Love. It’s completely uncharted territory, fearless, curious, and spontaneous. There are minimal boundaries, and everything is brand new. Some say that the first Love is the deepest, and although there may be a grain of truth in that statement, I disagree. The first Love is seen through rose-colored glasses and there is little basis for what the Love was really built on in the first place.
My first Love came along unexpectedly (as most Love of this type does) three months before the end of my senior year of high school. My friends at the time and I had made a pact that none of us were going to date in high school because we thought it was a silly waste of time. But then there was Adam: the tall, blonde, smart, Slovak foreign exchange student. He could have been with anyone he wanted, but for some reason he chose me. We were in the same History class, and one day he decided to message me on Facebook to ask to hang out, we exchanged numbers and just like that we took off. It was absolute bliss. He defined my happiness. I had my first kiss with him, and before him had never felt so significant. I Loved holding his hand while walking through the halls at school or on the bike trail by the river. I Loved sitting by him in the cafeteria during lunch, being associated with him, and having an automatic date to any event. I Loved the way he looked at me, the way he smelled, his accent, subtle definition of his muscles underneath his V-neck t-shirts (and that was a significant detail seeing as most high school boys did NOT have arms like Adam’s!)
However, the inevitable end came all too quickly and he had to leave to go back to Europe. I was heartbroken. I honestly thought there was no point of living if I couldn’t be with Adam. I cried for several days and stopped eating. I couldn’t imagine continuing on without him. I felt weak, sick, and like part of my heart was missing. My heart literally ached and it felt as if it had actually broken into pieces.
I spent a year of my life grieving my loss. I failed to realize the blessing that losing Adam really was. He taught me so much. He taught me that there ARE good people, and good men in the world. He taught me that people, even him, make mistakes: no one is perfect. He taught me that sometimes silence is more powerful than words. He also taught me that I can be self-sufficient and God created me in such a way that I can overcome heartbreak. Most importantly, he taught me what God must feel like when I choose to ignore Him.
True Love: I believe that true Love has many of the same components that a first Love does, but it’s better. Much better. It’s wiser, more experienced, it knows what it wants and what it doesn’t. True Love could be perhaps a once in a lifetime experience.
I had the opportunity to complete an internship at a local accounting firm my junior year of college. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting a man named Josh who served as a peer mentor and my own personal alarm clock 🙂 Josh literally came out of nowhere. When I first met him, I figured he was a bit older, and never once considered him as a potential suitor. However, in March I began to notice a mutual interest starting to develop. He asked me out a couple weeks later and we clicked instantly. His confidence, intelligence, wit, and charm were (and still are!) a perfect combination. I’ve never felt so sure of something as I am in our relationship. He is so perceptive, so genuine, and so easy to respect. I can honestly say that I am in love with this man, and am falling harder with each passing day. There will be much more on Josh in subsequent entries.
Lasting Love: If I knew Josh for longer than thirteen months, I’d classify our current relationship in this category. Lasting Love is a gift that few people have the chance to experience. All too often, people claim to, “fall out of love” with their partner and then begin looking for the next best thing. Lasting Love is hard work, but from my observations of my grandparents’ 53-year marriage, it’s attainable.
I was fortunate enough to meet my grandma’s parents and get to know them a little before they passed on. Rudy and Wilma were the downright sweetest, most in-Love couple I have ever had the pleasure of being around. They treated each other with such a high level of mutual respect, and looked at each other with tender Love in their eyes.
It’s hard to find something more precious than lasting Love. It’s stronger than a first Love, it defines what true Love means, and it has elements of agape, eros, philia and storge Love all at the same time.
Philia / φιλία (friendship)
This type of Love is a strong bond sometimes referred to as, “brotherly love.” It’s the Love you share with your friends and certain relatives. The Greek philosophers referred to this as, “philia.”
I’m sure there are different levels of philia Love, but that would be difficult to rank and define. Instead, I’ll say that my definition of philia Love is based on trust, consistency, and respect.
Samantha: This is my lovely cousin and best friend. She has the prettiest and most compassionate soul I have ever seen. We are a month apart in age, and I am so blessed by the close relationship we share. It’s so rare to find a friend that you can pick up right where you left off with and it seems as though nothing changes. I can tell her anything and her advice is always on point. She’s been my biggest fan during my victories, and my shoulder to cry on during my times of struggle. She’s seen me at my worst, and still Loves me the same (hmm, this is beginning to sound like agape Love…).
Samantha: (Yes, she has the same name as my cousin 😉 ) I had pleasure of meeting Samantha during my internship last Spring (where I met Josh.) We were cubemates that soon transformed into pretty good friends. About halfway through the internship, she asked if I’d be interested in going on a road-trip across America with her. Usually I’m not very spontaneous, but I surprisingly agreed to her proposition instantly. We took a 15-day trip around America and I now consider her one of my closest friends. Her passion for the truth, her confidence, and unique nature are absolutely contagious. She is so encouraging, and challenges me to better myself.
Storge / στοργή (Universal & empathetic bond)
Lastly, I think there is an innate kind of Love that most people possess, I’m not quite sure how to define this all-encompassing type of Love, but it lies somewhere between the lines of appreciation and deep awe. This is the kind of Love you experience when an absolutely breathtaking sunset takes over the horizon and the warm feeling of awe and admiration that follows. This is the kind of Love that lives within our conscience and speaks to our hearts when we see a young man kneel before a young lady asking her to spend the rest of her life with him. It’s the warm feeling one receives after helping another, and most certainly the feeling I experience when talking about sloths (more on that later.)
I have no idea how to summarize the preceding thoughts on this beautiful, terrifying, whimsical, hurtful, sweet thing we call Love. All I know is that it’s all around us, cliche as that may sound. It’s our job to not necessarily look for it, but to appreciate it. In whatever situation you may find yourself in, please realize that Love is an essential component of the human experience. We can’t run from it, for it’s sure to find us.
Love is undefinable.
For more information on the four loves discussed above, please check out the following book:
The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis