Love is a topic that we never get tired of discussing. Whether it is about what love is, what love is not, whether love exists, or whether love is attainable… we are obsessed with this elusory emotion, or concept. I do not claim to be an expert on it, but I believe we have it a bit misconstrued. Everyone wants to be loved… maybe not everyone wants
to love. To love, … (as an action verb) is probably the most laborious activity known to man. If you really think about it, it is certainly not for the weak or faint-hearted. I had a conversation with a great bartender at Sleep No More in Chelsea where we discussed how we literally use the word “love” for everything.
I love this movie!
I love my dog.
Instinctually, we can make the distinction that three examples mentioned are not the same context of love despite the fact that we use the same singular word to express ourselves. To my surprise we began to talk specifically about the Greek distinction of the different kinds of love and the different word for each one. I had first heard of this concept years ago listening to a podcast by Cathe Laurie. It really put things in perspective.
“Love at First Sight”
Eros is the type of vain fleeting love encompassing physical attraction and infatuation. All things beautiful, simple, pleasurable… and that’s pretty much about it. This type of love cannot provide a foundation of anything substantial to build an enduring relationship. Not to say people do not try it every day. Beauty fades and we can only spend but so much time in bed.
“I’m Looking for My Best Friend”
Philos is much stronger than Eros in the sense that it is based on true friendship and camaraderie. There is a sibling sort of love that I like to think of as “soul companions.” You are in the thick of the experience we call LIFE together. Whatever life may throw at you, you have one another’s back and you get through it all together. You’re family. While this is a great foundation to start, many relationships despite their nature (sibling, romantic, friendly or otherwise) can hit a bump that ultimately results in an estrangement that is sometimes permanent. While the parties mourn the bond, neither can bring themselves to recompense for the sake of the bond. Philos often comes with limitations and deal breakers that are often not realized until we find ourselves having to confront such situations.
“I Love You No Matter What”
Agape is strictly for the brave hearted. This kind of love requires all of you without any guarantee of reciprocation. It comes straight from the soul, like a beacon of light regardless if the loved one is shrouded in darkness. Agape is full contact and is actually kind of strenuous physically, emotionally and psychologically at times. As I put it to a loved one a couple weeks ago:
It is the kind of love that provokes and demands demonstration of the fine print clause that includes but is not limited to: sacrifice, forgiveness, understanding, humility, perseverance, patience, courage, hope and endurance… and also LOTS & LOTS of forgiveness…. countless times.
Forgiveness = ∞ ³
Totally hard work! We all like the good stuff, and naturally like to receive the good stuff but when it comes to the not-so-good or reciprocity of sacrifice, understanding, humility, perseverance, patience, courage and endurance. Does anybody got time fo’ dat? Not many. We all love to be on the receiving end of Agape but when it comes down to the fine print clause, people bail claiming “I didn’t sign up for this!” This is probably why parents are often more likely to demonstrate Agape love to their children than any other relationship dynamic as they never give up on their children and would literally die for them by command. Agape love is the stuff of which “forever” is made. Regardless of the situation, or the person’s character, … what they have done… you are instinctually loving them – not deserting them, shunning them or setting terms and limitations of your love… because you cannot … because it becomes as natural as breathing.
“What’s In It For ME?”
Understanding the distinction between the types of love makes me wonder whether love is truly hard to find or if it is just hardly recognized and often missed. Agape love is oriented in selflessness while Eros and Philos are more associated with selfishness. It is a difficult task to get over ourselves which alienates us and renders us lonely or alone. We are born craving Agape love but we are conditioned to shy away from the leg work of reciprocating it.