Love Is…

At the back of Anna of Iowa (Book 2 in the Anna series by Catherine Team and Beverly Smirnis), is a speech by C.J. Renfro, the narrator who talks with Anna in both of the books in the series, writes:

“In learning my purpose in life, I also discovered Anna’s purpose in life. In fact, it’s not me at all speaking to you. It was first God’s spirit speaking through Anna, and now it’s Anna’s spirit speaking through me to you today. You’re here today because you want to learn about what love truly is. I beg you to listen, learn, laugh, cry, and, most importantly, forgive. Thank God and Anna for helping you make a conscious decision to allow yourself to give and receive love in all of its various forms. If you can accomplish this, you will also discover your own purpose in life, just like I did.”

As we celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, the speech, Love Is is an important reminder about the various forms of love and how each type if important to experience in order to fully realize the romantic type of love we often first think of when we think about the meaning of the word “love.”.

Love Is—a speech by C.J. Renfro

I started out doing research, like I was taught to do in my career as a reporter. When I researched the topic of love, I discovered something important. You see, in English we have one word for love, and that’s where the English language fails us. We say, “I love my dog. I love my child. I love my best friend. I love my country.”  That would never make sense to the ancient Greeks, who had at least eight different words for love.

One of the most important types of love is Philautia, which means self-love. The Greeks said that loving yourself meant you had a wider capacity to love others. When others are critical of us, especially as young children, we learn to hate ourselves. We also repeat the pattern, finding fault in others. If we lack Philautia, it blocks us from being able to fully experience other forms of love.

Mania refers to the obsessive kind of love and is the only type of love that should be avoided. It’s easy to see how a person lacking in self-love, Philautia, has to reach out to another person, hoping to be loved and completed. They often don’t know how to love the other person, and instead they overwhelm them, hoping to fulfill something missing in themselves.

Most people want Eros, the sexual, passionate type of love. One feels Eros especially when their love is brand-new. Some may never allow themselves to feel Eros at all because they must allow themselves to be vulnerable in order to experience it. Some people find ways to keep Eros alive with the same partner throughout their lives, not because they are lucky but because they are intentional. They know Eros will never stay alive unless it is complemented by the other types of love.

Philia is deep friendship. I believe a married man and woman must also have Philia in order to sustain Eros. They need both because Philia alone is not enough to replace Eros. This is where so many marriages fail. If you never had Eros, you’ll definitely fail. If you had it and allowed Philia to eventually replace it, you’re likely to seek Eros elsewhere, with someone outside of the marriage.

It’s that “one word thing,” the fact that our English language uses the term “love” to describe so many different forms of affection, that makes combining these two definitions of love seem incongruent. But in truth, there is nothing platonic at all about combining Philia and Eros. Couples with the best chemistry understand this.

Ludus is playful love. This one easily gets pushed to the back burner when life’s responsibilities creep up. Kid-raising, bill-paying, etc., can lead to all work and no play. Without Ludus, there is no foreplay to Eros. My message to you: Laugh! Lighten up! Slow down! It’s easy to blame the adulterer when infidelity is involved between the couple. However, the other partner is as much to blame if Ludus is lacking and life is all so serious.

Extremely focused and intensely literal people are like a television with a single channel. Love of your profession can be the cause of this. The Greeks call that type of love Pragma, which is defined as dutiful love. A lot of people are duty-bound to their marriage vows because of Pragma, so divorce is not an option. People who have Pragma and nothing else often think others’ lives must be just like theirs. They can find plenty of examples to support that theory.  An example of a character with Pragma is the character Dr. Joe Calloway.

Storge is love for family or allegiance. People who lack a type of Storge known as “motherly love” tend to be unable to control certain raw emotions and often make bad choices in life. An excess of Storge can cause us to put the love of the family bond ahead of our own needs for affection and all the other types of love. Storge also drives feelings of patriotism and allegiance, sometimes leading to the point of self-sacrifice in its most extreme examples.

Agape is selfless, unconditional love for others, like the love between God and humans. Anna Washington, the woman who taught me all the things I’ve talked about here today, exhibited more Agape than anyone else I ever knew on this earth. She didn’t know the eight different Greek terms I used here, but she was as wise as any of those ancient Greek philosophers in her understanding of each and every form of love. Her role as a caretaker for Fritzy Worrell, a physically challenged child and young man she spent a good portion of her life caring for, is perhaps the most profound example of Agape.

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