“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
The Four Loves
Tell me not.
In the 21st century, we hear the “L word” more often than we have bills in our wallet. But despite hearing it more, it hasn’t become more meaningful. The reason for that is because the same word is constantly used in different contexts.
Love is something so desirable the Greeks had multiple words for different types of love.
There is no doubt it’s the most powerful force on the planet, especially if understood in the context of the 5 Love Languages.. Love can change former Ku Klux Klan members to become preachers, or a lack thereof can produce tyrants such as Stalin and Hitler, who both had big daddy-problems.
Growing up, my parents didn’t just lecture me into good behavior. They gave me life lessons by observing the people we knew and how they lived their lives. My parents dealt with people on a 24/7 basis and are always on call, even now. It’s what happens when you’re part of a pastor family.
After recounting a situation concerning the person, we would analyze things together in order to better understand people and why they lived in a certain way. Things hit home for me one day in this one phrase: “You cannot use one form of love to replace another. Everyone needs to have all of the four loves.”
Why is that? As Dr. Gary Chapman discovered everyone has multiple love tanks, and they all need to be filled! In addition to the 5 love languages (how we receive and give love) we need it from various sources. When the love tanks aren’t filled is when we feel cranky, upset, unsure, and everything else.
Ever thought of it that way? Let’s dive a bit deeper.
Remember playing the Sims?
These computer characters were adorable, and they even had their own language!
The Sims is one of the best-selling game series of all time. The reason people love it is because it gives you an amazing amount of control, and you need to constantly come back to the game. The game is more realistic than others–– because you have six “need meters” to maintain. If you don’t, your poor Sim can die! Each and every need is independently essential.
Your wonderful Sim has a bladder to empty, a stomach to fill, and a body to clean–– all while maintaining a crazy social life! Juggling all these needs and making sure that they don’t get sick is good practice for when you have a baby. It makes you wish you could just put your Sim in the shower constantly to make other needs meters replenish. Doesn’t work that way…
No matter how many times you put yourself in the shower, your need to eat or sleep will not go away.
You cannot sleep your thirst away, nor shower away your hunger. Our workloads remain as do our problems.
What does this have to do with the Four Loves?
In this same way, the love you have for your partner is important but cannot replace love from a father or mother, or any other love source. Each form of love must be replenished with love from its respective source. This really sucks, especially if you have family problems.
This is why we need to learn how our love languages fit into them. But let’s not think of it like that–– time to break it down.
The Four Greek Words for Love
The Ancient Greeks didn’t share one word to describe loving pizza, their mother and friends. But not because you love pizza MORE than your mother, but because it’s a different type of love. Besides, that would be weird.
For them it was a question of context rather than the measure of love they felt.
The concept was so important that C.S. Lewis (the author of Narnia) wrote a whole book titled “The Four Loves” to address the issue.
Στοργή – Storge
In the book, C.S. Lewis calls this love affection. Storge is the love found between parents and children. It’s the love and care that people should experience in their childhood.
He goes on to describe it as a “need” and “gift” form of love. He outlines that sometimes parents can suffocate children in unwanted attention because adults also desire importance– plus using your family to build a reputation is convenient.
Regardless of our age, the love of a father or mother never outgrows itself. It’s something we are in constant need and desire for.
What happens in the lives of many (mine included) is that we desire approval. We can all think of the movie scene when a child comes to his father with a drawing only to have it ripped, or the Asian child winning in every other field except the family business. We haven’t even talked about how we do academically in school.
Gotta miss the days when you would get a 95 and the mother said, “WHERE’S THE 100?!?!?” It’s in these moments that we constantly ask ourselves, “Am I enough?”
Without our parents, where would we be today? Who would we be?
Every person in our family line trickles down into who we are today in some way whether we like it or not. If it weren’t for my mom I wouldn’t be an annoyingly practical but analytical person. If it weren’t for my dad, I wouldn’t have wanderlust, play the guitar, or speaks multiple languages.
How have your parents changed you?
Εροσ – Eros
Western society is largely addicted to romantic love. If you doubt that, listen to our songs, watch our movies, and check the sales statistics about love. We have bought into the concept that love is something that happens to you. It is magical, obsessive, and extremely exhilarating. If you have it, you have it; and if you don’t, you don’t, and there is nothing you can do about it. – Dr. Gary Chapman pg 25, The Five Love Languages for Singles
Everyone wants to be in a relationship and it’s easy to think that life isn’t worth living unless you have one. Society proves this because when most people think of the word love, romance/eros is the default. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, it is the most addicting of them all.
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve never dated. But I always make the best of what I’ve got. I’ve got nothing against it, but analyzing ourselves to see why we do things is always important.
C.S. Lewis in his book even divides romantic love into two categories: eros and venus. He calls venus as the carnal element of eros. “Sexual desire, without eros, wants it, the thing in itself; Eros wants the beloved.” He goes on further with a metaphor that often describes one of the horrid ways men treat women:
The thing is a sensory pleasure: that is, an event occurring within one’s own body. We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he “wants a woman.” Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much she cares about the woman as such maybe gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (parentheses one does not keep the carton after one has smoked a cigarette). Now eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. And some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give.
Because of it’s addictive qualities, venus is often what will lead to the downfall of many.
As a man, it heavily angers me with fire how some men can treat women by playing with their emotions only to gain points amongst their friends. That is not how love works. Not only is this a problem, but we will go and seek for it elsewhere from another person once a relationship breaks. And the cycle continues, thus leading to a state of lust until the mythical creature known as “the one” is found.
There is beauty in romance that cannot be easily found in other places, but they should not fulfill you, nor can they. It is one of the four loves we must have in order to maintain healthy lives.
This is not to undermine all romantic relationships, but to illustrate the dangers of some. Watching dear friends get married brings a tear to my eye. I’m not cold blooded.
Something that Dr. Gary Chapman mentioned above is we must also realize, relationships are work. Nothing worthwhile in this world just naturally falls into place.
So if you’re in a relationship, do it well.
Φιλἐω – Phileo
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Because you are a very inquisitive person, you are wondering where the word comes from. Phileo is the root of the word Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love.)
C.S. Lewis couldn’t have said it better. Phileo is that time when you realize you’re not the only girl who plays Call of Duty or the only guy who likes underwater basket weaving. C.S. Lewis had some of the best people to be his friends, namely J.R.R. Tolkien and maintained this for as long as he could.
From the hundreds of people I’ve talked to, everyone believes that friendships are important. But the deeper I get, people seem to be saying that they’re great as long as you’re not dating. Basically, friendships are the McFlurry before someone gives you Häagen-Dasz.
I could be wrong and over generalizing, but it’s understandable.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Something one of my best friend’s always says, “Good friends are like diamonds, precious and rare. Bad friends are like weeds, found everywhere.”
I would go further, but you know what friendship is. Friendships like all the above also are beautiful, take work, but also do not ultimately fulfill you.
Ἀγάπη (Agape Love)
“Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Throughout our lifetime, we will lose our parents, our loved ones, and our friends. If we are too dearly attached to these things, we will be devastated like no other. C.S. Lewis was a bachelor for many years until he met his wife Joy, but she died of cancer, and he was so devastated the poor man wrote a whole book called “Surprised by Joy.”
As you read it, you can see how confused he is. He doesn’t know how to go on. None of the encouragement or kind words helped, and he felt lost. It’s a VERY depressing read. But throughout it all, it was his beliefs that kept him going.
Agape is the form of love often known as “unconditional” love, which Lewis calls charity. It’s the special word used in historical literature like the gospels and throughout the New Testament to describe God’s love for us. It’s a love that flows through us into the lives of other people. It can take form in empathy, compassion, you get the picture.
Saul was a young pious man who became a feared terrorist throughout Palestine. He burned buildings and people in them, but something changed and he began to love. An agape sort of love. He would get beaten for what he taught. He wrote the best definition of agape I know:
Agape is patient, agape is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Agape does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Agape never fails. – Paul of Tarsus to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Agape is a love that we all yield and can use for the betterment of the world. It lives and works through us in the form of all the above loves that we mentioned. This is a special love that doesn’t care whether or not it has been treated with kindness or been betrayed to bits.
We are all capable of it.
Whether or not you believe in a higher being isn’t the point. This for you could be any other worldview. Here at between3worlds the goal is always to give you food for thought that you can chew on. Stuffing rocks down people’s throats is expensive.
What Should I do Now?
Regardless of where you stand, think about all the things that you have in your life today. A family, a computer, a smart phone. Something that hit me years ago was this thought: “You may complain and have control over a lot of things, but one thing you didn’t decide is this: you have no control over where you are born, or who you are born to.”
Use what ever you have to extend agape to others. Talk to homeless people, care for your cousins, family friends, figure out something.
Let’s go back to the Sims. Never forget that love has multiple facets. Remember that loving your girlfriend all day long doesn’t improve your strained relationship with your parents. Don’t crave so much of one form, that we neglect all else.
We need love from all the sources no matter where we come from.