Who Do You Love?
Love is such a vibrant, nuanced force, that the ancient Greeks used four different words to illuminate its meaning. Valentine’s Day emphasizes the romantic, passionate love known as Eros. Socrates believed Eros helped humans access truth and beauty. Alas, there is nothing like being in love to lift us into higher realms, and that is worth celebrating.
I think this holiday is a good time to appreciate all the ways love is present and available to us. What other forms can love take?
Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was named after Philia, the warm affection we enjoy from our chosen friends. Consider the life-affirming joy you feel for your best friends, who inspire unwavering loyalty and bring out the best in you. These are the people who ‘have your back’ and you have theirs. Even though we seldom say it aloud, this is the love we feel for great bosses, inspiring colleagues, and cool clients. Philia reminds me of the lyrics in the classic song “A Wonderful World”: “I see people on the street saying ‘how-do-you-do’ but they are really saying I love you.”
Storge is the familial love we have for our relatives, even the ones that make us crazy. (If we didn’t love them, their behavior wouldn’t have such a strong impact.)
Finally, there is Agape, the unconditional love grounded on principle, right action. This love is selfless and expects nothing in return, including that the love be reciprocated.
We can experience all or some of these aspects of love with the same person. These distinctions can be useful when seeking Honorable Closure, which can involve the re-negotiation and re-shaping of relationships that are ending. For example, those completing love relationships (eros, philia, storge and agape) often speak of the desire to ‘remain friends’ (philia) when they may need to be content with agape love. This is especially true if the desire for friendship is unrequited.
To celebrate love, why not take note of all the people you love, and those who love you. Allow yourself to be fully aware of the quality and quantity of love surrounding you, romantic and otherwise, received and given. Love is all around.
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