We Are Defining Love The Wrong Way

Love in action

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” — Lao Tzu.

Love is one of the most powerful emotions that human beings can experience.

Next to hate it is the main reason that people will lay down their lives, sacrificing themselves for either another or for an ideology or cause.

One word for love in English is so limiting

In English love is one word that we use to try and encompass and capture so many different feelings.

  • There is the feeling we have towards a lover.
  • The connection we feel with our children.
  • Our love we have for our friends.
  • There is also a universal kind of love where we speak about ‘loving’ mankind, or ‘loving’ nature or ‘loving’ animals.

We try and use other words instead of love, to capture these emotions.

We use synonyms or adjectives for love — words like:

Affection, tenderness, warmth, cherish, passion, adore, longing, devotion, fondness, like, crave, lust, infatuation, zeal, fervor or friendship.

The Greeks knew how to define love

The Greeks in the pursuit of wisdom and their desire for understanding of the self came up with over eight different terms to more accurately describe the different sorts of love that existed between people.

Firstly, in the Bible, four different Greek words are used to describe different types of love.

Agape: Unconditional Positive Regard

Pronounced: Uh-GAH-pay

Agape is a word used to describe a universal kind of love.

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“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”― Martin Luther King Jr.

It is pure, and it explains a type of sacrificial love.

It is used to describe the perfect love of God for humanity. It was used in the Bible when describing the love Jesus had for humankind, and that God also had for humans.

Storge: Love & Affection Between Family

Pronounced: STOR-jay

This word is used to describe the love and affection between family members, the sort of love found between brothers and sisters, and parents and their children.

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“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” 
― Donna Ball

‘Philostorgos’ is a compound word also used in the Bible to describe a devoted brotherly affection (Romans 12 v 10).

Childhood friends who are not related are sometimes also described as having a storge love existing between them.

Philia: Deep Connection Based on Friendship

Pronounced: FILL-ee-uh

This word was used in the Bible to describe the type of love that existed between ‘believers.’ It was considered a love that existed between equals.

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It represents a deep connection based on friendship and powerful emotional bonds. It is used not just to describe the love between close friends but also the love humans can feel towards those in need.

It represents a platonic love devoid from physical attraction, often involving feelings of loyalty toward another.

“Love is a friendship set to music.”– Joseph Campbell

Eros: Romantic Sexual Love

Pronounced: AIR-ohs

Eros is the love we more frequently associate with romantic love. It is a love based on sexual desire or physical attraction. The word comes from the Greek god Eros. The Roman counterpart to Eros was the god Cupid.

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“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” — Victor Hugo

Erotic love was considered frightening at times by the Greeks due to it sometimes representing a loss of control in the quest for procreation and fertility and its association with the quelling of lust.

Erotic love could be seen to enhance or degrade depending on its expression and was seen as being a more selfish expression of love due to its emphasis on physical pleasure and infatuation.

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ― Dr. Seuss

As well as these four main types of love differentiated by the Greek in the Bible there are another four terms that are used by the Greeks.

Another four awesome Greek words for love that define it even further

Playful Early Erotic Love

Ludos was used along with eros to describe the initial stages of erotic love, often involving younger lovers, and containing an element of playfulness about it.

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.” ― Alfred Tennyson

It was used when the flirting, teasing, pounding hearts and euphoria of the early stages of falling in love are described.

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“The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.” — Helen Keller

Obsessive Jealous Love

Mania describes an obsessive kind of love. A love that links erotic and ludos states of being. If out of control this love is seen as being a form of madness.

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Qualities of possessiveness, jealousy, and co-dependency exist in states of manic love.

Mania is seen as a way for someone who lacks self-love trying to rescue themselves by obsessively trying to capture the love of their object of desire.

Enduring Love

Pragma describes an enduring love between mature couples. It is a love that has endured the test of time.

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Pragma is found amongst couples who have learned how to maintain love over time and through obstacles and difficulties. It transcends the physical and also the erotic types of love.

“Loving you is like being 10 years old again, scaling a tree with my eyes bright and skyward, wanting only to get higher and higher, without a thought of how I would get back down.” — Lang Leav

Healthy Self-Love

The Greeks recognized that before we could love others, we first need to develop healthy self-love for ourselves.

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“We know what the world wants from us. We know we must decide whether to stay small, quiet, and uncomplicated or allow ourselves to grow as big, loud, and complex as we were made to be. Every girl must decide whether to be true to herself or true to the world. Every girl must decide whether to settle for adoration or fight for love.”― Glennon Doyle Melton

Philautia is the form of self-love that all humans need to have. It involves elements of self-compassion.

The Greeks believed that only once you have learned to love and accept all parts of yourself could you be free to explore and seek the higher spiritual freedom of self.

“Love is our essential nutrient. Without it, life has little meaning. It’s the best thing we have to give and the most valuable thing we receive. It’s worthy of all the hullabaloo.”― Cheryl Strayed

The differing Greek words for love define it as ‘love in action.’

The Greeks differing words for articulating what love is, show the various ways that love is shown in action, rather than just being a feeling.

Our comprehension of what this word LOVE really means is enhanced by our examination of its rich and varied forms of expression in the Greek language.