The definition of love has challenged and perplexed thinkers and lovers since the beginning of time. Every one seems to have their own perception on what love is. Some say it’s the butterflies you get in your stomach when that special person you have a crush on walks into the room, and some say love is the strongest emotion a human can experience. There are even different types of love such as Romantic, infatuated and unconditional love. But, what is love really. It can’t be all these things at once can it?
The “Love” word has been used in mainstream culture to describe different emotions a person is feeling towards another person or a certain thing. I hear it in everyday language being used in almost contradicting ways. For example, someone can say, “I love my family” and in the same sentence say, “I love cheeseburgers.” Is the person saying they could put family and cheeseburgers on equal pedestals? Could the emotion of love really be used to describe a food they will consume verses the feeling of a lifetime relationship? In the Septuagint (the New Testament in Greek) The Greek culture took language very seriously. They had to use four different words to describe the four tiers of love: Eros, Phileo, Storge and Agape. If they were to refer to loving a cheeseburger, they would use the word “storge,” which meant to like or prefer one thing over another. In other words it was love that has its basis in one's own nature. When talking about a richer much more deeper love, the Greeks would use the word “agape” meaning, "The attitude of God toward His Son, the human race generally, and to those that believe on His Son." (W.E. Vine). The form "agape" was coined by the New Testament writers to express the unique type of love that God has, a love that would die even for His enemies. Powerful stuff.
So, how can the word love be thrown around so ignorantly in the English language like it has little meaning? To the Greeks, the word “love” needed four different words because there was so much power and meaning behind it. How do we know when some one says, “I love you” in English, they mean it with all their heart and not with their stomach? Does the English language need words that breakdown the word “love” so we could get a more accurate understanding when your spouse or a love one says, “I love you.”?
Maybe we just say there are different “types” of love. Agape is unconditional, never ending, always thriving. It is not blind but fights for what is true. It is the love that could never be lost. I fear that people in romantic relationships confuse romantic love and infatuated love with agape love. People are saying, “I love you” to each other after the first date or during pre-matrimony intercourse when they think they are feeling a strong emotion. Love is patient, love is kind and it is also blind. The honeymoon stage (the beginning stage) of a romantic relationship makes a person feel that they could love another person unconditionally forever and ever. They do not see the struggles and the fight they will have to battle to thrive and succeed to stay in love. This, I feel, is the reason for problems in marriage and divorce in our culture. “For the past decade, the overall American divorce rate has remained stable, at around 50% for first marriages.” (Divorce Guide 2011). The second leading cause, right behind money problems, is adultery, with an estimated quarter of marriages dissolving for this reason. Marriages eventually migrate out of the honeymoon stage and straight into reality. When that Romantic type of love has ran out, it leaves the lover thinking they are no longer in love with their partner. They might start looking for it again in other people. It’s not that the love has disappeared, but it has changed. I can remember being in Lake Tahoe, on a beautiful hike in Emerald Bay with my wife when I realized we were not in the honeymoon stage anymore. No, we were in a much greater stage, a much more mature stage. We had to fight the good fight to get their (and believe me, they were pretty bad fights), but like a tree, our relationship was forming deeper roots. We had our souvenirs, our memories to remember our youthful love, but now we were ready to tackle a deeper love.
So, does the western culture really understand what love is? Has the English language distorted the expression of this pure human emotion? I believe that there is one source of “true love” that directs us to all understanding of what love is and how to use it. This love gives us wisdom on how to deter the false perceptions we have. We think we know what love is because we watch The Bachelor and celebrate Valentines Day. We think we know what love is because we say, “I do” to a false image in our minds. To love is to learn, and to learn is to grow. Let us, English speakers, grow in learning the power of language and using the word “Love.”