Valentine’s Day: What Kind of Love Do You Need?By: Tuvya Zaretsky
Have you seen the meme about the third century bishop and “friend of lovers,” Valentine? He, who was brutally executed by crazy emperor Claudius II, is imagined reacting when he hears how the holiday in his honor is celebrated.
“I was beaten with clubs, stoned, beheaded, buried under the cover of darkness disinterred by my followers, and you commemorate my martyrdom by sending each other chocolates?” – Valentine of Interamna, A.D. 270
Of course, Valentine’s Day is for lovers. And everyone needs love. But we ought to ask, “What kind of love do you need?” Well, there are many kinds of love from which to choose actually. I like the list described by C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves originally published in 1960. He categorizes the first three as need-loves. Those help to fill a longing or emptiness in our nature. The fourth one, Lewis calls a “gift-love,” solely motivated by the desire to benefit, or care for the well-being of another person without regard for personal gain in the process.
Among the need-loves, listed by Lewis, are affection, friendship and passion. Affection is the most basic love. It is expressed most often as, “I like [something].” You could say, “I like chocolate.” You could even say, “I really love chocolate” and you would be saying same thing. Essentially, you mean that the sweet and earthy taste of the confection is pleasing, or it just appeals to you.
Friendship is a rare, more vulnerable love since it is shared with another person. Two, or more, friends having similar interests, insights or tastes, discover in a moment that they share those as a common bond or duty. Friendship can be experienced as a special connection during a team activity, as a brotherhood in military service, at a political rally or in a small community group. Friendship can be the most long-lasting of human loves but is moved by the lowest degree of need-drive. Lewis pictured lovers face to face, but friends stand side by side, their gaze fixed outward.
Passion or eros love is the stuff of romance or infatuation. Walter Trobisch described love a “a feeling to be learned.” This love can be cultivated to create safety, trust and wellbeing in the one to whom you are attracted. This deep friendship may pass on into erotic connection. But to be a lasting relationship, this love has to grow beyond the “feeling” of being in love. You can enjoy the emotions of an infatuation only later to lose sight of the person who lit the fire in the first place. Passion can be a deep bond, springing from a spontaneous and mutual attraction that also becomes a long-lasting friendship.
Lewis calls the fourth love agapé from the Greek word for this unique “gift-love.” It is a devotion motivated solely to benefit the well-being of another person. It is the highest and most unselfish love. It is a divine love. I mean, it is contrary to human nature, which is set on loving yourself first.
Agapé is the love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” This love never ends. This is the standard of love God intended when he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He could expect that because agapé love is gift-love that comes from God. Agapé filled Valentine’s heart with love for God. And it is the kind of love that makes spiritual harmony possible for long-lasting love today.
So, what kind of love do you need? Are cross-cultural challenges making the choice difficult for you? Contact us to speak with a counselor: [email protected] Happy Valentines’ Day, and go ahead, enjoy a little chocolate.
February 4, 2021