The word "love," as it is used in modern society, covers a vast territory of preferences. One can express love for one's spouse, one's country, one's dog, chocolate ice cream and the Boston Red Sox. Not all kinds of love are the same. C.S. Lewis wrote "The Four Loves" to discuss the meaning of four different kinds of love.
The Development of Lewis' Thought
C.S. Lewis began "The Four Loves" as a study of what he believed were the two types of love operating in the world. These were "gift-love," which is illustrated by a man working to provide for his family, and "need-love," which is illustrated by a child seeking the comfort of a mother's embrace. Lewis then added a third category, which he called "appreciative love." Lewis went on to define the way these three types of love are manifested in the relationships between God and humanity: In need-love, the human "cries to God from our poverty"; in gift-love, the human "longs to serve, or even to suffer for, God"; and in appreciative love, the human says to God, "We give thanks to thee for thy great glory." As Lewis researched and reflected, he refined his thinking. He developed his ideas about love into four categories, which are the four types of love developed in the rest of the book.
Affection is based on the Greek word "storge." Lewis defined this type of love as being based on familiarity. It occurs naturally between people who find themselves together by no act of their own, and "it ignores the barriers of age, sex, class and education." Affection is humble, and often taken for granted. Two examples of affection are the love between a child and a caretaker and the love between people and their pets.
Friendship is based on the Greek word "philia." This is the type of love found between family and friends. It is also found between people who not only have common interests and activities, but who care about the same things, even if they disagree. Lewis considered friendship to be much more narrowly defined than mere companionship, and he believed that few people, particularly in the modern world, really experience true friendship. Friendship must include appreciative love, but it is more than appreciation. Lewis said that friendship "is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others."
Eros is the type of love that people describe when they refer to "being in love." Lewis distinguished eros from sexuality, which he called Venus. The difference is that Venus seeks a sexual relationship with another person, but eros seeks an emotional connection with that person. It is eros that transforms need-love into appreciative love.
Charity is based on the Greek word "agape." Charity is the highest of the four loves, and it is a Christian virtue. Charity is unconditional, not based on any desirable characteristic of the object of love. It is the only one of the four types of love that is self-sufficient. The love of God for his people is charity. Humans cannot love one another or love God without receiving God's love first and allowing his love to transform all their other loves.
- The Four Loves; C.S. Lewis; 1958
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