When we think about love we often think about feelings. Love shows how much we value our relationships with others. We also honor others through our expressions of love.
The word love is represented by multiple words in the Greek language. These three Greek words express levels of love as well as recognize that love is a commitment.
Philia: love among friends, sometimes referred to as “brotherly” love
Storge: relational love shared between family members, sometimes referred to as natural or instinctual love
Agape: transcending love, including sacrificial acts of love for the good of others, sometimes referred to as the highest form of love
These Greek words and concepts about love help (me) us to better understand levels of love in relationships.
Philia love can be among friends but even at its basic expression it can be a love of and for people in general. When we choose to love others in this way we show we care.
Sometimes we are just drawn to people the same way we instinctually or naturally have a love for family members. Storge love goes beyond Philia love because it implies there is a sustained relationship over time where you love someone just because…they are family or a “long-term” friend.
Agape Love goes the extra mile. It transcends beyond the boundaries of a traditional relationship. It is probably the most difficult to express as it can require unconditional love and self-sacrifice. In Christianity the best description is God, for God is love.
We may not be able to love the way God does but we can strive to love others unconditionally because we value them as a person and also the relationship we have with them. In other words we strive to love others just because…and without conditions.
A marriage relationship is one of the best examples I see that expresses all the levels of love stated earlier. Often a romantic relationship begins as Philia (love among friends), further develops into a Storge love through a proclaimed commitment (marriage, a new family). When that proclaimed commitment develops into a willingness to keep vows that include (love, honor and cherish til death do us part) self-sacrifice and acts of love for the good of “us”, the love in and of itself has reached a transcending level. In other words the relationship itself reaches a new level love comparable to the concept of Agape love. Love in marriage, through vows kept, transcends. Transcending meaning love is willing to go beyond normal expectations or boundaries.
Those same words; love, honor, and cherish, can be a part of commitments that we make to relationships we want to maintain for a lifetime. Whatever level of love we share with others is a choice, it starts with a decision to care and can end with a commitment to love for a lifetime.