Love is a term that has a myriad of different meanings. In can be used in an array of unique contexts. For instance, I can express my love for a type of food, romantic partner or family or friend. The issue with the English language is that we have one word to describe all these different sentiments.
Language shapes our reality, and consequently this limits and constricts our ability to authentically express ourselves.
On the contrary, the ancient Greeks had more diverse terminology to describe these different connotations of love. Let us look at some examples of these diverse conceptions of the word.
- Phileo: Care, tenderness or affection for a friend or loved one.
- Eros: Passion, infatuation or sexual attraction.
- Storge: Natural kinship felt by members of a family.
- Agape: Unconditional love, or in the Christian context love for God.
In this article I want to focus on one of these terms in particular – agape.
In the religious context the term agape points towards the absolute, categorical and ‘no strings attached’ love that God offers us regardless of who we are. For Christians, this was embodied by Jesus who offered the ultimate sacrifice, his life on the cross, to redeem the transgressions of mankind.
However, regardless of your cultural or religious background, I think there is significant value in reviving this idea of agape for our current times of uncertainty and fear. To practice agape is to pursue virtue, to make difficult moral decisions and to stay the course even when you are not getting anything back in return.
For instance, this can be seen through a wife’s steadfast devotion for her husband who is in declining health. She cares for him in his illness and with the same degree of emotional intensity even when he becomes less responsive, and unable to reciprocate his love for her. Agape can also be seen in a parent’s love for their new born child, enduring the immense sacrifices and difficulties that parenting entails.
The love of agape arises out of a deep reverence for life. It can provide a limitless source of inspiration motivating us to treat others with care, empathy and dignity. We can practice it through acts of selflessness. Namely, treating others with kindness and respect, regardless of who they are or how they act towards us.
As the many wisdom traditions around the world remind us, revenge and resentment only lead to a more vicious repetitive cycle of anger. Rising above our base emotions, and exhibiting genuine moral decency to our transgressors enables them and others to see the harm they are imposing on us. It exposes the similarities we all share with others, and reveals the basic humanity of each and every person.
As the Martin Luther King Jr., agape love has a redemptive quality offering a pathway to forgiveness. As he explains, it can be described as an
overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative……. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both.
In a time which seems increasingly divided and polarized, what more can we do but attempt to set aside our differences, and demonstrate compassion in our day to day interactions with others.
Agape love is inspirational enabling us to see the good in others. It provides a spark of hope, a light in times of darkness and shows the true potential of who we can become.
Joy arises when we become grateful for the many gifts that we are given in this life.
A more beautiful world is possible, one act of selflessness at a time.
Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing, spending, alive, hence as joyous. Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my alivenessErich Fromm, The Art of Loving
If you are interested you can check out more of my writing on my personal blog: A Life of Virtue: Philosophy as a Way of Life – In Search of Inner Freedom
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14 thoughts on “The Power of (Agape) Love”
My view is not an agape view, but if those on both sides that were choosing who and when to go to war it seems as though people would be far more willing to not start a war in the first place if they had a more agage perspective on life and also those that fight to protect the innocent and vulnerable on either side might take up arms to defend quicker if they too had a more agape perception to life.
Some peoples religious perspective try to use their interpretation of religion and god as a way to put into context their hate for men and women, that they disagree or hate the way they live their lives or who they worship and do not show with any conviction or belief their love for the people that are different to them or to live a love of all life.
I also like your perspective of agape being a forgiving or even I would go as far as to say a healing form of love to life and God.
“A more beautiful world is possible, one act of selflessness at a time” . . . Amen Andrew!
I wrote a very similar blog story about my marriage, it’s titled “Unconditional”. In my opinion Love is not the warm fuzzies that we feel all the way in our toes when everything is going right. It’s the choice we make when everything is going wrong during times when the fuzzy feeling are nowhere to be found. This is what 17 years of marriage has taught me ❤️
Amazing , I will check it out 🙂
I think that you and I will have a lot in common with the way we think! 🤗
This post is absolutely amazing by the way! You said everything perfectly!!
You have inspired me for my first post next month. I wrote a poem which is featured in one of my poetry books as a reminder of how much Ancient Greece had to teach us.
Can’t wait to read it:)
Thank you, Andrew, for sharing this incredibly rich post with us! Its content resonated strongly with me. I say, YES, to this: “A more beautiful world is possible, one act of selflessness at a time.” 🙏
Thank you, loving the world with forgiveness and unconditional acceptance is difficult. I hope this is something I can keep working on myself
You’re welcome, Andrew. I find it easier as I explore the nature of the false self (the “me” of name and form) and “re-cognize” my own essential nature, which, in Truth, is Love, Itself. I’ll be looking forward to your next article! 🙏