What does ‘love’ mean to you?

Ruth Griffiths

Each year during Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, I challenge myself to write columns about the themes of Advent: hope, peace, joy and love. This week I take a look at “love”.
Ask anyone “what is love?” and you will probably get a different answer from each person. Love is both a noun and a verb. It is both personal and generic. Love abounds but in many different forms.
Collins Dictionary defines love as “a deep and tender feeling of affection for or attachment or devotion to a person or persons …. an expression of one’s love or affection.” Somehow, that definition doesn’t seem to encompass our broad use of the word “love”.
Love extends to a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit to the deepest interpersonal affection. Synonyms for love include: affection, passion, devotion, fondness, respect, desire, enthusiasm and longing.
Classic Greek philosophy categorized seven different kinds of love:
⁃ Eros – romantic, passionate love (of the body)
⁃ Philia – affectionate, friendly love
⁃ Storge – unconditional, familial love
⁃ Agape – selfless, universal love
⁃ Pragma – committed, long-lasting love
⁃ Philautia – self love
Western culture places great emphasis on romantic love. We celebrate eros and philia love on Valentine’s Day. But the more long-lasting storge and pragma love receive fewer “Hallmark” moments.
Where do you find love? Some counsellors suggest you find love in your heart. You must love yourself first if you are going to find love in other people or things. Some believe we attract to ourselves what is in our deepest thoughts and emotions.
Why do we focus on love during Advent when we have a holiday on February 14 to celebrate love? It goes back to the Greek definitions. In North America we are so wrapped up in romantic love that we overlook the importance of other types of love.
During the Christian observance of Advent, we focus more on agape love… the selfless, universal love that we experience through a relationship with our Creator.
Many other faith traditions also place much emphasis on universal love. Jesus’s commandment to “love your neighbour as yourself” is echoed in many other religions. Five centuries before Christ, Confucius said: “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.”
Islam teaches the ethics of reciprocity … a moral principle which calls upon people to treat others the way they would like to be treated.
Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you.”
Buddhism: “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others.”
During this holiday season, pause to reflect on where you find love in your life.