One of the biggest difficulties we face in understanding love is the fact that we use the term so loosely. We LOVE Oprah. We LOVE hot fudge sundaes. We LOVE our spouse. Unfortunately, many of us are more emphatic about our love for hot fudge sundaes than our spouse. We too often gage our love according to our feelings.
In the Greek language, there are five different words for our word LOVE. I want to look at them to show you a broader aspect of what love is. You will see that there is much more to love than our feelings of the moment. Feelings are not mentioned in any of these definitions.
Stergo (also called storge) is the Greek word that represents the love for our children and our family. It means ‘to be devoted’. Although there are exceptions, we don’t usually divorce our family members. Some family members may intentionally go for periods without talking, but in a crisis, they will usually join together. We may not always like the members of our family, may not always “feel” like loving them, but we will always be there for them no matter what.
Stergo is the love that should be prevalent in a marriage relationship (in my opinion). We should be devoted to our spouse NO MATTER WHAT happens. Our love for them should come ahead of our families. If our love is unconditional for our families, it should be even more so for our spouse. Many couples seem to have difficulty applying stergo love to their marriage relationship.
The next Greek word for love is phileo, which means affection. Phileo also applies to friends and acquaintences, so it is not a deep, passionate love. It means to be well-matched, loving, compatible or complementary of each other.
Phileo cherishes and shares great affection. It is a love of relationship - friends who enjoy closeness and companionship. Dear friends share each other’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, plans, dreams, time and interests. A marriage without phileo will be unsatisfactory, even if the couple has a great sex life.
We should apply phileo love to our spouses as easily as we do others. Too often we are kind to a complete stranger, yet come home with anger and impatience towards our spouse.
Phileo is used as the root of many words. For example, adelphos means brother in the Greek language. When added to phileo, we have the word philadelphia, or brotherly love. Anthropos means mankind. Compounded with phileo gives us the word philanthropia or philanthropist, someone who loves mankind.
Stay tuned as I continue with more Greek words for love on the next posting.