DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT LOVE IS?


By Akin Ojumu

You’ve got to give it to the Greeks, they sure have a way with words. Unlike the English language, which is the most common language spoken all over the world today – and I don’t for the life of me understand why – the Greek language is rich, robust, fulsome, and wholesome. 

When it comes to precision and exactness of words, the Greek language ranks at the very top. It is a language with a large vocabulary of nautical terms which are highly nuanced and descriptive. Compared to the Greeks, the English language is somewhat of a lazy man’s language.

Whereas in the English language a single word may mean many things, in Greek it is quite different. The Greeks have a distinct word for almost everything and every word in the Greek language has its own unique meaning. The Hellenics, unlike the Anglo-Saxons, are in a one word one meaning generational affair. In an exemplary display of linguistic monogamy, the Greek language is an exceptional showcase of a faithful commitment to conjugal sanctity of grammatical relationship.

One word that typifies the laziness and inadequacy of the English language is the word “LOVE.” With an estimated use of over 9 million times a day, love is a very popular word. Yet, for a word that is one of the most commonly used in English language, love is one of the least understood and one of the most misused.

“I love you.”

“She is in love with you.”

“He loves his wife.”

“She loves her children.”

“He loves his brother.”

“He loves his friends.”

“I love eating rice.”

“She is wearing a lovely dress.”

“She loves money.”

“She loves shoes.”

“They love to pray.”

“God loves me.”

“I love God.”

Love is indeed a much-bastardized word that the English-speaking world has variously and consistently pimped out as a grammatical whore to their many lovers. 

The pimple faced hyper-testosteroned teenager uses it to express the intoxicating pull of his raging hormones expressed in his burning lust and crush for that pretty girl in ponytails who sits a few rows up in front in the geography class. A man who has great likeness for his chihuahua calls it love. The fondness between siblings, we call it love. Parents’ affection for their children, is called love. Having a taste for a particular food, we describe it as love. A woman obsessed with designer shoes or crazy about designer clothes, we call it love. All our liking, all our feeling, all our emotion, and all our passion, as long as they are good, affirmative or favorable, we always call them love as a result of our limited lexicon of English language.

The Greeks, on the other hand, are more precise in the words they use to describe all the various and differing expressions of our emotions and feelings. Because of the vastness of their lexicon, the Greeks use many words that correspond to different types of feelings we call love in English. These include words such as Agape, Eros, Erotas, Ludus, Mania, Philia, Philoteknos, Philandros, Philadelphia, Philautia, Pragma, Storge, and Thelos. 

Several online resources, (Greek City Times and Your Dictionary), provide us anecdotes that describe the understanding of Ancient Greeks about love.

The ancient Greek word AGAPE is a very general term for love as a universal construct. It doesn't refer to love for a particular individual, but to love in a more general sense. This is the love that one might have for every member of humanity. It involves compassion and empathy and is a very encompassing concept. In Christianity, the word agape is used to describe the unconditional love of God toward believers, as well as the love believers have for God. (Source: Your Dictionary).

EROS is the Greek word for romantic and passionate love. It is a word named after the Greek God of fertility. Eros is passion, lust and pleasure. The ancient Greeks considered Eros to be dangerous and frightening as it involves a “loss of control” through the primal impulse to procreate. Eros is an intense form of love that arouses romantic and sexual feelings. (Source: Greek City Times).

The word EROTAS is modern Greek terminology used to describe romantic love. This term is used to describe the feeling of being in love with another person. It can be appropriate for those who are falling in love, such as newly dating couples, as well as those in longer term relationships. (Source: Your Dictionary).

LUDUS is an ancient Greek word that refers to love that is playful in nature rather than serious. It does have a romantic element but is not serious in nature. This kind of love is more like a flirtation or a crush than a long-term relationship. It describes the situation of having a crush and acting on it, or the affection between young lovers. (Source: Your Dictionary and Greek City Times).

In ancient Greek, the word MANIA can be used to describe a love that is obsessive. This type of love typically begins with strong feelings of eros that take a dark or destructive path. People who experience this type of love can exhibit extreme jealousy or become obsessively codependent on their partners. It can lead to stalking behaviors or worse, as the person who feels mania is desperate to keep the relationship going. (Source: Your Dictionary).

PHILIA is an ancient Greek term used to describe the type of love associated with a strong and good friendship. Philia can be described as feelings of affection for a close friend. It is sometimes described as brotherly love. This term describes platonic love rather than romantic feelings. (Source: Your Dictionary).

PHILADELPHIA (brotherly love), PHILANDROS (a wife’s love her husband), and PHILOTEKNOS (love for one’s children) are all variations of philia.

The ancient Greek word PHILAUTIA refers to the love that a person has for themself. Philautia leads people to take care of themselves, take pride in what they do and have self-esteem. Taken to extremes, philautia can manifest in a destructive form (e.g., narcissism). (Source: Your Dictionary).

The ancient Greek term PRAGMA refers to committed, long-term romantic relationships. This is the kind of love experienced by partners who are in a strong relationship that will stand the test of time. The partners are in love and will work through problems with an eye toward a shared future together. Lovers who share pragma are patient with one another, show kindness and are willing to compromise. (Source: Your Dictionary).

The ancient Greek term STORGE refers to the love that family members have for one another. It includes the love of parents for their children and the love of children for their parents and siblings. This term is one of many powerful words to describe family. Storge can also describe a sense of patriotism toward a country or allegiance to the same team. (Source: Your Dictionary and Greek City Times).

THELOS is the word you have in mind whenever you say, “I’d love to… something.” And it means, “to wish to have,” “to wish,” “to desire,” “to purpose to do,” “to be,” etc.

The Vine Expository Dictionary provides additional illustration about the distinctions between Agapao and Phileo.

“Phileo is to be distinguished from Agapao in this, that Phileo more nearly represents "tender affection." The two words are used for the "Love" of the Father for the Son, John 3:35; 5:20; for the believer, John 14:21; 16:27; both, of Christ's "love" for a certain disciple, John 13:23; 20:2. Yet the distinction between the two verbs remains, and they are never used indiscriminately in the same passage; if each is used with reference to the same objects, as just mentioned, each word retains its distinctive and essential character."

"Phileo is never used in a command to men to "love" God; it is, however, used as a warning in 1 Corinthians 16:22; Agapao is used instead, e.g., Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27; Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 8:3; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 4:21. The distinction between the two verbs finds a conspicuous instance in the narrative of John 21:15-17. The context itself indicates that Agapao in the first two questions suggests the "Love" that values and esteems. It is an unselfish "Love," ready to serve. The use of Phileo in Peter's answers and the Lord's third question, conveys the thought of cherishing the object above all else, of manifesting an affection characterized by constancy, from the motive of the highest veneration."

"Again, to "Love" (Phileo) life, from an undue desire to preserve it, forgetful of the real object of living, meets with the Lord's reproof as used in John 12:25. On the contrary, to "Love" life (Agapao) as used in 1Peter 3:10, is to consult the true interests of living. Here the word Phileo would be quite inappropriate."

I love the way – no pun intended – Rabbi David Wolpe described his frustration with the way the world have abused the word love in a 2016 Time Magazine article about the wrong definition of love. 

“After years spent speaking with couples before, during and after marriage; and of talking to parents and children struggling with their relationships, I am convinced of the partiality of the definition. Love should be seen not as a feeling but as an enacted emotion. To love is to feel and act lovingly,” he said. “Too many women have told me, bruises visible on their faces, that the husbands who struck them love them. Since they see love as a feeling, the word hides the truth, which is that you do not love someone whom you repeatedly beat and abuse. You may have very strong feelings about them, you may even believe you cannot live without them, but you do not love them.”

So, next time you receive a WhatsApp message or a phone call from that married bloke telling you, "I love you," don't be fooled. The raunchy randy is only looking to sow his wild oats and quench his insatiable sexual appetite. Reply and tell him to take his eros, ludus, or mania or whatever somewhere else.

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