What is LOVE Really?

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What Constitutes Love Among Family Members?

Recently, I was left asking myself, what is love? This occurred after certain family members, who I considered close friends as well as family, failed to reach out, even via text message, about my grandmother’s death. I was offended and very angry that these people, some of whom had received solid support from myself after their brother died unexpectedly, could not take two minutes out of their day to offer the same in return.

When I confronted one of these family members about my disappointment, he immediately became defensive, and accused me of being oversensitive. We then got into a debate over what constitutes sufficient demonstrations of love and support among family members.

According to biologist Jeremy Griffith, love is “unconditional selflessness” and after reading  his thought provoking article (you can find it  here) I was left with thoughts like. Am I selfless to the ones I love? Does my family’s selfishness mean they don’t love me? and, can  anybody really behave selflessly? which then sparked my curiosity about how other people define love and how different cultures place importance on love throughout the ages.

In ancient Greece, love was described by a series of words, each with a slightly different angle. Agape means “love” in modern day Greek, but has also been translated as “love of the soul.” It refers to a pure, ideal type of love rather than a physical attraction. Eros, on the other hand, is passionate love that also includes sensual desire and longing, with some translations defining it as “love of the body.” Lacking in sexual passion, philia is a virtuous love that includes loyalty to friends, family and community. Storge is the type of natural affection that parents feel for their children. An important practice in ancient Greece, xenia was hospitality shown towards a guest in the host’s home.

The Chinese tradition incorporates two philosophical theories on love – Confucianism, which emphasizes actions and duties, and Mohism, which touts the idea of a universal love. The concept of ai in Japanese Buddhism represents passionate caring love and a fundamental desire. It can develop in one of two directions – towards selfishness, or selflessness and enlightenment.

The Christian definition, widely known throughout Western civilization, is a religious theory based on the idea that the highest form of love comes from God. Christianity models its definitions of human love after two Greek theories – eros for the love between a man and a woman, and agape for unselfish love given by human beings.

Based on these philosophies, it sounds like perhaps neither my family member nor I was completely in the right or wrong with our ideas of love. Perhaps the definitions of love and affection all depend on the giver and recipient.

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  1. Nicely done! I’ve frustrated myself with similar issues in the past. I love the way you approached it and found the meanings of love very interesting.

  2. I think no one person can comprehend the true meaning of love totally. You did lots of research for this! Thanks so much for sharing. We, as humans can only try our hardest although we may sometimes let life get in the way of our true appreciation for others

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