What is Love, Really?

This is something that has shown up in my sphere recently: confusion and a little annoyance about the use of the word Love. In wellness circles we’re taught to “Be Love.” But on more than one occasion I’ve had a client turn to me and say, “What does that actually mean? How the heck am I supposed to DO that??”

It can definitely be frustrating. So, I thought it was time to have a discussion about Love. Capital L-o-v-e. What is it? Some common phrases:

Love is what makes the world go ‘round.
Love is all there is.
Love is the absence of fear.
Love is the source of all creation.

But, what is “Love” really? Do we not understand it? Or do we simply not have enough words for it? The Greeks had four words for Love. They are:

Storge        Philia        Eros        Agape

The first, Storge, is about empathy, or I prefer: compassion. Storge is the love that is presumably at the base of human interaction and connectivity. It’s about a shared humanity and a foundational understanding of one another. We may not all have experienced the same loss, but we’ve all experienced loss. We can relate.

Philia is a bit more involved. It’s friendship, loyalty, and affection with mutual respect. Philia seems to involve an investment in one another that includes compassion and pleasure in each other’s company. However, while it can be intimate (some of my dearest relationships with friends are deeply emotionally intimate), it does not involve physical intimacy. That is reserved for Eros.

Eros is intimate physical love. There’s a reason “erotic” stems from the word Eros. But here’s where it gets interesting. Eros, according to some philosophers (think Socrates and Aristotle), is also the gateway to transcendental soul love. Eros is the door through which we must walk if we wish to know the Divine personally, deeply, and return to the knowledge of who we are at our core. It’s a passionate, fire-breathing, active love. It’s Love in action. Eros is how we express ourselves most deeply and authentically with another human being. Eros is human Love. Raw, exciting, deep, and the source of creation. It’s how Divinity comes to life on earth. The union of souls in the midst of the physical union.

And then there’s Agape. Agape is considered by many to represent the unconditional Love of God. The God-love. The capital “L” in Love. Agape transcends everything that is human – it takes no notice of gender, race, nationality, age, etc. Agape is simply Love. It encompasses the energy of all that is, was, and ever will be. Agape is Love transcendent.

Agape is what I believe most people are referring to when they speak of capital L – Love. Love is the energy behind everything, therefore, it’s the source of all. If we can live from that space – Live Love – we are most closely aligned with our soul, who we are inside.

Love has many faces. It runs a spectrum from basic humanity to Divinity, and interestingly, those two are more closely related than the others. In my mind, the four types of Love reside on an ellipse, like this.

Love typesThough equidistant from each other on the line, Storge and Agape are closer to each other than the others from across the ellipse. For me, that’s the essence of who we are: Human and Divine; And this dance, on this planet, is about marrying those two elements and experiencing life in the entire spectrum of Love.

So, what is Love? And how do we “do” Love?

I think Love is both personal and contextual. Love is deeply individual, as well as global. It speaks to the tiniest piece of us while it also speaks to universal peace.

For me, Love is everything and nothing, simultaneously. It is the basis of that which is human and Divine, and its presence is in everything I see, touch, hear and feel. So, it’s everything. And yet, Love can never be contained, held, measured, or controlled. So, it’s nothing.

Love is the depth of what’s tangible, and it’s the breadth of what cannot be seen.

Love, therefore, is. And that’s probably the best definition, which is the good news. Because it means that by being true to who you are, you are DOING Love. By walking your path, constantly aligning with your authenticity and rediscovering what that means for you – you are doing Love.

In a more tangible way, though, doing Love can look like:

– Saying good morning (even when you don’t want to)
– Choosing kindness (over judgment)
– Breathing (instead of reacting)
– Helping somebody in need (no matter how small)
– Enjoying your food (not numbly eating)

I think you get the idea. Doing Love is about holding space for each other’s imperfect humanity, while also recognizing each other’s inner Divinity. Including for yourself.


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