Templates of love teach timeless lessons

Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux
For the purpose of discussing, analyzing and understanding, love is broken down into types (kinds) of love and styles of loving. In his book, “The Four Loves,”C.S. Lewis speaks of the Greeks’ modes. Storge, or empathy bond that likes someone through the fondness of familiarity, such as family members in gift-love, or people bonded by chance in such a way that there is a need-love.
Storge has great potential for good or bad. Of this love we say, “It’s a thin line between love and hate,” whether through jealousy, envy or smothering, for “familiarity breeds contempt,” since familiar folks are so sensitized to each other.
Philia, or friend bond, is the strong bond that exists between people, usually equals, who share common values, interests or activities. This kind of love does not have romantic features, but it is a great foundation for romantic love between man and woman. In fact, without it, romantic love can be dangerous, relying on erotic emotions that may have an all-too-short shelf life in everyday love. Love is much more enduring if it begins with friendship, with like instead of love.
Eros is the emotional expression of sexual love, of the desire to be as close together as possible through our sense of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. Erotic love glories in and is expressed through our five senses. One who is in love cannot get enough of love’s enhancement through the five senses. Perhaps the greatest danger to us is that we will love without first liking the person we love. Again, friendship – like – is the human foundation for lasting agape.
Agape is the highest kind of love, good will, benevolence that is predicated of God and secondarily of us. This benevolence or well-wishing derives directly from the Latin bene volens, the radical theme of the song of the angels over the hills of Bethlehem Christmas morning, “Peace on earth, good will to humans.”
The way kinds or types of love are expressed in our life is further explained by styles of loving. Based on and akin to the kinds of love, styles of loving, or love styles, actually track the types of love while adding three other types. In his 1973 book, “Colours of Love,” researcher John A. Lee uses six Greek words to explain six distinct styles of loving, even assigning colors to each style: eros, red; ludus, blue; storge, yellow; pragma, green; manic, violet; agape, orange.
Naturally, just as in the case of kinds of love, descriptions of the styles of loving overlap what the Greeks had to say about love. Added to this overlap are insights arising from John Lee’s personal experiences and conversations with others about the subject of love. What we have said about the kinds of love remains true as we discuss the styles of loving. There are but a few specific additions to make.
Ludus, or ludic love (Latin ludus or game) is a playful form of love that can have a good purpose, such as people in love teasing each other, or a harmful bent, such as a man or woman playing the field and not becoming serious about anything. Pragma, pragmatic love, has a shopping list of qualities and assets desirable in a prospective partner. This, obviously, has an upside and downside.
Mania is self-explanatory, driven by possessiveness and jealousy too painful to live with and extremely destructive of any human love relationship. Minus this one, a wise blend of the other kinds and styles of loving is desirable for us.
Apart from individuals in relatively small enclaves of cynics or emotionally scarred victims of childhood/adolescent/adult physical and/or sexual abuse, all of us feel a strong attraction to love. But love is so gripping and euphoric that we must constantly choose the best blends of love. Though of spurious origin, the saying, “Love makes the world go round” is true at home, at school, at church, everywhere.
So, either consciously or subconsciously, we constantly scour our environs for the best templates of love. For instance, iconic basketball coach John Wooden said famously, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” (I also heard this attributed to Father Theodore Hesburgh, longtime president of Notre Dame University)
Of course, the good coach was spot on, but only 50 percent so. The other 50 percent is, “The best thing a woman can do for her children is to love their father.” We give him a pass for omitting the 50 percent that perhaps most men would. In any case, children will imitate the template of love most immediate to them at home. We can safely say that there is nothing more important in the earliest years of a child.
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, is pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth, Texas. He has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)