Friday, March 6, 2015

Writing the Many Faces of Love - Part 3 Agape

by Elva Cobb Martin  3/6/15

In creating characters it a good idea to understand the nuances or types of love. This is true whether we write romances, general fiction or creative nonfiction.

In this series we are covering four Greek words which are translated into our English word love: agape, stergo, phileo, eros. In part 2 we covered eros. You can get all parts of this series by clicking back to earlier posts.  As a quick review here are brief definitions of these four:

  • Agape: the highest form of love. God's kind of love for us the kind he wants to produce in our lives for others. This love has no strings attached.                
  • Phileo - brotherly love between between friends or a boyfriend and girlfriend. Two people who feel compatible, well-matched, complementary.  
  • Stergo - love that exists between parents and children or family members.     
  • Eros - a carnal, raw, base, demanding love in Greek culture. C.S. Lewis says it also includes romantic passion which for the Christian should lead to marriage. Otherwise it leads to various kinds of sex sin.
Today we want to zoom in on agape love, the highest form of love and the one the Bible speaks of most often. Examples include John 3:16 speaking of God's love for the world. But the Apostle Paul also used this same Greek word in Galatians 5:22, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love . . . ." He used it translated as charity in I Corinthians 14:1 "Follow after charity. . . ." The word follow in the Greek means to hotly pursue. So we are to hotly pursue agape love during our lives on earth. 

One scholar describes this kind of love like this: Agape occurs when an individual sees, recognizes, understands or appreciates the value of a person or object, causing the viewer to behold this person in great esteem, awe, admiration, wonder and sincere appreciation. It is a sacrificial type of love that moves the lover to loving actions.

Eros love is a self-seeking love.
Stergo is limited to one's family.
Phileo is based on mutual satisfaction and can feel disappointed.

But agape is a love that has no strings attached. Like someone who would freely give their life for someone else.

It isn't looking for what it can get, but for what it can give. This pure kind of love makes it impossible to be hurt or let down by the response of its recipients.

Jesus Christ is the prime example of this kind of love, but he desires that it also flow from us and, in our case as writers, I believe from our writing.

Some of the most famous characters in books and movies have been examples of this kind of love. It makes for inspiring reading.

Two other Bible examples are: Jacob's love for Rachel (and Leah's love for Jacob.) Then there's Hannah's love for Samuel keeping her promise to lend him to the Lord.

Fiction and real life abound with characters and couples whose love is agape-based but may include the other types of love as well. Here are just a few that come to mind.

Melanie in Gone with the Wind
George Knightley and Emma Woodhouse in Emma
Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice
Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe in Green Gables
Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Billy and Ruth Graham 
Soldiers, law officers and firemen who give or risk their lives to protect us.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg developed a Triangular Theory of Love to describe romantic love. His interesting chart shows the type of love a person or a character might share with another character. 

His three main components are:
  1. Intimacy -feelings of attachment, closeness, friendship                         
  2. Passion - sexual attraction                           
  3. Commitment  - make plans for a future together, marriage. 

Can you draw characterizations from this information about love? 

Thanks for stopping by. I'd love for you to share your comments.

Elva Cobb Martin