Take & Give
Bruce Brander on Two Words That Describe the Workings of Love
Social researcher William Kephart once asked university students, “Do you feel that you know what love really is?” Seventy-five percent of males and 64 percent of females were uncertain.
Sociologist John Lee of the University of Toronto asked people from Britain, Canada, and the United States what love meant to them. Some said a frivolous game. Others described chaotic emotion, loss of appetite, and sleeplessness. Some talked of merging with another person or completing themselves. Others spoke of serene, sweet companionship. Some cited altruism as exemplified by great religions, with its patience, kindness, and seeking nothing in return.
Many say they mean to love but don’t know what love means: That’s a big reason for our present epidemic of broken hearts, broken marriages, broken families, and broken children.
Science & Eros
Psychologists Ellen Berscheid of the University of Minnesota and Elaine Hatfield of the University of Hawaii in 1973 argued that love is not one single thing. Rather, they identified two separate kinds of love: passionate and companionate.
Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, in his classic book The Art of Loving, isolated three types of love: eros (romance), philia (devoted friendship), and agape (free giving).
Clyde and Susan Hendrick of Texas Tech University’s psychology department named six kinds of love: eros (romantic), ludus (game-playing), storge (companionate), pragma (practical), mania (roller-coaster emotionalism), and agape (altruism). They drew the names from classical Greek probably because the ancient Greeks had at least ten different words for love.
Robert J. Sternberg, a premier love researcher from Tufts University, named eight types of love. Psychologist Beverley Fehr of the University of Winnipeg outdid everyone; she listed twenty different kinds.
I propose that two words can make love clear and show us how to love successfully: need and gift.
Need-love has other names. The Greeks called it eros, after a winged god of love who shot arrows of life into a barren earth. Eros is our natural desire to fulfill ourselves by reaching outward to take something into our lives. Thus, I can love chocolate and London and ocean travel in the same way, because when I take them into my life, they fulfill me for a while. Likewise, I can fall in love with a woman and draw her into my life for personal fulfillment.
Bruce Brander is a sociological journalist and the author of seven books on travel and social issues. Formerly a staff journalist and editor for National Geographic and World Vision Christian relief and development agency, he now works from his home in Colorado Springs. His latest book is Love That Works: The Art and Science of Giving (Templeton Press). He regularly attends both Catholic and Evangelical churches with Mary, his wife of 24 years.
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