Have Not Love, Pt. II: Definitions

One thing I know from 12 years of near-toxic exposures to lawyers in the workplace: court cases over contracts are very often won and lost over the “definitions” section of the contract, wherein the specific phrases are given their intended meaning.  It seems to me, at least, that in order to have this kind of discussion, we’re going to have to define our terms.

It seems like every time some Christian wants to really deconstruct love and look at all the parts, they default to C.S. Lewis’ book “The Four Loves,” then they seem to filter that book through the lens of their own perspective.

So who am I to disappoint?

Now finances don’t permit me to make large quotes from the book (even though it’s one of his shortest), but I will post the definitions as (exceptionally) outlined in Wikipedia as a starting point for my/our discussions:

Affection

Affection (storge, στοργη) is fondness through familiarity, especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance. It is described as the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves: natural in that it is present without coercion; emotive because it is the result of fondness due to familiarity; and most widely diffused because it pays the least attention to those characteristics deemed “valuable” or worthy of love and, as a result, is able to transcend most discriminating factors. Ironically, its strength, however, is what makes it vulnerable. Affection has the appearance of being “built-in” or “ready made”, says Lewis, and as a result people come to expect, even to demand, its presence–irrespective of their behavior and its natural consequences.

Friendship

Friendship (philia, φιλια) is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity. Lewis explicitly says that his definition of friendship is narrower than mere companionship: friendship in his sense only exists if there is something for the friendship to be “about”. It is the least natural of loves, states Lewis; i.e., it is not biologically necessary to progeny like either affection (e.g., rearing a child), eros (e.g., creating a child), or charity (e.g., providing for a child). It has the least association with impulse or emotion. In spite of these characteristics, it was the belief of the ancients, (and Lewis himself), that it was the most admirable of loves because it looked not at the beloved (like eros), but towards that “about”–that thing because of which the relationship was formed. This freed the participants in this friendship from self-consciousness. Because the more they were looking towards something beyond or above themselves, the more those who were looking towards that thing with them were welcomed with the same sincerity, which freed the relationship from jealousy. And although the love may not be biologically necessary, it has, argued Lewis, civilization value. The thing beyond or above themselves may be of monumental importance to society. But without the benefit of friendship to blunt the loneliness of “being the only person who sees this”, or the idea that two heads are better than one, many advances in society may never have been embarked upon. The relationship is by its nature selective, and therefore, exclusive. This characteristic is not detrimental per se, but the idea or goal towards which friends strive need not be altruistic. The innocuous ideas may simply be the cause of pseudo-aristocracies that ignore the legitimate cries of those outside their group; the malefic ones may be quite worse.

Eros

Eros (έρως) is love in the sense of ‘being in love’. This is distinct from sexuality, which Lewis calls Venus, although he does spend time discussing sexual activity and its spiritual significance in both a pagan and a Christian sense. He identifies eros as indifferent. This is good because it promotes appreciation of the beloved regardless of any pleasure that can be obtained from them. It can be bad, however, because this blind devotion has been at the root of many of history’s most abominable tragedies. In keeping with his warning that “love begins to be a demon the moment [it] begins to be a god”, he warns against the danger of elevating eros to the status of a god.

Caritas

Caritas (agapē, αγαπη) is an unconditional love directed towards one’s neighbor which is not dependent on any lovable qualities that the object of love possesses. Agape is the love that brings forth caring regardless of circumstance. Lewis recognizes this as the greatest of loves, and sees it as a specifically Christian virtue. The chapter on the subject focuses on the need of subordinating the natural loves to the love of God, who is full of charitable love. Lewis states that “He is so full, in fact, that it overflows, and He can’t help but love us.” Lewis metaphorically compares love with a garden, charity with the gardening utensils, the lover as the gardener, and God as the elements of nature. God’s love and guidance act on our natural love (that cannot remain what it is by itself) as the sun and rain act on a garden: without either, the object (metaphorically the garden; realistically love itself) would cease to be beautiful or worthy. Lewis warns that those who exhibit charity must constantly check themselves that they do not flaunt–and thereby warp–this love (“But when you give to someone, don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing.”–Matthew 6:3), which is its potential threat.

It seems as though in order to talk about love and friendship, we must define the concept of intimacy as best as we can.  Though it has flags for tone and content, I again crib freely from Wikipedia:

Intimacy

The meaning of intimacy varies from relationship to relationship, and within a given relationship. Intimacy has more to do with rituals of connection. It is possible to compete over intimacy but that is likely to be self-defeating. Intimacy requires empathy – the ability to stand in another’s shoes.

Intimacy is both the ability and the choice to be close, loving, and vulnerable. Intimacy requires identity development. You have to know yourself and your inner self in order to share your self with another. Knowing yourself makes it possible to stand for yourself in an intimate relationship without taking over the other or losing yourself to the other. This ability to be separate and together in an intimate relationship and being okay with that is called self-differentiation. Lacking the ability to differentiate one self from the other is a form of symbiosis. This too is different from intimacy though to some that kind of dependent closeness may feel the same.

From a centre of self knowledge and self differentiation intimate behaviour joins family, close friends as well as those with whom one is in love. It dwells in a reciprocity, which builds on self-disclosure and candour. However, poor development of intimacy can lead to getting too close too quickly; struggling to find the boundary and to sustain connection; being poorly skilled as a friend, rejecting self-disclosure or even rejecting friendships and those who have them.

The main forms of intimacy are emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. Intellectual intimacy, familiarity with a person’s culture and interests, is common among friends. Members of religious or philosophic groups may also perceive a “spiritual intimacy” in their commonality. Some describe intimacy with the homonymous “into me see”. Intimacy can also be identified as knowing someone in depth, knowing many different aspects of a person or knowing how they would respond in different situations, because of the many experiences you’ve shared with them.

Some lose themselves in the first flush of love. ‘Falling in love’ is a little different from intimacy per se. Some are engulfed by their families in a way that is not close or intimate even though it is described that way by those who are consumed by their family. The first flush of love can be like that too, but slowly the individual will assert themselves and this test the willingness of both to be intimate.

It is worth distinguishing intimate relationships from strategic relationships. Intimate behaviour occurs in the latter but it is governed by a higher order strategy, of which the other person may not be aware. For example getting close to someone in order to get something from them or give them something. That ‘something’ might not be offered so freely if it did not appear to be an intimate exchange and if the ultimate strategy had been visible at the outset.

Secrets are generally hostile to intimacy in a committed relationship, but not knowing of the existence of a secret, one can continue to believe there is intimacy. Maintaining the illusion of intimacy may be a strategic skill where there is an imbalance of power brought about by the existence of a secret. Knowledge is the currency of power. Betrayal of intimacy can be a traumatic experience. The person can feel cheated as well as humiliated.

In addition to this, we must include John 17 (otherwise known as the High Priestly prayer) wherein Jesus prays to the Father and outlines important aspects of our relationship to God and his to Jesus and to us.

John 17

 1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

 20“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

For the moment, we’ll stop here.  A lot of reading, a lot to digest.  In the next post, we’ll begin to unpack love, intimacy, and divine relationship.

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~ by WriterRand on August 13, 2008.

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