According to the Encarta Dictionary, love is an intense feeling of tender affection and compassion; a passionate feeling or romantic desire and sexual attraction. Erich Fromm made these comments:

Immature love says: I love you because I need you.' Mature love says 'I need you because I love you.'

In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.

Love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one's own self.

In the classic book, The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm writes that "To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern-and to take the jump and stake everything on these values."

In Forrest Gump, the movie, Forrest expresses this in the famous line, "Jenny, I may be stupid, but I know what love is."

So what is love?

In my mind, love is a marriage union between souls. It is profound positive feelings actualized in affectionate behaviors toward the love object. Note the Bible passage on love, 1 Corinthians 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Though discussing love, this scriptural pericope does not refer to feelings or emotions. Instead, it talks about attitudes, such as patience, and actions, such as not boasting. It describes the result of love. When you love, you are inspired to behave in certain caring ways. For example, if you love your partner, you will be motivated to do everything possible to promote his or her well being. If he or she is unusually weary some night, out of love, you may volunteer to perform a duty that he or she would otherwise be responsible for.

For all intent and purposes, there are three forms of love. The first is the Greek Eros and is used to designate erotic, romantic, physical love. It can be one of the peak pleasures in human experience if not abused and misused.

The Greeks also has a second definition of love, and that is Philia which is where the word philanthropy is derived. Philia means brotherly love. We all know Philadelphia as the city of brotherly love. Philia does not contain romantic love. Philia is the love you and I have for our parents, siblings, friends, family members, and so forth. It does not contain Eros.

The third definition of love is called Agape. Agape means unconditional love for someone. It means loving someone without expecting love in return. Parents can relate to this, especially a mother. Perhaps this may be a difficult concept to comprehend in today's society because this type of love requires sacrifice and selflessness.

Agape is different from both Eros and Philia in that inherent in agape love is an overflowing altruism that seeks nothing in return. The end of agape is not the well-being of the self, but the well-being of the other. It is the type of love that characterized the non-violent philosophies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

In my experience, the one common mistake that many couples make is equating "true" love with Eros love only. Real love, I believe, requires all three types of love. Far too many relationships today are based on one type of love. If your relationship fails to include all three types of love, you may be mixing a recipe for disaster. When the first few years are past, one or two children have entered the scene, daily living becomes more difficult (and believe me, it will); and Eros love loses a little bit of its spice, most people bail out of relationships. So I hope you can appreciate the value of applying all three types of love in your relationship and marriage.

Eros love is essential to every relationship; philia love is equally important, and of course, agape love binds all three.

Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available soon.

You are welcome to visit AMEN Ministries: Your Soul's Service Station for spiritual refreshing, soul edification or to browse our newly expanded mini shopping mall.

Blessings to all!

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