The Answer to the Question, “What is Love?”

When I was in middle school, I learned what it felt like to “be in love” with a girl – the butterflies, the flying butter, the pounding heart, the longing desire. I knew damn well what it felt like. For the most part, it felt good. It felt like something beautiful was mine, and it felt like I was something beautiful to have. It felt bad when I went away for the weekend instead of seeing the girl I “loved.” I felt a crazy feeling of missing her. She was all I could think about.

That’s me on the left, rocking out to the fire of teen angst
fueled by the question, “what is love?”
A couple weeks later, some guys at school made fun of me for dating the girl because she was two years younger than me, so I broke it off. In my eleven-year-old mind, that made sense. In my pre-adolescent, hormone-plagued rationality, dumping her was easy.
Throughout high school and my first couple years of college, I fell in and out of “love” many more times. Some of the love drove me crazy, some of it opened my eyes, and some rocked my world. All of it left me asking the age-old question, “what is love?”
I knew how it felt to be in love, or I thought I did. I knew that love made people do wild and wonderful things in some of my favorite movies – in high school those were Road Trip, Garden State, and The Wedding Singer. And I knew that some of my favorite songs perfectly captured how I was feeling – like these Blink-182 lyrics:

“And when I feel like giving up, like my world is falling down,
I show up at 3 A.M., she’s still up watching Vacation,
And I see her pretty face, it takes me away to a better place”

But I also heard things like, “true love lasts forever,” and the famous definition of love from Paul the Apostle:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.”

That sounds incredible, but I found myself asking, “if love ‘lasts forever’ and ‘always perseveres,’ what about all the girls I am no longer in love with?”
From that first time in middle school until my senior year of college, I asked a million times “what is love?” I didn’t find a good answer until my senior year of college.
I took a class called Interpersonal Communications. I was assigned a book titled “The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis. In that book, C.S. Lewis answers that mysterious question.
It turns out there is not just love. There are four different types of love. There is the love described in the songs I listened to, called eros, and there is the love describe by Paul the Apostle, called charity, and there are two others.
The first love described by Lewis is affection. Affection is the love of family members. They love each other because they know each other so deeply. A child’s love for his grandmother is a good example of affection. Affection comes from familiarity, not from a common interest.
The second love described by Lewis, friendship, comes from a common interest. Think about why you became friends with someone. You both enjoyed the same sport, or you both liked the same movies. Friendship grew out of that bond.
The third love described by Lewis is eros. That is the one we see in the romance movies and hear about in all the sappy love songs.
Finally, there is the fourth love described by Lewis, charity. Lewis calls this the greatest of the four loves, and for good reason. It is the love of God. It is perfect love. Charity is the love of willfully dying for someone who hates you. It is a complete giving of self. It is the love described by Paul the Apostle.
Of course, these four loves have intricacies that I have not even scratched, and they intertwine together in various ways. C.S. Lewis does a phenomenal job of answering every question you might have related to the big question, “what is love?” He does a phenomenal job at analyzing and explaining every aspect of love.
“The Four Loves” changed my life, blew my mind, and tore down a million misconceptions I had about love. It set me on the path to genuine relationships, to true love. I have shared its basic concepts with you here so that you may start on the path as well, and so that you never need to scratch your head at the question, “what is love,” again.

Now, I urge you to learn all the beautiful details of love. Journey more deeply down the path of love. The best way to start is by learning more about C.S. Lewis’s book on Wikipedia. After that, you might read some quotes from the book on Goodreads. And finally, it is my hope that you read the fullbook, at which point your life will be shaken at its core.

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