The Four Loves by CS Lewis is an exploration of the nature of love. The author, one of my favorites, CS Lewis, breaks down love into four categories: affection, friendship, eros, and charity. He examines the joys, pains and complexities of each. Lewis begins the book by using an overarching designation among loves as “need love” and “gift love” where he warns us not to be judgmental of either. For, all love comes from God.
As a life-long student of “love” my thirst was quenched in this very insightful examination of the subject. Though it is not an easy read – it is CS Lewis, after all – I found myself immersed in the analogies and metaphors, relating them to my own life. I built my mental “love” matrix with each of the quadrants.
The easiest of all loves and the one that we expect of others. This is the love we have of our pets, our children, and our family. Affection relies on what is familar and so it can be the source of jealousy if things change. Lewis examines this in a way that makes you think about how we treat those who are “supposed” to love us. We often extend them less courtesy because we do not expect to earn their love. The love of affection just is what it is. He also goes on to make the parallel between needing and offering this love. Those who need affection, consider themselves to be offering it in some way. So when people are hurt because of your “lack of care” for them, it is because they feel as if they have extended you a loving affection – even if you see them as having treated you poorly. When we offer affection, there is a natural and intuitive desire that it be reciprocated without question.
The book was written in 1960 so I must warn the ladies that the friendship chapter has quite a few “manly” references that amused me. The book asserts that many do not see friendship as love at all but Lewis encourages us to see it differently. Most relationships entail discussing the nature of the relationship among those involved. The comfort in friendship is that it is rarely spoken of. It exists among at least two people and is better with at least three or more because each friend brings out something unique in the other. I recognized this in my own friendships. I’m blessed to have a loving support circle of women whom I consider true friends and they all play different roles in my life and in the circle. CS Lewis was on to something. He says that true friendship is the least jealous of all loves because it is the “friendship” as an institution that we value most, not the individuals. True friendship, that is.
This is what we call being “in love”. It is the most transient of all loves. Lewis suggests that Eros is a love that lures you in by using passion and happiness but is not passion or happiness itself. Eros is often miscommunicated as being sexual love, but sex can occur without Eros. So, Eros is a love of its own. Lewis so perceptively states that Eros is the voice that tells us it is better to be together in dull and boring companionship than to be totally happy without each other. Eros has a grandeur that is most dangerous of the loves. It is the love that makes us martyrs to love itself. This is an excellent chapter for married people and anyone who wants to be married.
Charity is true love, God’s love. It is this love that powers all others. This is the primal love in all of us. It is a gift from God. It is this love that is the subject of 1 Corinthians 13. It is both the love from God and for God. Charity is our human love that moves us to serve and care others. It is actionable love as directed in the Bible. Without Charity there would be no Affection, Friendship or Eros in their true forms.
The Four Loves by CS Lewis gives you a lot of think about in your own life concerning love. It helps you distinguish between relationships in your life and encourages you to see all love as from God so that you are more grateful for the loves in your life. The book is not an easy read and it is written in a style that may not be entertaining but it is enlightening, nonetheless.