So it's Valentine's Day. I have some very mixed feelings about this Hallmark-iday. One might think that being on the "in looooove" side of things I would swoon at the chance to shower my sweetie with cards and chocolates. Granted I like giving gifts as much as the next girl and I'm a sucker for a chance to dress up and have a night out. But I'm also one of the people that recognizes the truth that Valentine's is a pretty powerful day.
For those not in relationships it has the awful power to make one feel like an under-appreciated minority when there is lots to be proud of in being single. For those new to relationships it has the agonizing effect of forcing definition or - even worse - encouraging intimacy levels that aren't yet needed when slow and steady could be much more wise. For those in uncomfortable relationships it can prolong the agony - "well, we can't break up this close to Valentine's day..." And even for those in happy relationships it can mean the uncomfortable pressure of trying to outdo the previous year or out-surprise the partner.
With all these things to cringe at, there's actually something about V-Day that makes me even more upset. Somehow a holiday to celebrate love has become solely focused on romance. It makes me wish that we could all start speaking Greek.
See, in the Greek language there are multiple translations - with different meanings - for the word "love". I would guess most of you are familiar with this but in case no one's heard this, I'll explain. I think there's officially five but the three most common are Eros, Fileo, and Agape. Eros is the word for Romantic Love. It's what we normally associate with the schmaltzy hearts and red roses of Valentine's Day. Nothing wrong with it empirically, but when it's the only love we recognize, it poorly defines what love can really mean. Fileo is the Greek word for brotherly love, friendship and fellowship bonding. Seeing as how it's much more common than Eros, it's a shame that it's usually overlooked on Valentine's Day. It's why I like to use this February holiday to say a special Thank you to my close friends - and all my awesome blog readers - and let people know that they're important and valuable to me (especially all my wonderful readers). "I love you" doesn't have to be reserved for a soul mate. Why not use Valentine's Day to express - in the Fileo sense of the word - how much you care about your friends, neighbors, roommates, parents, siblings and blog readers? (BTW, I love you guys!!)
Last - but most certainly not least - is Agape. (Pronounced ah-gah-pay, not a-gayp) Agape is the ultimate unconditional, redemptive love. Some people call it more simply The God Love. The best way I can think to describe it requires knowledge of the novel The Kite Runner by Kahled Housseni. It's a really intense but amazing book and one of the key lines in the story is "For you a thousand times over." Agape would be more like "For you an infinite amount of times over" but if you've read the book you understand the humility and sacrifice surrounding the sentiment.
The question I'm left with is why can't Valentine's Day be about this Agape kind of love? Why do we promote flowers, chocolates and jewels yet never recognize that romance is a hollow thing without real love? Wouldn't it be better to look at the holiday as a chance to better love one's neighbors? I'm not saying we should all run down the street giving out free hugs, but maybe it's the time to say an extra thank you to the bus driver or offer an extra smile to your building's security guard. Maybe it's a quick e-mail to a friend far away or a bouquet of flowers for someone that would appreciate the cheer. Maybe it's a night out with the spouse to think specifically about all the reasons you love each other day to day or maybe it's stopping in on a sick relative to say "I love you and get well soon." Maybe it's recognizing that God loves me so much that I can pour out that love infinitely into others. For me it's all these things (...and also saying how awesome and wonderful the people who read my blog are...) and much much more.
Happy Valentine's Day, Happy Agape Day!
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