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It Can’t Be Defined in Four Letters

a hand holding an origami paper heart up to the sun during sunse

We have one word for love. How very silly of us. Such definition can’t be wrapped up in four letters.

The Greeks, in their linguistic prowess, had four words for love. Now that’s more like it.

They have a word for the kind of love that is all inclusive, healing, unconditional, and wholly other: Agape.

a profound concern for the welfare of another
without any desire to control that other,
to be thanked by that other,
or to enjoy the process.

~ Edward Nason West

Do I love with an agape love? Can I?

Certainly Christ is the example of this love; am I capable of anything near?

“A profound concern for the welfare of another.”
That part seems simple enough. Do I want the best for that person? Sure.

(Welfare: Check.)

“Without any desire to control that other.”
Hmmm. I don’t think of myself as a controlling person; I truly don’t. And yet, do I allow my children their own God-given free will, without an air of control over their public displays that others may project as a reflection on me? I could tweak this one a bit.

(Control: Work on this.)

“Without any desire to be thanked by that other.”
Well, if I intentionally gave anonymously, then I impose no need for thanks. I hope such a gift is between God and me, the recipient being his glory.

But if my name is attached to it? If my children saw me fold their laundry? If I shopped and wrapped, if I served and loved, do I wish for a nod in my direction?

Agape says, nope. You don’t need to be thanked. At all.

“Without any desire to enjoy the process.”
He’s got me there. I do want to enjoy the process. I would like to have fun, to laugh, to think, to exchange worse for better. I would like to enjoy it, even in the humble exhaustion that comes from serving hard.

As a mom, agape love must be all there is.

I signed up for their well being; I did not sign up to control, to be thanked, or to enjoy every day in the journey. No guarantees on those last three criterion.

I daresay the truest friendships I enjoy are those that model this agape love.

Those who gave selflessly in the hardest seasons of my life,
who want what is best for me even if it does not involve them in this moment,
who do not keep score in the thank you ledger
(of which I will – for the rest of my life – be behind),
those who stayed in the long miles,
even when the novelty had worn off,
when the searing heat of the crisis had passed,
when the hurt became a daily ache,
when my tears were contagious,
when the nights were late,
the hours were long,
the list continued,
and the process wasn’t enjoyable.

May agape be mine.
And may it flow through me.

Tricia Lott Williford

Comments are closed

  1. I believe in reading A Word for Love, a beautifully written book, I learned that Arabic has even more words for love.

  2. May agape be mine, and may it flow through me. Thank you. Great lesson

  3. “Without any desire to enjoy the process.” Maybe more accurately, “without expectation or need to enjoy the process.” Of course, we prefer to enjoy things, but “without expectation” can be inclusive of attitude. I sometimes clean offices part-time, and was amused to find great delight one evening in the pattern that the blue bowl cleaner made in the toilet I was cleaning. It was a perfect pattern of blue lacing down across the white porcelain. I know, you have to be pretty weird to find delight in toilet bowl cleaning, but that can be a good thing. I happily acknowledge that I am weird…

    • I think it is wonderful to delight in even the little things like a swirl of blue.

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