What Kind of Love Results in Happiness?
WHO does not desire to be happy—moreover, to have a happiness that is lasting? Many persons look to love for happiness. But what kind of love results in happiness? Is it just any kind?
For example, what about love of money? Does this love bring genuine happiness? Or is it not the case that people who pursue such a love ‘stab themselves all over with many pains,’ as the Bible says?—1 Tim. 6:10.
The ancient Greeks had four words to describe or emphasize four aspects of love: eʹros, stor·geʹ, phi·liʹa and a·gaʹpe. Interestingly, each of these can contribute to a person’s happiness.
To begin with, there is eʹros, the attraction of the sexes for each other. God shows that its expression has a proper place, for in the Bible a married man is encouraged to take delight in the charms of his wife. (Prov. 5:15-20) When married persons show consideration in expressing this aspect of love, happiness in marriage is greatly enhanced.—1 Cor. 7:3-7.
However, eʹros must be controlled, for it can lead to loose, immoral conduct. Eʹros, in fact, has a way of disguising itself. A person may deceive himself into thinking he is displaying brotherly affection when actually it is eʹros or sex attraction that is causing him to express kindness to one of the opposite sex.
Stor·geʹ designates the natural affection between close relatives and especially between parents and their children. It describes the affection that brothers and sisters have for one another and it has ever so many possibilities for happiness. It is this facet of love that ties a mother to her child and causes a father ‘to show mercy to his sons.’—Ps. 103:13; Isa. 49:15.
This natural affection or stor·geʹ, however, must be governed or guided by Bible principles. Otherwise it could result in undue partiality being shown, perhaps causing one in a position of responsibility to show favoritism toward some family member, with resulting deprivation of privileges for others. Or, such family affection might lead parents to let sentimentality keep them from properly disciplining their children.
Phi·liʹa is generally defined as affection between friends who have certain interests in common. Christians are to have and express such friendly affection among themselves. (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9) But this friendly affection must be exercised in line with Bible principles. Otherwise it could lead to bad associations, which spoil useful habits. (1 Cor. 15:33) It might be said that such friendship must usually be merited, whereas family affection (stor·geʹ) is to some degree inherited.
Interestingly, the Bible never uses this word phi·liʹa in commanding men to love God, perhaps because God, as the Sovereign of the universe, is the One who rightfully takes the initiative in selecting his own friends and determining with whom he will share his intimate association. (Ps. 15:1, 2) Jesus, however, assured his disciples that “the Father himself has affection [phi·liʹa] for you.”—John 16:27.
The word a·gaʹpe is used to describe love in which principle is the most distinctive feature, emphasizing this feature more than that of natural affection. This term is employed with regard to the love Almighty God Jehovah showed in sending his Son into the world to die for sinners, and that which Jesus showed in laying down his life for his friends. Because the love Christians have for God is founded on and governed by righteous principles, their love causes them to keep his commandments, whatever the cost.—Mark 12:29, 30; John 3:16; 15:13; Rom. 5:8.
Too, the love that Christians show to one another not only involves friendly and brotherly affection but also is guided by and founded on right principles. This marks them as Christ’s disciples.—John 13:34, 35.
How a·gaʹpe works is described for us at 1 Corinthians chapter 13. It does not seek its own interests; it rejoices in the truth; it bears, hopes and endures all things. It never fails. Therefore it is bound to result in happiness, for, as Jesus said, “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
But in endeavoring to express love in an unselfish, principled way, you still need divine wisdom for it to result in true happiness for you. You could, for instance, so concentrate on being self-sacrificing that you would have a nervous breakdown. So, unselfish, principled love is reliant on knowledge and wisdom for its proper exercise.—Phil. 1:9, 10.
Clearly, then, all four of these aspects of love may properly find their place in the Christian’s life. Eʹros, of course, is largely limited to the marital relationship. Stor·geʹ or natural affection is not restricted to blood relatives, for a man’s wife becomes his closest relative, the two being one flesh. Additionally, among Christians a family spirit prevails and persons may show fatherly or motherly affection for those not their natural offspring, and vice versa.—Mark 10:29, 30.
There should likewise be phi·liʹa, friendship among Christians, as also in families (as between father and son, just as is the case with Jehovah and his Son [John 5:20]), and in marriage. Also, all our love requires that quality expressed by a·gaʹpe or love with emphasis on principle. The bonds of family relationship or of marriage should never rely entirely on feeling and sentiment for their strength. At times a sense of duty must be felt; there may also be the need of mercy and forgiveness, long-suffering and endurance, all of which might be said to be emphasized by a·gaʹpe.
Truly, all four facets of love can result in a measure of happiness: eʹros, stor·geʹ, phi·liʹa and a·gaʹpe. But they must be guided by Bible principles. Then they can result in happiness now, in the approval of the Creator, Jehovah God, and gain for one everlasting life in happiness in his new system of things.