Ah, February — it’s the season of love, and we here at Mama Bear know that you’re probably busy with class parties, heart-shaped everything (even pizza!), and probably glitter…because really, what says love best than something that sticks around forever? We recently released a podcast about the Four Loves — agape (unconditional, self-sacrificial love), storge (familial love), philia (strong friendship love), and eros (sexual attraction).  

What says eternal, you'll-never-get-rid-of-me love better than a card full of glitter?! #valentinesday #love Click To Tweet

But what would you say if we told you that there were more loves than that — eight types, actually! Let’s talk about the four types we couldn’t cover in the podcast: pragma (long-standing practical love), philautia (self-love), ludus (playful, flirtatious love), and mania (obsessive love). Once we’ve covered the love types, we’ll talk about how to discuss love and all its iterations with your kids. 

Pragma

Pragma love is practical and dutiful love (as in pragmatic). It’s the kind of long-lasting love that keeps marriages going through all the things we say in our wedding vows: sickness and health, good times and bad. And it’s not just for romantic relationships, either. Pragma love can exist in working relationships, too. It involves loyalty because of how well a team works together. When we are called to “become one” with our spouse, it’s pragma love that will propel us through the times when husband and wife are barely scraping by as mom-and-dad, tag-teaming with colicky babies, anxious adolescents, or major life upheavals. Pragma love is there, even when the “fire” is temporarily abated. Pragma love can develop into (or be confused for) eros love (as is sometimes the case of people who work closely together) but can also be channeled into philia love, making bffs out of coworkers, or storge love, when bffs become sisters from another mister. 

Examples of pragma love: 
  • Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament 
  • Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester 
  • Carl and Ellie in Up 
  • The crew in the Oceans series 

Philautia

If we’re looking for the opposite of pragma love, philautia is probably it. This is self-love – which can be good or bad. At its best, it produces healthy self-esteem, giving oneself grace and compassion, and can be the drive that helps a person stop at nothing to achieve their goals. At its worst, philautia can be selfish, striving to fulfill one’s own desires without thinking of others; this kind of love takes and takes from others and doesn’t give anything in return. It’s self-seeking. These aren’t generally the most loved characters in films or books (there are exceptions, though!), and the type of person who engages in philautia love is probably successful but also lonely. It’s not always a love to strive for, and Scripture tells us we should avoid the negative version of it in 1 Corinthians 13:5 (the most famous “love” chapter in the Bible).   

Our love shouldn't be selfish. #pragmalove #apologetics #love #valentinesday Click To Tweet
Examples of philautia love:  
  • Hercules  
  • The boy in The Giving Tree 
  • Scar in Lion King 
  • Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada 
  • Emperor Kuzco in The Emperor’s New Groove 

Ludus 

Ludus love is playful, flirty, and not really looking for long-term commitment. It’s a little like eros love, but not exactly. Ludus love is the kind of love we usually see played out in romantic comedies, and typically that’s not the kind of love we’re looking for in real life, at least not for the long haul. Unfortunately, culture sends us the message that one-night stands, casual sex, and excessive flirtation and seduction are normal things people should experience. Worse, it depicts these kinds of interactions as leading to pragma or agape love (which rarely happens in real life).

We’re not saying we shouldn’t flirt with our beloveds (in fact, most love starts with that pitter-pattering of your heart, a sure sign of ludus love), but Scripture discourages other games in relationships, especially when it comes to sex. The Bible promotes modesty and committed love. Ludus love isn’t that. So, maybe your relationship begins there, but it will likely shift from ludus to eros or pragma if marriage is in the cards.  

Examples of ludus love:  
  • Andie in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days 
  • Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind 
  • Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (he’d qualify in the philautia section, too) 
  • Pretty much every rom-com ever made 

Mania

The word mania is the Greek word for “madness.” Mania love is obsessive and mad, in a manic sense, not an angry sense. Stalkers are pretty famous for mania love, and it’s not the ideal love for any type of relationship. We shouldn’t be obsessed with or possessive of any other human. That’s not love, especially if we’re looking at Scripture for guidelines. Remember, love in the Bible is not envious or dishonoring (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).  

Examples of mania love:  
  • Fatal Attraction (yikes!) 
  • Frollo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame 
  • One word: Twilight. Take your pick of characters. 

Practical Ideas to Help Kids Understand Love

As humans, we have a desire to be loved. Maybe it’s why one of the most well-known verses in the Bible illustrates God’s love for us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). For Westerners, though, we have certain kinds of love in mind, usually having to do with attraction, sex, and romance. Kids (and adults) should have a more robust understanding of love, though.  

I recently saw a Twitter trend that was encouraging friends to tell one another that they loved each other. That’s philia love in action, and I think we need to see more of it. Our culture also loves self-love (philautia), and although that isn’t in and of itself negative, it can definitely go too far. Our love shouldn’t only be about us and our success.

Our love should be an apologetic for the hope within us. #valentinesday #love #apologetics Click To Tweet

When explaining love to your kids this Valentine’s Day (or any day of the year), here are some good starting points: 

  • Talk to them about the sacrificial (agape) love we see in Jesus. Ask them if they have ever seen sacrificial love in action.  
  • Explain friendship (philia) love. Ask them the traits of positive friendships and how their own friendships may illustrate philia love. 
  • Philautia love isn’t all bad – ask your kids about some positive ways they can love and be kind to themselves. Then, ask them how they can help others be kind to themselves (give compliments, send a gift, smile at them, etc.). Parents, you can cut out some hearts, write some positive things about your kiddo on them, and then post them on their bedroom door. They will serve as a reminder of all the wonderful things you see in them.
  • Share a little about ludus and mania love, noting the negative characteristics of each. Explain how eros love is typically more positive because, while it’s romantic, it doesn’t focus on casual, uncommitted flirtation, and sex. If you watch a film that illustrates these types of love, don’t be afraid to point them out to your kids.  
  • Give an example from your own life of pragma love. Maybe it’s your marriage or your parents’ marriage. Help your children understand why the love shared in those relationships qualifies as pragma. What struggles or situations have they endured? What highs have they experienced together? Show your kids why this type of love is one worth striving for in romantic relationships.  
  • One way you can practice storge love in your own family is to create a storge love jar. Write love notes or draw pictures for all of your family members and put them in a jar. Tell each other what you love about them. After a month or so collecting notes or drawings (everyone needs to write at least one to every other person in the family), spend time reading through the notes or looking at the pictures as a family.  
  • Our love should be an apologetic for the hope within us. Ask your kids what kinds of love they’ve seen from other Christians, like volunteering for local charities or helping the homeless. Work together to come up with a plan to show love to your neighbors this week, whether that’s by giving them a Valentine’s Day card telling them you’re happy you’re neighbors, taking up their trash can, or baking them a batch of ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies.  

So, as you decorate your kid’s Valentine’s Day box or fill out their Valentine’s Day cards for their class party, use it as an opportunity to ask them what they think about when they hear the word love. We hope the information we’ve given you between the podcast and this blog help you understand the different types of love and how they play out in our culture. Because at the end of the day, love really does make the world go round. Go out and love people well. 

 

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