| There is little doubt that I have a flair for unique names. My name, Saintmoses, is suggestive to that fact. While I was growing up I met a pretty lady who told me that her name was Kentra. I wasn’t as mesmerized by her beauty and coy essence as by her name. Even though Kantra’s face is lost today to my memory but the name still reverberates even in my subconscious. I know you must be wondering now why this is so. I will tell you presently.
My few moments with Kentra opened my eyes to a whole lot of things, chiefly true love. I, like many others and probably you, have been wondering why true love has been eluding the contemporary world so much. Some fortunate souls find love but, like expensive perfume left open too long, its sweet aroma evaporates and love is lost. Where does love go? How can we increase our chances of keeping it or expressing the dept and height of genuine love? These and many other issues will be discussed in this essay.
I first fell in love when I was sixteen to a girl my age. I said so many sweet things to her. But what was I actually meaning in my heart when I whispered the words I love you? I actually meant I love myself. This was love, as I knew it. I guess the same is true of many others, if not all, including you. We are all the same. It’s only a matter of degree. I agree children and adolescents engage in a lot of fuzzy thinking and seeking, but what about adults. Are they innocent?
Adults and intellectuals use the same four-letter word, love, to describe the way they feel about a vast assortment of topics. “I love my dog. I love my car. I love Chicken Pie. I love fighting. I love Nigeria. I love. I love. I love!” In the same breath they exclaim, “I love God!” No wonder they are confused. The ancient Greeks were more specific. They did not use the same four-letter word to mean all the attributes of love. Do not forget that I am still telling you about Kentra and how my meeting with her changed my concept of true love.
The ancient Greeks used five different words for what they considered the various types of love. This is instructive. They categorized love into the following five categories: Epithumia, Eros, Philia, Storge, and Agape.
Epithumia means a strong desire for something or someone either for good or for bad.
Eros is sexual or romantic desire.
Philia is a public friendship developed over time.
Storge is a love among family and relations.
Agape is the giving of oneself to others sacrificially. The love of God for humans best describes this.
But I take liberty to add two more, Selfishness and Commitment, which I dare to call the sixth and seventh types of love. In essence these two summarize the dynamics of love from one end of the spectrum to the other. Six is the Hebrew number for man because man was made on the sixth day according to Scriptures. Given man’s addiction to self, six indubitably fits him well. Seven is the number for perfection or completion. It is also believed that God rested on the seventh day after completing creation. In the same way, designating Commitment as the seventh type of love associates it with our goal-perfected love. It is the perfect type of love. Much of this essay will focus on the last two types of love, Selfishness and Commitment.
Selfishness is a perverted type of love. It would rather join forces with one or the other five Grecian types and pervert their essential goodness than to stand on its own. It acts like cancer. It usually stirs its cancerous head under the guise of self-preservation. Selfishness is not learned but innate. Even as newborn babes, we all demonstrated great skill in this area. Infants reach out, clenching their tiny hands around for whatever they can grab. They grab it and will not let even you, who gave it to them, have it back. It’s hard to express true love with clenched fists. True love replaces “I want therefore I take” with “I live therefore I give”. Marriage does not do away with the danger. It simply exposes the truth. Young people often jump into marriage for what they can get rather than for what they can contribute. What a set up for disaster!
That brings me to the opposite end of the spectrum, Commitment, the seventh type of love. Commitment represents the ultimate form of selflessness. It is the direct opposite of Selfishness. Commitment gives substance to love. It acts on love like fertilizer acts on the soil. It is markedly different from involvement. One can be involved in something and not committed. A strong foundation for Commitment must be made before the wedding vow if the vow is expected to stick after the honeymoon. Two things were involved in a typical English breakfast: Eggs and Bacon. The hen that gives the egg is alive but the pig that gives the Bacon died. The hen was only involved but the pig was committed.
True commitment is sacrifice. It says, “My happiness lies in the happiness of others”. Greece said, “Be wise, know thyself”. Rome said, “Be strong, discipline yourself”. Psychology says, “Be confident, assert yourself”. Religion says, “Be good, conform yourself”. I tried all these advice but they left me empty, until Kentra drew my attention to what Jesus said; “Deny yourself, follow me”. She also reminded me of what Mother Theresa of Calcutta said, “Life is not worth living unless it is lived for others”. This may not appeal to some persons whose idea of life and love has been perverted by the false teachings of contemporary society. It is unfortunate to see even Christian preachers rephrasing God’s eternal law, “Love your neigbour as yourself” with the emphasis on the self. Jesus could not have been emphasizing the self in the parable of the Good Samaritan. False prophets are ubiquitous, you must know. Any religion that does not preach Kentra’s philosophy should be discarded. He who lives to herself or himself is truly dead to others. To me, true love is a matter of give and take, with the emphasis laid on the giving.
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The author is a Nigerian writer, editorial consultant and community organizer born in Benin City.
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