This realization came to the great psychiatrist as he thought about his wife and her uncertain fate. After his release, he wrote one of the deepest, most profound and beautiful works on love that has ever been written. “The salvation of man is through love and in love.”
While Frankl was focused on the bond shared with his beloved, it’s also true that the human ability to love is not restricted to feelings for one person. The ancient Greeks actually distinguished between several kinds of love.
Among others, there is eros, or sexual love, and pragma, the kind of love that keeps a couple together through the most challenging times. Storge is the type of love that a parent feels for a child, and philia is the love that one feels for a sibling or a very close friend. Philautia is sometimes seen as narcissism, but in its highest form is a true love of the self that allows us to fully love others. Agape is the selfless love for all of humanity, also defined as love of the soul or divine love.
The fact we understand that there are many types of love doesn’t help us to comprehend what love is, however. Perhaps one of the clearest definitions was given by Saint Paul in a passage we often hear at weddings:
Love is always patient and kind.
It is never jealous.
Love is never boastful or conceited.
It is never rude or selfish.
It does not take offence and is not resentful.
Love delights in the truth, it is always ready to forgive, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.
In other words, when we act toward others in this way – not only those who are close to us, but also those we work with, complete strangers and even our so-called enemies – we are loving. When we’re kind and forgiving toward ourselves, we’re also acting with love.
If we think of the people who had the greatest impact on our lives, we almost invariably think of those who were patient and kind, of people who forgave us and gave us another chance. These are the people who loved us and taught us to live to our greatest potential.
For Frankl, by contemplating his beloved he was able to transcend the horrors surrounding him. She gave his life meaning and the strength to endure. In the end, she died at Auschwitz. But the love they shared was stronger even than death.
Love is the most powerful force on Earth. We may be tempted to think that it’s military force but it’s love.
It wasn’t violence that freed India from Great Britain, it was love. Love that gave people the courage to stand together in opposition to unjust laws until the world’s most powerful empire had no choice but to walk away.
Weapons didn’t end the Cold War. It was people, individuals who chose to love rather than to hate. It was people who chose love over fear and walked together through the impenetrable Berlin Wall.
Love will end the threat of terrorism, bring peace to the Middle East and conquer racism.
“There are three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Troy Media columnist Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.