No, I am not going to write about a soldier with four girlfriends (or she could have four boyfriends!). CS Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves about the four Greek words for love. We lump all these words together in our one word Love.
In Greek the word Eros is romantic love, Philia is friendship, Storge is love among family members and long-time familiarity, and Agape is what we call charity.
Yesterday at lunch I talked to a soldier who volunteered for an upcoming deployment, then changed his mind when it looked like his marriage would end when the wheels went up. His one-sentence choice was between deploying with his buddies or keeping his family. He chose his family.
But The Four Loves makes clear why this is no easy choice. Friendship and Romance are different kinds of love, but they are both love. And both Friendship and Romance grow from a free choice we make of that particular friend or lover. Of all soldiers we serve with, there are a few whose company we enjoy above all others. Falling in love often begins with a moment in which we see our beloved and decide in a moment 'That's the one.'
Which puts Romance and Friendship in stark contrast with Charity and Family. We do not choose our uncles, cousins, in-laws, children and even pets. Families form from existing families, blending and adding to form a new family.
Charity is expressed best by God's Love for us and Mother Teresa's love for lepers. God accepts us as we are: needy, nasty, selfish and small. Loving us does not show His good taste, but His compassion. When Mother Teresa lifted a leper from a Calcutta gutter, she was not thinking 'This is the best leper in this gutter.' She was expressing the kind of Love God has for us and wants us to have for others.
While Romance and Friendship are a free choice based on our estimate of the value of the beloved, Charity and Family Love are freely given with no regard to value at all. We love the child who didn't learn to tie her shoes till she was 12 just as much as the one who is on the honor roll and a starter on the soccer team.
All through my Army career, I have seen these agonized choices between two good things. A man who is choosing between family and friends is torn by tow kinds of love. The toughest moral choices are not between Good and Evil, but between Good and Good. And they hurt all the more because when we choose between two goods, we know we are hurting someone who does not deserve it.