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Faith and Spiritual Growth for the Maturing Adult

Journey to Wholeness: The Unfolding of Mature Love

The Unfolding of Mature Love

by Richard P. Johnson

Traditionally, love is divided into three levels or types. The highest form of love is agape love. Agape love makes no demands on another; it seeks only union with the spiritual realities resident in each partner. Agape love is essentially altruistic, seeking no ego gain whatsoever in the love interaction. Agape love is generous not selfish, simple not complicated, wise not perfectionistic, and steadfast not fixated. Agape love is "I love because love is what I am." The world's greatest acclaimed lovers, such as Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Saint Francis and Saint Claire of Assisi, Saint Joan of Arc, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, etc., aspired to agape love.

The second type of love is filial love, brotherly, sisterly, or familial love. Filial love is the love of the Good Samaritan, helping another simply because help is required. Deep friendship finds its most secure and comfortable home in filial love. Intimacy, or sharing, found in filial love is that of exchanging successively deeper parts of each partner, wanting the best for one another, helping, supporting, mentoring, etc. The love of a confidant is a form of filial love. Filial love is, "I love because I care about your welfare."

The third type of love is eros (erotic) love. Eros love is essentially self-seeking; it operates only to serve the self-centered ego part of the personality. Eros love sees another person in a functional way, only as a means of increasing one's own pleasure and control. Eros love offers cooperation with another only to the degree that it serves a mutual need or desire. "One hand washes the other" describes this form of eros affiliation. Eros love only receives love, it takes love; the quality of giving love is essentially absent from eros love.

As individuals grow into their maturing years, as individuation evolves into authenticity, the epicenter of love and loving gradually shifts from selfish to selfless. As love matures, it gradually grows beyond eros, adds filial, and ascends toward agape. This advancing love maturity leads to higher levels of living and it motivates a further flowering of each partner's personalities; the gifts of the Spirit become ever more evident. As our love imperative advances we find ourselves more effective in all facets of our lives; we find new energy, new purpose, and new life.

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