English is a handicapped language, and nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to the word “love”.  People value relationships with people for different reasons. Like sex, for example. Some may think it’s just sex, but it is an extremely powerful thing that binds people together at least for a while. In fact, I get upset whenever I’m reminded how sexual passion gets mistaken for, or even deliberately called “love” all the time.

John Mayer said of Jessica Simpson after their break up, “That girl is like crack cocaine to me. Sexually it was crazy. That’s all I’ll say. It was like napalm, sexual napalm. Did you ever say, ‘I want to quit my life and just snort you? If you charged me $10,000 to**** you, I would start selling all my **** just to keep****ing you.”

He would sell all his stuff for that! And how the “I love yous” must have been flying! I mean, how ridiculous is it that a man who is simply dying to make love to you forever, and your father who would give you the shirt off his back or take a bullet for you without even thinking about it, both get to say to you, “I love you”? It’s crap, I tell you.

Whereas a better developed language like Greek has four different words for distinct feelings, “Love” is the blanket that covers them all in English. The Greek have

*“Phileo”, an affection that could denote friendship, brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection,

*“Eros” which refers to sexual, romantic and intimate love,

*“Storge” which is also called familial love- a word for natural affection such as the love of a parent toward a child and

*“Agape” which is selfless and unconditional love, the kind Jesus Christ encouraged amongst his followers,

The English Language however translates these all as simply one word, “Love”.

One can only imagine how uncomplicated relationships would be if we could all say exactly what we felt, instead of just saying “I love you” or having to come up with annoying phrases like “I love you but I’m not in love with you”.

Ironically, even if we had these different words in English, it still wouldn’t guarantee anything. Feelings are and always will be complicated.

Years ago as an undergraduate, I fell hard for an extremely gifted young man. I did “Agape” him especially as a fellow believer in Christ (and still do), but I was also deeply infatuated with him. He however, wasn’t smitten with me. I’m a cheerful, friendly person so of course he did like me. And he did feel a certain fondness for me- something that could have been brotherly, except that it wasn’t. Still, I was the one he confided in about his dreams, his plans and his emotions, even about his women. I’m sure you are thinking I’d been “friend-zoned”, a conclusion which I was already coming to when, one day after we’d been friends for over a year, he surprised me by asking me to be his girlfriend.

Given our closeness, most people thought it was about time, but I was taken by surprise and a bit worried. We’d become very close and he did admit that I was his number one cheerleader and “one-woman support team”, and that he cared about me “deeply”, but I knew he wasn’t in love with me. I just knew it. The fact that he wanted to be around me so much, to hold me and kiss me and talk with me for endless hours, didn’t take away that knowing. It was just there. I did say yes though, and then broke it off a week later when I confronted him with my “knowing” and he admitted “Joy, if there’s anything I’m looking for in a woman, you’re it; you’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’re sexy, you’re funny…I just don’t know why I’m not in love with you.” With the bitter truth out there like that, the only option was to return to being friends.

The fact is there are many things people feel for each other which no language has been able to name. The best we can hope for is maturity (and God’s help, for those who are spiritually inclined) to deal with such situations with grace.

In the end, we may find it is not any of these “loves” we feel at all; it may just be emotional attachment. It is a normal part of human nature to get attached to people we spend time with, especially those who take care of us in one way or another. All kinds of trouble start when men and women cannot define their relationships clearly. People get led on, betrayed and hurt, all because “Love” is all we have and some people would rather not use the word if they’re not sure, while others throw it about not caring what meaning it would hold for the other person.

Let’s take time to know what we really feel, and when we do, let’s have the courage to be honest and say it. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for in this the Law and the Prophets are summed up.”



  1. Totally understand this, and have thought about it several times. The English language is really limited. Even more so is my native language, lol. There is no word for Happy Birthday in my dialect. Sad really in a trivial way.

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