32 Kinds of Altruism, Part 3: Eight Kinds of Affection

This is the third in a series of five posts on the many different ways we can show concern and regard for others. The first post treated six forms of “thoughtful communication,” such as giving recognition and active listening. The second treated seven forms of positive regard, such as nonverbal positive support, prayer, and zaniness. In this week’s post, I present eight forms of “generous affection,” four of which are based on C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves (Harcourt, Brace, 1960). All 32 kinds of altruism are to appear in my upcoming book on happiness.

Eight Kinds of Generous Affection

1. Chattiness—offering your gift of gab to someone you don’t know but who looks like they might benefit from not being ignored yet again, as in chatting with people whom we come into random contact with during the course of our day about sports, the weather, a rude customer, etc. This is a way of being friendly with someone who is not actually a friend. It is also surprising how often such apparently superficial conversation yields interesting information. Once Jane and I were taking a cab from Greater Rochester (NY) International Airport to a Holiday Inn near the office building where we were to consult the next day. The driver appeared to be from the Asian subcontinent, an area whose cuisine appeals to both of us. I asked where he was from. India. So we started talking about Indian food, as we love to both cook and eat it. The snow was thick and fast, and we had resigned ourselves to room service at the inn. I asked him if by chance a good Indian restaurant might be near the hotel. No there was not, but his brother had a very nice Punjabi restaurant about 20 minutes away. He offered to drive us to the restaurant at no extra charge, and he would play with his nieces and nephews while Jane and I dined! What a delightful evening it turned out to be, all because of just being chatty.

2. Friendship—making the time to get to know and do things with close friends, including being available when they call upon you. The inertia of going back and forth from home to work with errands and a few activities thrown in has a way of minimizing our time with friends. It is too easy to just do everything with one’s partner and/or one’s workmates. It takes extra effort to make time to call or email a friend (who might also be a relative) and find a time for taking breakfast or lunch together to just “catch up.” Just yesterday I emailed our daughter to suggest a father-daughter lunch. Today we lunched, and timely it was, as I learned important information that I wished I’d learned much earlier!

 3. Gratefulness—expressing your gratitude to someone, either in writing or in person, or both. This is different from “thank you’s” mentioned earlier. Thank you comes after a specific, gesture, such as opening a door for someone, picking up lunch for someone, or collecting a neighbor’s paper while they’re out of town. Here we are referring to gratitude for an extended period of service by someone towards us: gratitude towards a teacher for being patient throughout the year with our child, towards a teammate who has consistently been reliable in completing every task we’ve asked of them in a timely and professional manner, towards a former college or high school teacher whom we haven’t seen in 20 years but who taught us things no book could, and so forth. Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough (2004) find that keeping a daily gratitude journal—listing five things daily for which one is grateful—leads to an increased sense of well-being. This practice has been promoted on her eponymous show by Oprah Winfrey for many years.

4. Love—Agape ( pronounced ah-gah-pay, not a-gape), often defined as charity, or love for humanity in general. C. S. Lewis in his The Four Loves (1960) described this kind of love in theological as well as secular terms. He emphasized its unconditional nature. A minister friend of mine learned to define agape from a professor at Princeton University Divinity School: “the unconditional acceptance of the singularity of another person.” This sense of unconditional acceptance is a prerequisite for Lewis’s explanation—he says this kind of love is the love of those who are unlovable—the sick, the deranged, the incarcerated. In effect, agape—charity (Lewis actually uses the Latin term caritas rather than the Greek agape—is the love of everyone, of humankind. I have often lamented the failure of theologically minded friends to define the concept of grace. Lewis would have it defined as the notion that God loves all creatures, warts and all, the lovable along with the unlovable. This theological ideal form of love becomes an aspiration for humans—to develop the capacity to love everyone—to give the gift of love to everyone. The other three forms of love are eros, philia, and storge (pronounced store-gay), and are explained in the next three paragraphs. In his 1956 novel Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis illustrates the four loves using different characters.

5. Love—Eros, an emotional longing between two partners, or what Lewis calls the feeling of “being in love.” Lewis describes being in love as total surrender of one person to another, and of preoccupation with the other person. Biblically, this sense of surrender has been misunderstood by those who say that men are head of their family like Jesus is head of the church. The corrupt interpretation is that the wife is the servant of the husband as the church is the servant of Jesus. However, Lewis points out that it is two-way—the husband is servant to the wife also, surrendering to her as Jesus is servant to the church. Pure two-way love is pure two-way servitude. When in love, one would prefer misery with one’s beloved than alternate arrangements. In its extreme form, eros is renunciation, whether religious (as in taking religious orders and being “married” to the church) or secular (as in Ruth’s “whither thou goest I will go” promise—after her husband had died—to her mother-in-law, Naomi). In its most extreme form, eros becomes demonic, where one martyrs oneself to one’s beloved, and one’s love becomes nothing less than idolatry. In such a state, one lives under the illusion that being in love justifies wrong behavior, as in cults and abusive relationships.

Eros is typically understood to mean erotic love, or physical intimacy between two partners. However, Lewis reserves the term “Venus” to refer to the physical component of eros. In more common usage, I understand this (i.e., eros + Venus) to be romantic love in all of its dimensions, but with an emphasis on giving pleasure to the other, rather than selfishly focusing only on one’s personal emotional or erotic needs. There is a passage in D. H. Lawrence’s 1920 novel Women in Love in which the sisters Gudrun and Ursula Brangwen compare lovers. One argues for the strong bull of a man, the other preferring a man who is receptive, listening, sensitive, and attentive, with the result that he focuses on her needs and likes and continually learns from her verbal and nonverbal cues. He is the opposite of the arrogant, egotistical male lover who is a bip-bam, thank-you ma’m, kind of lover who plows into lovemaking with the sensitivity of a bull in a china shop, riding slipshod all the way, clueless as to his partner’s likes and dislikes. The word I remember most is a man’s “receptivity” to a woman’s signals, in contrast to the macho man’s cold disregard of them. All about me versus all about thee, with the latter resulting in a better “we.”

6. Love—Philia, a strong friendship formed between two persons springing from a common interest. It is freely chosen, in contrast to being accidentally thrown together in the next kind of love—storge. Lewis captures the moment of recognizing someone as a friend with this quip: “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” (p. 65)  This is what the Brafman brothers (2010) call “clicking.” Philia is intentional, where two persons choose to be friends. Intentional friendships include affection, loyalty, familiarity, equality, and virtuous behavior around each other. Philia differs from Eros in a couple of important ways: Eros is two people in love only with one another, while philia/friendship can include more than two—it can be a coterie. Those in Eros love are consumed with one another, while those in philia love are consumed by their common interest, whether it is rebuilding engines, building an organization, or plotting to destroy something. Yes, philia/friendship can serve good or ill. Or as Lewis writes, “It makes good men better and bad men worse.” (p. 80)

I am sure you have occasionally heard someone say that they have no friends. Lewis comments that absence of deeply satisfying friendships is common among persons who do not have a strong personal interest. Where one’s interests are strong, they are likely to attract persons who share them. Lewis writes that “Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers.” (p. 67) The greatest risk of these deep friendships based on a common interest is that they form a mutual admiration society where pride makes them feel unique, superior, and characterized by exclusivity, self-righteousness, and intolerance.

7. Love—Storge, is a fondness or affection that grows out of familiarity with another family member or friend whom one does not intentionally choose but whom one has simply found oneself on the same “stage” with in life. By virtue of being a part of the same family, work team, club, or the like, one grows fonder towards some than others—not a deep philia-type friendship but a less intense but nonetheless positive regard. This has sometimes been called an “avuncular” love, like uncles and aunts with nephews and nieces. Lewis describes storge as old, long-lasting loves that we take for granted but miss when absent. They are modest loves of which we do not boast, where there are kisses of affection that are less intense than kisses of Eros. Kissing cousins, as it were (although in some regions that phrase implies something more physically intimate!). This is a love born of circumstance, the result of being thrust together by blood or employment, whereby two people discover over time that the other has value. Jocularly referring to time working its storge-like love magic, Lewis quips that “Dogs and cats should always be brought up together…it broadens their minds so.” (1960, p. 36) The ally of storge is what Harold Kelley (as a part of his social exchange theory) calls interdependence ( in Interpersonal Relations, 1978), whereby both parties share in the drudgery as well as the pleasures required to maintain a relationship, while the enemy of storge is change, whereby one party takes up a radically new interest that separates them from the other over time. As for persons who lament that no one feels affectionate towards them, Lewis suggests that they may be ideal candidates for owning a pet. The prerequisites for earning the affection of one’s acquaintances are “common sense and give and take and ‘decency.’” (p. 54) On the relation of storge to eros and philia, Lewis quips that “Without Eros none of us would have been begotten and without Affection [storge] none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without Friendship [philia].” (p. 58)

8. Respect for the Environment—continually finding ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint, or the quantity of carbon emissions for which you are responsible. Find a website that takes you through the steps required to compute your carbon footprint. This involves calculating car, electricity, natural gas, airplane, and emissions from food processing per year. One such calculation guide is at: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Healthy-People-Healthy-Planet/Carbon-Footprint-Calculator.aspx. Then, set a goal to reduce your footprint, and identify some changes required in order to meet your goal. This could involve anything from taking the bus to installing solar panels. Jane and I some years ago got rid of our second car. When schedules conflict, I take the bus. Has worked fine.

In the next two posts, we will look at four kinds of “helpful giving” and seven kinds of “beneficial relief.”

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