It’s time we learned the distinction between sexual friendships and loving friendships. Each of us could probably have a lot more friendships, if we didn’t sexualize our loving feelings for one another. Spouses could form loving friendships with either males or females without feeling threatened sexually. Men could love other men without fear of being labeled "gay." Women could lovingly bond with other women without being thought of as "lesbian." All our lives could be enriched with many more deep friendships, if we could separate out the emotion of love from that of sexuality.
The Greeks had different words for making the distinction between sex and love. Sexuality was called "Eros" and non-sexual love, "Agape" (ah-ga-pay). The love of one’s country was called "Filios" and I don’t know their word for love of hamburgers. I do know we could all benefit from having more friendships filled with agape.
The other day, I received two different responses about friendship from two readers of this column. They both described different aspects of agape friendships. With some heavy editing, I share these descriptions with you:
An agape friend is someone who attentively listens to you without judgment…without interrupting.
An agape friend is one who is mentally and emotionally available to you, understands you and is patient with you.
An agape friend is one who helps you bridge the gaps between loneliness and fellowship, frustration and confidence, despair and hope, setbacks and success.
An agape friend is one who gives you a spark of assurance when you doubt your ability to fulfill your noblest aspiration, climb your special mountain, or reach your secret goal.
An agape friend is one who not only sees you cry, but also one who cries with you.
An agape friend is comfortable opening your refrigerator and helping himself to its contents, then shutting the drawer with her foot.
An agape friend is one who warms you by her presence, trusts you with his secrets, and remembers you in his prayers. One who not only brings a bottle of wine to your party, but also comes early to help you cook and stays late to help you clean up the mess.
An agape friend seeks to assist you in solving your problems, and does not solve them for you, because she trusts your own ability to resolve them for yourself.
An agape friend is one with whom you are comfortable, to whom you are loyal, through whom you are blessed, with whom you are enriched, and for whom you are grateful.
An agape friend does not gossip about you with others, but shares your talents, abilities, and positive characteristics.
An agape friend is one who makes your grief less painful, and your adversity more bearable.
An agape friend cares more about you than for you. When you have an argument, rather than thinking your friendship is over, an agape friend will call you wondering how you are.
An agape friend is one who joyfully sings with you when you are on the mountaintop, and silently walks beside you through the valley.
When an agape friend calls after you have gone to bed, you ask why s/he took so long to call and you listen with eagerness.
An agape friend is one who keeps your loved one’s names and phone numbers in his address book.
An agape friend rejoices in your successes, forgets your failures and supports you whenever you may need it.
Agape is a special kind of love. Notice that sexuality is absent from the above descriptions. If you don’t have any agape friends, perhaps you could attract one by becoming one!