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More Than One Kind of Love

For use on 13 February, the day before Valentine’s Day

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To explore our understanding of different types of relationships (SEAL theme: Managing Feelings).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and four readers.

  • You will also need the following ancient Greek words displayed for the students to read: storge, philautia, philia, pragma, ludus, eros and agape.


Leader: How are you feeling? Is there a sense of anticipation rippling around the school? Why? Because tomorrow is one of the most important days of the year: Valentine’s Day. I wonder how many of you have ordered flowers, or maybe you’ve gone for a single red rose. Do you still buy cards, or is it all done on social media nowadays? Do you care if the recipient knows your identity or is it still exciting to receive something from a secret admirer?

I’m sure that some of you are confident that there will be at least one card or present. In fact, there will be trouble for your special friend if there isn’t. Others will be hoping that something arrives, a sign that there is someone special out there who cares. Some of you won’t be interested at all. But there will be some who feel a sense of dread. They know it’s very unlikely that Valentine’s Day will bring a sign of affection from a secret admirer. For these people, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a downer.

Valentine’s Day is about love. When we use that word, we tend to emphasize romantic love, but there is far more to it. In fact, the ancient Greeks had as many as 30 different words to describe the shades of emotion that we try to contain in the one word, ‘love’. Let’s look at a few of them. It may help to put Valentine’s Day into perspective.

Reader 1: Love starts in the family. Storge (pronounced ‘storgay’) is the love between parents and children. Parents are the origin of a child’s existence and a child is the product of their love, so that biological connection is almost impossible to ignore.

Reader 2: Then, there is philautia, which means ‘love of yourself’. In its worst form, it can be a self-obsession that is all about ‘me, me, me!’ But it is also about self-worth, about feeling secure in who you are and where you are going. In this form, philautia is a positive type of love that is at the heart of our identity.

Reader 3: The next kind of love is philia, an aspect of love experienced by many of us already. It describes the deep friendship, loyalty and trust that exist between best friends. Philia is also the word used for the team spirit that is created in a sports team, for example.

Reader 4: Valentine’s Day often involves different types of love. Ludus and eros describe the physical attraction between two people. Then there’s pragma, which is the kind of love you find in couples celebrating their silver, ruby or even golden wedding anniversary. It’s about long-lasting commitment, even when ludus and eros may have lessened. It is about being open to compromise and willing to forgive.

Leader: Finally, there’s agape, and this is possibly the most important of all. Agape is selfless, undeserving and generous. It’s the kind of love that makes people volunteer for the jobs that nobody else wants to do. It’s the kind of love that is concerned for the needs of the vulnerable, the lonely, the weak and people that nobody wants to care for. Christians believe that agape is best illustrated in the love that God has for us. They believe that God loves people despite the fact that they are often imperfect, disobedient, untrustworthy and unlikeable.

Time for reflection

Leader: Let’s get back to Valentine’s Day. It is a day when we celebrate love and demonstrate love to others. Whether we give or receive cards this Valentine’s Day, we can all give love to other people.

- Why not practise a little storge love with our parents or guardians?
- What about demonstrating some philia love towards our best friends?
Best of all, why not do something totally undeserving, an act of kindness to someone who least expects it, an act of agape?

All of us could make Valentine’s Day special for someone!

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the love that we experience in our lives.
Please help us to share this experience with those around us.
Please help us never to give up loving.
Help us always to notice people
 who need our care.


‘More than one kind of love’ by Joan Armatrading

Publication date: February 2017   (Vol.19 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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