The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis – Affection (Storge)

Affection (Storge):

This love is known by the Greeks as storge and is translated as “affection, especially of parents to offspring.” Lewis states that this type of love is the least discriminating. With Affection, people who we normally wouldn’t find appealing or who bother us or who just don’t deserve any kind of love are still lovable and can still be loved. “It ignores even the barriers of species.” But, as Lewis points out, there are criteria that must be met. Affection is not felt towards those who are not familiar. Affection cannot be, or at least is not, felt towards people or objects or animals that are unknown.

Lewis then claims that Affection is also the humblest of loves because it does not brag, it does not proclaim itself loudly. It is a great love because it teaches us to accept people as they are rather than how we would have them be. Affection is normally felt towards those we don’t love in other ways or wouldn’t love in others but have learned how over time. “To make a friend is not the same as to become affectionate. But when your friend has become an old friend, all those things about him which had originally nothing to do with the friendship become familiar and dear with familiarity.” “we may feel only tolerant and indulgent. But really we have crossed a frontier. That “in his own way” means that we are getting beyond our own idiosyncrasies, that we are learning to appreciate goodness or intelligence in themselves, not merely goodness or intelligence flavoured and served to suit our own palate.” 

“The truly wide taste in humanity will similarly find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet every day. In my experience it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who “happen to be there.” Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.” Affection helps us to become aware of our own potentially bothersome habits and behaviour and to accept that of others. It draws us closer to peaceful coexistence. “Affection can love the unattractive;” “Affection “does not expect too much,” turns a blind eye to faults, revives easily after quarrels;” “Affection opens our eyes to goodness we could not have seen, or should not have appreciated without it.”

*Lewis notes that the various kinds of love can intermix like an alcoholic drink (though I believe he doesn’t mean with necessarily the same level of destruction.) A Gift love can become a Need love. Affection can be mixed with friendship and Eros (to be covered in later chapters). The various types of love can shift and change and transform over time through different experiences and with different people.

But there is a dark side to Affection. Some people who are those rough around the edges kinds of characters seem to demand it. An unloving parent may demand that his son love him merely because he is the boy’s father. But does that justify anything? Lewis denies such a claim. He seems to believe that if someone is incapable of feeling Affection towards another it is the victim’s fault for being particularly bothersome and intolerable. Nothing can be demanded of others. “If you would be loved, be lovable,” said Ovid.” This misconception about meriting Affection is the reason for so many distortions and misunderstandings of it.

In addition to this dark side of Affection caused by misunderstandings, there is another threat to it’s well-being: change. Affection is threatened greatly by change. Because Affection’s main criteria for judgment is familiarity, once something has changed, the foundation begins to crumble. Lewis gives an example of a brother and sister that grew up together loving the same things, doing the same activities, and so on but one day the brother discovers music or art or classic literature and starts to stray away from the sister to pursue his own interests. He’s not being rude, he’s just not as interested in what he used to be. So the sister becomes upset and jealousy takes over. That jealousy then begins to treat the brother like an object. The sister tells herself that the classic literature has stolen her brother from her as if he were an object or play thing that was to be eternally hers. But there is another kind of jealousy besides this, one in which the sister becomes jealous that the brother has not shared his new passions with her.

These previous two examples came from Affection as a Need love but there are also perversions of Affection as a Gift love as well. Lewis gives the example of Mrs. Fidget, a kind, elderly lady who took care of all of her family’s needs. She cooked, cleaned, sewed, did the laundry, tended the garden, etc. She would stay up waiting on you to get home no matter how late it would be. Lewis notes that she did this because she wanted to feel needed. Sometimes when we no longer feel needed it is a very distressing feeling. But Lewis notes that as parents, as providers of Gift love, the objective is not to take care of our dependents forever but to take care of them to the point where they can sufficiently take care of themselves. But Mrs. Fidget did not understand that. Lewis believes that her motives were out of self-loathing. She kept creating needs to take care of so that her family would love her. She would tell herself, “Look at all I’ve done for my family; I must really love them” just so she wouldn’t have to face the harsh reality that she really disliked them.

“But the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift love. It must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. The hour when we can say “They need me no longer” should be our reward.”

“The ravenous need to be needed will gratify itself either by keeping its objects needy or by inventing for them imaginary needs. It will do this all the more ruthlessly because it thinks (in one sense truly) that it is a Gift love and therefore regards itself as “unselfish.”

Lewis notes that if someone like that wants to continually be needed, they should get an animal. An animal cannot know whether they are being mistreated or uncared for or not. They will not protest. They will not criticize. They will never grow tired of it or, if they do, at least they won’t say anything about it. Lewis finishes this chapter by stating that Affection requires something extra, something more in order to function properly. It requires “common sense” and decency (reason). We must know when to say things and when not to. We must know how Affection can be corrupted or misused. We must be able to recognize when these things are happening and stop them.

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