November 3, 2023 | Twigs for the Nest

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

by Liz Voboril

What’s Love Got to Do with It?
Schooling Our Kids in Love

*This article is the first in an occasional series we’re calling “Twigs for the Nest,” written by parents to help nourish our home and school partnership.

In our a la carte world, it may seem like education and love occupy separate lanes – but in a “culture eats curriculum for lunch” reality, they overlap in a multitude of ways. That’s why PCS Head of School Katharine Savage talks regularly with students about love, using C. S. Lewis’ framework from The Four Loves. “Schools tend to hover around one of two poles,” shares Katharine, “either they accept a reality of endless crush/crash cycles, or they place such a strict emphasis on what ‘not to do’ that it stifles all forms of friendship. What we’re trying to do here is give the students a positive vision for the kinds of love they can whole-heartedly embrace and cultivate during their years here. We know it’s what they come to love that will endure in their lives as they graduate and move on.”

Lewis widens our vision in The Four Loves by distinguishing four kinds of love that the New Testament writers refer to – each with a different name in the original language – that we tend to lose sight of because all are translated “love” in English. 

Storge (affection): The only condition required to allow affection to grow is to see someone on a regular basis. Affection binds those who would never have been connected otherwise. But the same familiarity which can lead to affection can also lead to ridicule. You can notice every little annoying thing. You practice affection through simple, old-fashioned manners –greeting anyone warmly, smiling at someone, listening carefully to someone else. Sometimes our emotions can make us wait for others to act first, but to cultivate storge, you have to reach out. As parents, we can shepherd our children toward storge by paying attention to how our kids treat their siblings and family at home. 

Philia (friendship): PCS encourages students to cultivate storge (affection) for everyone, but friendship love doesn’t work the same way. Friendship love grows when you realize someone else sees the world the way you do. Lewis describes friendship as “two people standing side by side and together enjoying a third thing.” Friends are not absorbed in each other, they’re enjoying that “third thing.” Katharine tells the older students, “if you’re looking for deep meaningful friendships, you need to be investing in high quality third things.” Third things range from relatively low-level (go phillies!) to higher and deeper level loves (quality books, music or art, playing a sport, exploring nature, enriching imaginary play, and spiritual connections). Third things can also be toxic – if a group of friends gathers to complain or gossip, a bond is still formed, it’s just a bond that ultimately doesn’t lead to life. Lewis notes that friendship is a very powerful love because it has civilizing power. Every civilized religion began with a group of friends, the study of math began because a group of friends started talking about lines and angles, and the abolition movement began because a group of friends started working together. As parents, we can help our children develop Philia by helping them cultivate high level third loves. 

Eros (passion): In eros, you are absorbed with one person. You crave their attention. When they walk in the room, they are what you notice. Katharine observes, “Eros is the fire; it’s designed for the fireplace (marriage). We encourage students to ‘hit pause’ on eros until they’re closer to whatever their family would consider ‘marrying age.’ In these younger years we can work at cultivating these other kinds of love that ultimately will help students enjoy eros love at the right time.” As parents, we can help our students “push pause on eros” by responding with empathy and understanding to the crushes that naturally occur along the way, while also redirecting their attention and energy into these other kinds of love. 

Agape (charity): The previous three loves require something attractive or that we need about the other person. In agape, the person you are loving can’t give you anything and there’s nothing that you necessarily appreciate about them. Agape is a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good. It’s genuinely gifting your time, ability, resources to care for someone else. As parents, we can help our students develop agape by teaching them to see the needs of others and to serve in the context of home and family. 

“Our aim,” shares Katharine, “is to develop a school culture where students, teachers and staff are flourishing and developing not just academically, but as lovers of God and others. Romans 12:10 exhorts us, ‘Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.’ Pray with us that PCS would be a school that overflows with these kinds of love.”

Liz Voboril is mom to Abby (class of 2028) and Lucy (class of 2030). She serves as communications director at a local ministry and at her church. Liz has a “third thing” love for helping organizations communicate!