Two of the strongest emotions the human heart can create. Both have various definitions and connotations. A person can love pizza and love their wife. A person can love a movie and love their child. A person can love warm weather and love their pet. A person can lust after another person in a sexual way. A person can lust after someone’s possessions or standing. A person can lust after something that isn’t right.
As you can see, love and lust can be used in any number of ways, and they have since lost their meanings, especially in the English language. Love holds a positive, purer connotation, and lust holds a negative, dirtier connotation. Love is seen as good, and lust is seen as bad, and I’m not disagreeing with that consensus in any way. I just think that sometimes we confuse the two terms, because they can be very similar.
“Love” is the term in English used for everything from pizza and warm weather to a spouse and family. We just have the one word: “love”. Love has just become the stronger form of like, not actual love. This is not the case in all languages, and I think the Greek language does the best at portraying the various types of love through their language. The Greek has four different words for “love”:
Agape/Agapeo: unconditional love
Phileo: brotherly love
Eros: erotic/romantic love
Storge: familial love
This is a much better way of expressing “love” in language. You “phileo” your close friends. You “storge” your father and mother. You “eros” your spouse. God “agapeo”s you. Given these definitions, these different types of love are evident.
The Greek has five different words for “lust”:
Epithumia: unlawful desire
Hedone: to delight in sensuality
Epipotheo: to strongly desire something that isn’t yours
Orexis: general lust
Pathos: inordinate affection
This is a much better way of expressing “lust” in language. You “epithumia” your boyfriend/girlfriend. You “hedone” pornography. You “epipotheo” your neighbors car. You “orexis” attractive men or women. You “pathos” your favorite actor/actress or TV show.
Why all these definitions and all this set up? We use “I love you” all the time, but most of the time what we really mean is “I lust you”. Or, to put it in the Greek, “I agapeo you” vs “I epithumia you”.
Here’s the difference: when you love someone, you put their desires above your own. When you lust someone, you put your desire above them. When you love someone, you sacrifice for them. When you lust someone, you sacrifice them to your pleasures. When you love someone, you care about what you can give. When you lust someone, you care about what you can get. When you love someone, you choose to do so everyday. When you lust someone, you only stick around until the feeling is gone. When you love someone, you stick by them through thick and thin. When you lust someone, you stick by them as long as you get what you want. When you love someone, you see the inside person over the outside person. When you lust someone, you see the outside person over the inside person. When you love someone, it is “til death do we part”. When you lust someone, it is “til I find something better”.
Love is permanent. Love prefers others. Love gives to others. Love is a choice. Love encourages others. Love helps others. Love sees the best in others. Love protects others. Love guides others. Love never fails.
Lust is temporary. Lust prefers you. Lust takes from others. Lust is a feeling. Lust hinders others. Lust sees its desires in others. Lust damages others. Lust gives no guidance. Lust always fails.
Both of these are strong emotions. Both of these are similar feelings, unfortunately. Both have very different definitions and meanings. Both can direct a life. Both can overpower logic and reason. Both can impact anyone at any time. Just make sure the next time you say “I love you” to him or her, you choose the correct “L” word.