The Four Loves Read-Along ~ Week 2 ~ Affection

The Four Loves

I’m a few days late with this post as life is becoming rather hectic but I will try to keep up as we move along.  Rest assured though; all the posts will go up eventually!

Before I continue with The Four Loves week two posting, I wanted to put down some more thoughts from week one.  After reading the second chapter on Like and Loves for the Sub-Human, I said I was having difficulty finding the distinction between what Lewis called Patriotism (love of home and family) and Ethics, which he implies might replace it (I think it has in our century).  Well, I was listening to a training video on workplace harassment and I believe Lewis’ point finally dawned on me.  The video sounded as if it were addressing early teens, which in itself was shocking given that it was targeting fully matured adults, but I was also struck by how much we are relying on other people to tell us what to do and how to behave. People used to have an intrinsic value system, and while we’re not perfect, we would never have had to lay out instructions on common, obvious, sensible behaviour like we do today.  Was the former (intrinsic value system) based on Lewis’ Patriotism: a strong sense of ties to a family, a community and a place and therefore the better you behaved the more not only the community would benefit, but everyone else also?  And thus, has it degraded into a more fragmented society where people without those ties (or less of them), live only for themselves and therefore Ethics has had to step up in an almost haphazard way to try to govern people who are less able to govern themselves?  I wonder …..

In any case, on to week two where Lewis examines the Greek word, στοργή (storge, with a hard “g”) which roughly translated means affection, “especially of parents for offspring”, but Lewis expands the term.  Let’s see what he has to say ….

when a little girl needs her mother most

When A Little Girl Needs Her Mother Most (1928) Haddon Sundblom ~ source Wikiart


The original meaning of the Greek word, storge, is: “affection, especially of parents to offspring,” but also of offspring to parents.  In this, we can see the Need-love of the child and the Gift-love of the mother. But her Gift-love is also a Need-love.  Affection extends far beyond this, in that it is the least discriminating of the loves and can be given to the most stupid or exasperating person as there is no expected “fitness” in whom it unites.  It can transcend races, classes (I’m thinking of Odysseus and his nurse, Eurycleia, in The Odyssey), age and even species.  However, affection appears to need familiarity, and rather than being capable of displaying the aspect of pride, such as friendship or love can, affection is imbued with a humble comfortableness that allows us to take the object for granted in a quiet way, whereas this behaviour in eros would perhaps be an outrage.  It would not be affection if it was proclaimed publicly or loudly and “lives with humble un-dress, private things ….”

jason swearing eternal affection to Media

Jason Swearing Eternal Affection to Medea (1742) Jean-François Troy ~ source Wikimedia Commons

However, in this explanation, Lewis speaks only of affection apart from the other loves.  Affection can both exist independently yet also within the other loves and be the very medium in which they operate, as a friendship becomes affectionate as it ages.  Lewis claims experiencing erotic love without affection would become disagreeable, being either too angelic or too animalistic and never reaching the human condition.

While Affection is not Appreciative-love because it is not discriminating, it can “make appreciations possible which, but for it, might never have existed.”   It can unite those who may never have independently chosen to spend time together.  Soon, we might see valuable traits in this person and we cross a frontier in that we are appreciating someone for who they are and not merely for their “goodness or intelligence flavoured and served to suit our own palate.”  And thus, as someone once said, ‘Dogs and cats should be brought up together. It broadens their minds so,” so does Affection broaden ours. “By having a great many friends I do not prove that I have a wide appreciation of human excellence.” If we only choose our own acquaintances, it says nothing; of course they would suit us.

“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.”

Lewis now delves into the danger of Affection. True affection can love anyone, does not expect much, is kind and forgiving and allows us to see goodness that we would have been blind to without it.  Given this standard, we might be mistaken for seeing Affection as Love Himself; domestic bliss, or any other bliss created by Affection should not be mistaken for God.  Affection can be used for both good or ill.  A good example (Lewis says) is saccharine poems expressing a ready-made recipe for pure bliss for “what is in fact only an opportunity.” We shall have to do nothing but let Affection reign and our lives (and love) will be perfect.  This Need-love aspect of Affection can become unreasonable as it turns into a demand to be loved (here, Lewis gives an example of King Lear and his demand for Affection from his daughters.)  We know we must merit Erotic Love or Friendship, but because Affection is assumed as “ready-made by nature”, the person who is seen not to give it can be considered “unnatural,” which is in fact a “distortion of a truth.”  It is true that Affection can be natural and that it will seed and grow with very little trouble, but a paradox exists in that “the very same conditions of intimacy which make Affection possible also — and no less naturally — make possible a pecurilarly incurable distaste; a hatred as immemorial, constant, unemphatic, almost at times unconscious, as the corresponding form of love.”

“The situation becomes suffocating.  If people are already unlovable a continual demand on their part (as of right) to be loved — their manifest sense of injury, their reproaches, whether loud and clamourous or merely implicit in every look and gesture of resentful self-pity —- produce in us a sense of guilt (they are intended to do so) for a fault we could not have avoided and cannot cease to commit.  They seal up the very fountain for which they thirst.  If ever, at some favoured moment, any germ of Affection for them stirs in us, their demand for more and still more petrifies us again ….. And all the while they are unaware of the real road. ‘If you would be loved, be lovable,’ said Ovid.”

This “hideous misinterpretation” of Affection not only can be seen in a mother’s controlling nature, a woman’s vanity but also in the treatment of parents towards their children, born from an ease and informality.  Many times people will treat an affectionate relative or friend in a way they would not treat a barely known acquaintance.  Excuses for this behaviour are “fatally wrong …… Affection at its best practises a courtesy which is incomparably more subtle, sensitive, and deep than the public kind.”

an affectionate glance

An Affectionate Glance (1909) Eugene de Blaas ~ source Wikiart

Lewis moves on to examine jealousy within Affection which is closely connected with the familiarity that breeds it. “Change is a threat to Affection.” If one moves into areas the other feels they cannot share, they can be threatened by it.  It is not jealousy necessarily of others but “the thing itself — of this science, this music, of God (always called ‘religion’ or ‘all this religion’ in such contexts).”  The person could be mocked or accused of affectation and their behaviour or actions is treated like a desertion or robbery.  In some cases there can be a double-jealousy where a person is not just threatened by a new area their friend or sibling has discovered but a simmering envy that they were not given opportunity to experience this new thing as well.

We have been speaking of these perversions of Affection as a need love but there are some as a Gift-love as well.  Think of a woman who literally gave everything for her family and was known in the community as such, but in reality manipulated and bullied her family so she herself was perceived in this way. How liable to this state is the maternal instinct.  Instead setting her goal to be superfluous being happy when children need her no longer, a mother can conversely appear to desire good for a child but makes sure that it is only a good that she can give.

“A much higher love — a love which desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes — must step in and help or tame the instinct before it can make the abdication. And of course it often does. But where it does not, 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’.”

All of Affection has the danger of falling into this habit.  An interesting example is of man and pets.  If a person feels unneeded (often brought about by their own behaviour), they can get a dog, and feel needed always by infantilizing the animal and “creating needs for countless little indulgences which only you can grant.”

All A Girl Needs

All A Girl Needs (1934) Haddon Sundblom ~ source Wikiart

Lewis clarifies that he does believe a lack of “natural affection”  is “an extreme depravity”, and in fact feels that Affection is “responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.”  He does not feel these misinterpretations of Affection pathological, but merely means to express that we have all felt these temptations and must be on our guard.

“Affection produces happiness if — and only if — there is common sense and give and take and ‘decency’. …….  The mere feeling is not enough.  You need ‘common sense,’ that is, reason.  You need ‘give and take’; that is, you need justice, continually stimulating mere Affection when it fades and restraining it when it forgets or would defy art of love.  You need ‘decency.’  There is no diguising the fact that this means goodness; patience, self-denial, humility, and the continual intervention of a far higher sort of love than Affection, in itself, can ever be.  That is the whole point.  If we try to live by Affection alone, Affection will ‘go bad on us.’  …… If Affection is made the absolute sovereign of a human life the seeds will germinate.  Love, having become a god, becomes a demon.”

maternal affection

Maternal Affection (1867) Hugues Merle source Wikimedia Commons

This chapter was much easier to understand than the first two and we get a greater understanding of Lewis’ initial set-up of Need-love and Gift-love.


  1.  In what way do you think that affection can work in friendship and romantic love?
  2. How can affection broaden our minds and widen our scope of understanding of others?
  3. Do you think the ability to show affection is built into our nature?  Or is it a choice?


Lewis gives a great many examples in this chapter, which I haven’t included in my summary, drawing from literature and personal experience. They are well-worth reading to further understand the threads of his “discussion.”

The more I thought about this chapter, the more I’m convinced that Affection, the way Lewis described it, must be the basis for the other loves.  While it is less discriminating and more general, that generality allows people to use it to guide their behaviour in a positive way which would undoubtedly enrich a friendship or romantic love.  However, from Lewis’ examples, it seems that many people are motived by this Need-love which plays out in their actions in a manner that would be harmful to true affection.  Motivated by this desire to be needed, instead of giving Affection solely for the good of the other person, their true actions are guided solely for what they receive, for the good of themselves, a startling selfish practice that would not benefit either person.  Lewis has caused me to examine my own motives in my own relationships and to see if I can find any weeds of selfishness growing within my Affection.  What about you?

The Four Loves


⇐  Introduction & Liking and Loves for the Sub-Human                        Friendship


13 thoughts on “The Four Loves Read-Along ~ Week 2 ~ Affection

    • Yay! I’m glad your reader’s block is not holding you back with this one. I read your review and appreciate your insights. You’ve given me even more to think about! I’m glad my analyses are helping. I find I need to summarize to understand. It is very tough for such a short book, a tribute to Lewis’ intelligent and deep thinking. I’ll need to read a light book after this one is done! 😀

  1. I have to say it was a relief to start reading this chapter and realize it was so much easier going than the first two! I’ve found the others similarly readable (I’m partway into Eros now). Timing is funny though – I finished up a collection of L.M. Montgomery short stories (Further Chronicles of Avonlea) after reading this and there were several (two for sure I can think of) stories in which the misapplication of affection was the cause of the central conflict of the story. It really reinforced this section for me!

    • Me too! I’m seeing all sorts of examples of “misapplied” or false affection in books but mostly in life! It’s fun to pick up and at other times, alarming. Glad to hear the rest is easier too. I’m a little behind but hope to have the third post up in the next few days!

  2. I think that people are social beings that die (or get very sick) in solitude. In that sense affection is hard-wired in us to make us bond with other people (and let other people bond with us) so that we won’t be alone. But, I do think that HOW we are affectionat is more varied. On this point I have to lean on social-constructionism. Social-constructionism claims that we are formed in our meetings with other people. How we are met shapes how we understand and interact in the interaction, you are different in the interaction with your mother than your romantic partner. Both of yous can be said to be an authentich you, but are a different true version of you. I think how we show affection is a way of strengthening the bond we have with others, and since our interactions depend on who we are in an interaction with, the affection relationship is different as well. Being aware of this can help us being more accute about seeing the person we interact with on their terms, and not just our terms.

    • Really good observations and in a general sense, I agree. But I do think that the distinction between selfless affection and a selfish misapplication of affection does have a direct relation to how selfish (or unselfish) we are. These character traits can be natural to a greater or lesser degree, but also formed as we develop and are often most affected/guided/entrenched by the actions of our parents. However, I might be saying exactly the same thing you did, lol! 🙂

  3. I read this book years ago but remember nothing. Very interesting thoughts on affection. It made me think of this past week when I had a falling out with a friend. I was upset at a perceived snub from another woman and all I wanted was a “I’m sorry that happened, that was hurtful.” Instead I got a lecture listing all the things I needed to do to solve the problem.

    So I went home and told my husband and he said, “I’m sorry that happened, that was hurtful. Should we slash her tires?”

    Just joking on the last thing. I think maybe my friend’s “love” is “affection” and my husband’s is “agape”.

    (And my friend just wrote me to wish me a Happy Anniversary, so I think our love has some agape as well.)

    • Ha,ha, I quite like your husband’s response. It lightens the tension and perhaps puts things in more balanced perspective. I’m not sure if Lewis would say your friend’s response falls under a love per se, it would depend on the complete relationship. But I really can’t answer because I haven’t reached Agape yet! I’ll let you know! 🙂

  4. Excellent summary, points, and questions.

    Again, I agree with you that we have lost that capacity for affection, that we don’t cultivate it much anymore. I also agree with your views of hierarchy. It’s as if it were anathema for modern man, ha ha ha. It’s a reality we better face than to let it exist unchecked, it’s then when it’ll come to bite us from the back. But that’s also a malady of our times, with our assertion of the individual came the loss of recognizing authority, different roles, etc. The panic or snare at anyone who, like C.S. Lewis, dares to explain man as the head of the home, or is courageous as to assert some values or code of conduct. The ‘equality’ taken to extremes is what we are suffering at the time.

    I believe affection is at the base of all the other loves. Like you, I also defend there’s a natural disposition, and the recognition of it as something worth cultivating.

    In Houston we are blessed to have so much diversity, an incessant opportunity for us to truly know the ‘other’ and cultivate many not obvious affections. But our phone isolated lives, our no time lives, do make the terrain not that fertile, since affection requires hours of having to do something in the presence of the other. Substituting, though, this past year, I’ve seen that happening in the special ed classrooms at junior and high schools, -because that forceful situation of being day in and day out with the same teachers, students, and stuff.

    I’m noticing two things I appreciate in Lewis. One is how all loves have a healthy expression and a perversion that happens when they are dislodged from our love to God, and whenever any of these loves becomes an idol. The other is that Lewis reminds us there’s some humor in all expressions of love. Love is serious, and yet there has to be that safety net to laugh at ourselves, at our shortcomings, our antics, etc. And love is surely an ontological glue that binds us.

    I’m reminded of how affectionate God appears to me in Job 38. He’s both stern, and also has a bantering tone that only those who loves us and whom we love can afford.

    • “since affection requires hours of having to do something in the presence of the other”

      I believe you make a very important point in that, like ANYTHING worthwhile, true affection/love takes work and lots of it. In our modern times, while people are definitely busier, we don’t seem to be putting effort into things that truly matter. Often our attention is taken by the material and the deep relationships are left uncultivated or fall by the wayside.

      Yes! I also love that Lewis emphasized that love can be healthy but also perverted into something unhealthy. Such are the perils of being human! We must strive for balance.

      Ah, I do need to re-read Job soon …. I’ve been thinking about him lately! Thanks for the reminder! 😉

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