Philia is a deep friendship love. This kind of love has no concern for physical attraction or lust. It's a compassionate love based on loyalty, sacrifice and emotional intimacy. If you have a BFF, one that you'd die for, this one's for you. I've been blessed to have several friends over my lifetime with whom I shared philia.
I think of my friend Carla. We first met when we both lived in Italy (sacrifice. I know). When I first arrived there, it was my first time overseas, I knew no one, and spoke no Italian. Carla showed up on my doorstep one day with a baby on her hip and a bag full of cleaning supplies in her arms. She was a military wife as was I and part of the welcoming committee. She did a great job. We were fast friends. We did nearly everything together our short two years there and our bond was forged.
Years later we both got orders to Virginia. It was great to have her near me once again. Carla is a ray of sunshine in an often-gloomy world and she is also hysterical (imagine crazy nurse stories in a West Virginian accent and Lucille Ball facial expressions). Just after she arrived my daughter and I became estranged. I was devastated and anxious. I didn’t know what to do or how to handle it. Carla showed up again at my doorstep to pray with me, hug me and tell me we’d get through this together and she meant it. After the reconciliation took place Carla was still there to revel in the joy with me.
When I was going through my PhD. Program I no longer had time for friends. I felt horrible since I am so social and would have much preferred to be at the beach, throwing parties or hanging out with friends to being locked in my own self-imposed cave for five years reading, writing and stretching my brain. I responded “no” to nine out of ten social invitations. Many stopped inviting. Not Carla. She understood. She always told me “It’s ok. I understand. You’ll say yes again one day and I’ll be here when you do”. One day I received a knock at the door when I was already seven hours deep into a writing project for the day and it was Carla. (Technically, she just walked right in. She knew she didn’t need to knock). She had my favorite extra hot latte in her hand and a hug in the other. She handed it to me and said “I’m not letting you talk to me and get distracted. I just knew you’d be thirsty and I wanted to tell you I love you. Now get back to work! I’ll be here when you need me.” Ugh. I just philia Carla. Just thinking back now to all the good times and hard times we’ve shared is reminding me that that is true love—true friendship love.
I philia Cheryl too. We used to be Polish dancers together when we were twelve and fourteen respectively. (I was the dude because they didn’t have enough, she was petite and I was nicknamed Amazon. It’s great being tall. Umm, that was sarcasm). Cheryl moved in with me and my family when she was only sixteen because she had a tough time at home. I surely enjoyed her presence.
Years later, when my marriage was on the brink of failure and we lived in two different time zones, Cheryl took my calls at 6:00 a.m. her time not because she was wide awake, but because she loved me and knew I needed a friend. She’d listen to me cry on the other end of the receiver and she’d listen with compassion and tell me that she loved me. I knew she was there for me. She always was. When her mother was dying decades later, she called me at those crazy times. She cried when she thought she was too exhausted to go on and knew I’d understand when she said she felt her mom was ready to meet Jesus. When her sweet momma finally went on to meet Him, I drove across seven states to be there for her funeral and to help with whatever she wanted. I philia Cheryl and she philias me.
When we read in Corinthians that love is patient and love is kind, it does not refer only to romantic love. It refers to all of these Greek forms of love and it certainly refers to philia too. I am fairly certain that you have likely philia’d a friend too in your life. Everyone needs to have at least one loyal friend who they know would sacrifice for them and one with whom they share emotional intimacy. Paul and Timothy had great philia for one another too. Paul had no problem expressing his deep affection for this young man whom he called his son and loved with the deep affection of Christ. Some twisted and unholy individuals today read of their deep love for one another and have even attempted to say they had a homosexual relationship. This is likely due to the lack of word options for “love” that inspired me to write this article in the first place. No, guys. They were not gay. They philia’d each other and that ‘s ok for two men to do. They were loyal to one another, were willing to sacrifice their lives for each other and were compassionate towards their brother.
So, this is philia.
“Oh my gosh! I love this handbag! Wow. I love this pizza! Don’t you just love this TV show?!” None of these is true love and they are most certainly not philia unless you’re loyal to your handbag and are willing to sacrifice your life for it. Oh wait. Scratch that. I’m pretty sure at least one reader might respond in the affirmative. If so, I’m here to help. 😊 In all seriousness, we are all capable of loving so many people in so many different ways. Once you recognize philia in your relationships praise God for it and be grateful for that friend or those friends. They are true gifts that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Still got more love to give? Tune in tomorrow and increase your vocab. This is one time it’s definitely ok to borrow from the Greeks.