Love and Need

There is no question that we probably all want to find love, but the issue I would like to discuss in this article is: do we need to find love? There’s quite a big difference as I am sure you will appreciate. So, is love a want or a need; is it a desirable or a necessity? Let’s start by defining our terms.

Love, as Ryan O’Neil once famously said to Ali McGraw, is never having to say you’re sorry. What on earth did he mean by that? Well, I guess he meant that when you love someone, you will always have their best interests at heart and you would never knowingly do anything to hurt them. It follows therefore that there should never be any need for an apology. Well, I suppose that’s the logic of the comment anyway, but in reality, as another wise person once said, “you always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all.”

To love someone, I would suggest, is to deeply care. That said, perhaps having only one word to describe the different ways that we can deeply care is possibly somewhat limiting. The ancient Greeks, I seem to remember, had four different words for love to describe the difference between the kind of love you would have for a life partner or spouse and the kind of love you would have for, say, your children.

A quick bit of Googling gave me the following four definitions, though I have paraphrased them to (hopefully) help make the meaning clear:

Agape is Deep Love – Love for Humankind

Used in the Bible to describe the love of God for humankind and also the love of God by humankind, it encompasses love of your fellow man.

Eros is Passion – Physical Attraction and Sensual Desire

Probably a chemical reaction in the brain and I seem to remember reading somewhere that it is a reaction that can only take place at a certain age.

Philia is Friendship – Affection and Loyalty

The kind of love you have for your friends, work colleagues (some of them anyway) and those with whom you mix socially; people you like.

Storge is Natural Affection – As for Family and Children

This is that “blood is thicker than water” attitude that bonds you with the other members of your family.

In Abraham Malow’s Hierarchy of needs, we have social needs, including the need for love, as the third level in a set of five needs that are common to all human beings.

• Self Actualisation – Need to become the person you were born to be
• Self Esteem – Need for self respect
• Social – Need for Love, Friendship and Belonging
• Safety – Need to work and live somewhere safe
• Physiological – Basic needs for food, water, shelter

In Maslow’s hierarchy, all of the above versions of love fit into his social tier. To need is to require something that is a fundamental for the purpose of achieving a goal or possibly, even fundamental to living life itself. It is quite easy to see that food, water and shelter are indeed needs because we know that without them, we would certainly die.

The other, higher needs including the need for love, may not quite impact us so directly when they are absent from our lives, but they really are more than wants; they are needs. Without them, we might not actually die, but we would certainly suffer one way or another.

Maslow says that humans tend to progress from the lower needs toward the higher ones and many, he suggested, would never become self-actualised. That’s why so many people in the modern workplace have their attention focussed upon their esteem needs; and that, in turn, is why selectively feeding people’s self-esteem, as for example was suggested in the One Minute Manger, is such a powerful tool for shaping behaviour.

To return to our original question: love is not a want, it is a need. You do need to be loved and you also need to love. Your children need to be loved. Your family needs to be loved. Your friends need to be loved.

“And in the end,” in the words of Paul McCartney, “the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

2 thoughts on “Love and Need

  1. Lalit

    I agree that the statement “you always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all.” seems to be right for me or in other words if you have done any mistake to hurt the person you never have told sorry.

    But we know in our real life we say sorry to one whom we love more than we say sorry to any other person and which indirectly give us the feedback that we hurt the person more than any other. It is the reality and we must accept it.

  2. LS

    I always wondered what Erich Segal meant. I always thought that “Love never means having to say you are sorry” was as fictional as the rest of Segal’s writing. If it was true, why does my husband, who I know loves me dearly, complain that I’m not very good about apologizing My own theory, which I have no idea if it’s right, was that Segal thought if 2 people were in love, that when one of them messed up, they didn’t have to say they were sorry because the other person knew they were sorry and forgave them. But, honestly, I have a lot of people love me and none of the relationships work quite like that. My parents probably come the closest to a relationship where I never have to say, I’m sorry.

    Now McCartney’s statement, I completely agree with!

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