Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lovers are the greatest fighters

The Greek word φιλοτιμο (philótimo)

How to explain it in English?

Perhaps an example would help.
Let’s say someone shows me that he considers me worthy enough to undertake an expedition. If I honor the idea of undertaking an expedition, then I’m trying voluntarily to fulfill his expectations, expectations not in any way forced upon me, this way protecting the ground of our relationship, because this relationship can be essential only if based in our common appreciation and understanding of the specific value of undertaking an expedition.

Thus we understand philótimo to mean love for the continuation of an honor someone reveals for me, my will to become worthy of our common appreciation of a value, in order to protect and advance my relationship with the other.

This means also that our common value has at the same time a primary and a secondary importance. A primary, because without it a relationship is impossible, and a secondary, because the relationship by itself is the ultimate purpose, and not the cultivation of a value. The wish of my friends for me to become better, takes inside me the ‘form’ of philótimo — or, philótimo is the ‘existing in me’ equivalent of their hope and love for me — or, philótimo is my better self, trying even from the outside, to make me better.

To have the virtue of philótimo, you need societies where forces such as the feeling of obligation, of duty, etc, are not very important, compared with the demands existing in love and friendship. What a ‘mechanical’ society achieves through discipline, sense of duty, ideologies, etc., a society in friendship achieves even more strongly through philótimo. This is why Plutarch said that lovers are the greatest fighters, because they avoid by all means to appear to their beloved ones as cowards or as anything inferior and unworthy of their expectations.
— Quoted almost verbatim from the Éllopos blog

Brothers, philótimo is one of the two primary virtues of our Orthodox Christian faith. (The other is philoxenía, love of strangers, hospitality.) This is because everything we do in our following of Christ is done freely and willingly, without the sense of obligation or duty, but only for love. This is the gospel as applied to our lives. Christ is the Friend who invites us to the expedition, Christ the one who calls us áxios, áxia, worthy of it, and Christ, through the Holy Spirit, the implanter in us of philótimo, the love of honor.

Yes, Plutarch was right. Lovers are the greatest fighters.

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