The Four Loves Book Summary - The Four Loves Book explained in key points
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The Four Loves summary

C.S. Lewis

Contemplations on Affection, Friendship, Eros & Charity

4.4 (234 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis is a philosophical exploration of the different types of love: Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity. Lewis draws upon theology, literature, and personal experience to examine the joys and pitfalls of each love.

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    The Four Loves
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    Different types of love can be categorized into two distinct groups, according to what motivates them

    C. S. Lewis is probably most famous for his children’s book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lewis was a close friend of author J. R. R. Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings. They met while they were working in the English faculty at Oxford University and were two of the founding members of Inklings – a renowned literary discussion group.

    Tolkien was deeply religious and his faith inspired Lewis to renew his relationship with God after he’d abandoned Christianity in his teens. This return to the church had a huge impact on Lewis’s writing. If you’ve read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and you’re familiar with Christianity, you won’t need anyone to point out how allegorical the story is.

    But Lewis didn’t just explore his faith through novels about magical wardrobes and lions that rise from the dead. He used writing as a way to meditate on and explore different aspects of Christianity.

    One subject that fascinated him was love.

    When Lewis set out to explore love in his work, he figured it’d be fairly straightforward. After all, the Gospel according to John says that God is love. Simple, right?

    Well, not really.

    As soon as Lewis started unpacking that three-word explanation of love, he realized that love in its different forms could be categorized into one of two groups, depending on what was motivating it.

    Lewis called the first group Gift-love.

    Gift-loves are generous, boundless, and self-renewing. They’re what inspires you to care for the people that are important to you without expecting anything in return. You see Gift-love in action when a parent tends to their child every single day, when a partner comforts or supports their beloved, or when a stranger reaches out to help someone in need. Gift-loves also help you forgive someone who’s hurt you.

    This category of love reflects Divine Love – the love God has for us. God is complete and abundant. He gives his love to us endlessly. Even when we turn our backs on him, his love is still there, waiting for us to receive it, if we open our hearts to him.

    But while we can emulate God by practicing Gift-love in different ways, we’re far from complete and abundant. We’re riddled with yearnings that span all aspects of our being – from our minds and bodies to our emotions. And this leads to the second classification group, which Lewis called Need-love.

    Need-loves arise from a place of lack or longing. They can be greedy, desperate, and demanding, or motivated by fear. For instance, when a child is scared, they’ll rush into the arms of their parent. The need for comfort motivates them to seek out someone who makes them feel safe.

    Now, you’re probably thinking that this category of love sounds pretty substandard compared to God-like Gift-love, and that’s totally reasonable. But Need-loves play an important role not only in our relationships with others but in our relationship with God. We’re going to explore that in more detail, but for now, let’s focus on why Need-loves are so important.

    Think about a time when you were hungry. What did you do? Headed to the kitchen and made yourself a sandwich? Or grabbed a bite in a local cafe? You ate your meal. Your hunger went away. You satisfied your need. 

    Need-loves operate in the same way by motivating us to seek each other out when we’re in need of comfort or advice. The frightened child runs to its parent. Or in a moment of crisis, we ask God for his help. Or even if there isn’t a crisis, we seek out God’s wisdom and guidance, so that we can better understand how we should live.

    Need-loves stop us from drifting through the world, disconnected from each other and any source of knowledge. In that way, they create a foundation that Gift-loves can then sit on, a bit like the way the roots of a tree support its trunk. And when we meditate on how different types of love evolve, we can start to trace how Need-loves often grow into Gift-loves, ultimately inviting Divine Love into our hearts. 

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    What is The Four Loves about?

    The Four Loves (1960) is an exploration of love in its different forms. By tracing how each form is motivated, author C. S. Lewis identifies love’s gifts and shortcomings, and reveals how God’s Divine Love can beautify all our relationships.

    The Four Loves Review

    The Four Loves (1960) explores the complexities of human relationships and offers profound insights into the different forms of love. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Providing a thoughtful examination of love in its various manifestations, it offers a deep understanding of the complexities of human emotions.
    • The book explores the nuanced differences between different types of love, shedding light on the intricacies of friendships, romantic partnerships, and more.
    • With wit and wisdom, C.S. Lewis delves into the joys, challenges, and vulnerabilities that come with love, making the book both relatable and enlightening.

    Who should read The Four Loves?

    • Christians seeking to deepen their connection with God
    • Bighearted folk who want to improve their relationships
    • Scholars of humanity who want to understand the nature of love

    About the Author

    C. S. Lewis was a renowned British author and theologian. He wrote over 30 books, including The Chronicles of Narnia series which has sold over 100 million copies, and nonfiction books such as Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain.

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    The Four Loves FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Four Loves?

    The main message of The Four Loves is an exploration of different types of love and their complexities.

    How long does it take to read The Four Loves?

    The reading time for The Four Loves can vary, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Four Loves a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Four Loves is a valuable read for anyone interested in understanding the various dimensions of love. It offers thought-provoking insights in a concise format.

    Who is the author of The Four Loves?

    The author of The Four Loves is C.S. Lewis.

    What to read after The Four Loves?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Four Loves, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
    • The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
    • The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine
    • God Here and Now by Karl Barth
    • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
    • Why We Remember by Charan Ranganath
    • An Audience of One by Srinivas Rao
    • 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness by Jim Rohn
    • Moody Bitches by Julie Holland
    • The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine