by Hannah Rau
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. For weeks the stores have been full of chocolates, red and pink roses, teddy bears, heart shapes, and Hallmark cards. Many couples will celebrate with special dates, flowers, or exchanging notes or gifts on this traditionally romantic holiday. The origins of Valentine’s Day are a bit murky—it’s generally traced back to A.D. 496 when the Feast of Saint Valentine was established. The holiday became associated with love and romance in the 1300s or 1400s. Today in our culture, Valentine’s Day has come to function as a time when one can tell their spouse, significant other, date, crush, etc. how they feel and remind them of their love.
But not all of us have romantic attachments. As a single person, Valentine’s Day tends to leave me feeling, well…a little left out. And I know other single people feel the same sometimes. In fact, “Singles Awareness Day” has arisen as an unofficial holiday celebrated (perhaps with just a tinge of bitterness?) on the 14th or 15th of February. But maybe single people can unironically embrace Valentine’s Day as well.
The ancient Greek language has several words for what today’s English speakers simply call ‘love.’ Each Greek word denotes a different kind of feeling and action. Here is a brief list of five of them (The ancient Greeks had even more words for love; there are deeper layers of meaning for each one, but these simplified definitions should do for now.):
Eros: romantic love
Philia: friendship love, or what’s often called ‘brotherly love’
Storge: familial love, such as the love between parents and children
Philautia: self-love. The love of self can be negative if it becomes self-absorption or hubris. But it also includes the concept of compassion towards self, or what we today would call ‘self-esteem’ and ‘self-care.’
Agape: selfless, unconditional love. This is how I, as a Christian, describe God’s love for human beings. Agape also suggests altruism, or care for the well-being of others without the thought of anything in return.
Valentine’s Day is commercially marketed as a celebration of romantic love (eros). But why not celebrate the other kinds of love too? Whether single or in a romantic relationship, we can all demonstrate love in some way.
Enjoy philia by hanging out with friends—in-person, virtually, or over the phone. Or send a card or gift to a long-distance friend to let them know you value them.
Act out storge by reminding your parents or other family members that you love them. We can often forget to show appreciation to family, so Valentine’s Day is a great chance to send flowers, send a card or note letting them know what you love about them, or spend some quality time with them doing something they enjoy.
Don’t forget about philautia (self-love). Remember the Pause Path—we need to Relax and Refresh before we can Renew. Having a healthy self-esteem and being sure of your own value can actually allow you to be more resilient (a psychological concept meaning able to adapt to changes and difficulties easily) and better able to unselfishly show love (philia, storge, agape) to others. So Relax and Refresh this Valentine’s Day by doing something you enjoy. Get chocolates or flowers for yourself. Or, pick your favorite self-care activity.
Finally, demonstrate agape (unselfish, unconditional love). Some ways to show this most fulfilling type of love is by volunteering or giving generously to those in need. It could also involve forgiving someone who has wronged you. Or it could be a random act of kindness such as paying for food or groceries for someone behind you in line or at the drive-thru.
We sometimes forget that love involves so much more than romance. Hopefully, this list has given you some ideas of how to enjoy Valentine’s Day whether you are in a romantic relationship or not. How will you Relax. Refresh. Renew. this Valentine’s Day?
Hannah Rau is a Michigan-based writer and writing tutor. Her favorite self-care activities include reading classic literature, burning lovely-smelling candles, creating watercolor paintings with instant coffee, and taking rambling strolls outdoors.