Knight Club: Levels of Love


The first rule of Knight Club: you must talk about Knight Club.

In the comments on my first Knight Club post, my friend Jor Bratko talks about “raising adults”, and points out that:

the legitimacy of my authority like all legitimate authority comes from love: the care of the other

He is absolutely correct.  I actually knew this, but I didn’t understand how it applied to fatherhood. Part of the problem is that the English word “love” refers to (at least) three different phenomena, which in this context I call Baby Love, Bro Love, and Boss Love — loosely inspired by the four loves described by C.S. Lewis.

1. Baby Love “My Need”

At the baby level, love is defined in terms of “my need”, in two ways:

  • I know you love me because you meet my needs.
  • I love you because you meet my needs.
We all start with baby love, and it will always be a part of our lives.  But it is tragic if we stop there.
For the scholars among you, this is most similar  to the Greek term ‘storge‘, or “familial affection.”

2. Bro Love “Our Joy”

As we grow from babies to boys, we learn the second kind of love centered around “our fun” — mutual pleasure:

  • I know you love me — and I love you — because we share joys together.
This is the love of friends and equals, and one of the great delights of parenting as children get older.  It is close to the Greek ‘philia, sometimes translated “brotherly love”.

3. Boss Love “Your Glory”

The ultimate love, though, goes well beyond the first two to seek the other’s glory:

  • I love you by seeking your glory above my own
  • I know you love me for my glory, even if it interferes with my needs or our joy

This is the love God has for us, typically characterized by the Greek ‘agape‘. “Boss Love” is why God hides His glory and gives humans dominion over the earth (and the answer to the paradox of why a loving and powerful God allows evil to exist in the world).

Boss Love is also how and why wise fathers launch their sons into the world.   A big part of Knight Club is helping me explicitly figure out what other fathers tend to assume intuitively.  It takes me a while, but has the advantage that I can eventually explain it to others, hopefully in a reproducible way.  Wish me luck!

P.S.  Yes, I don’t cover the fourth love, ‘eros.’ Partly  because I’m talking about men, but also because the English equivalent spans all three of the categories I talk about — with often a great deal of ambiguity and confusion about which is intended!  I’m not sure how exactly it fits in. Hopefully I’ll figure it out in the next decade before my son hits adolescence…

2 thoughts on “Knight Club: Levels of Love

  1. I thought authority was derived from God? I agree it should be enacted through love, but the presence/absence of love (at our level, obviously always present at God’s level) does not preclude the requirement of obedience.

    • Great question. I don’t know the whole answer, butI think there’s a distinction between “formal authority” and “legitimate authority.” We do owe a certain level of respect and obedience even to illegitimate formal authority (like a bad king). But we owe devotion, loyalty, and unquestioned obedience to a legitimate authority who is truly looking out for our best interest. How and where we draw that line is not clear to me, though.

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