The difference between love and friendship

The difference between love and friendship


If people are asked today “What is more important love or friendship?”, most of them reply “love”, defining it as a selfless feeling and intense interest in someone or something, friendly mood, affection, devotion, passion and erotic desire, or even as aim and the supreme good; whereas friendship as a mutual devotion and understanding without erotic desire that unites two or more unrelated persons.

However, our ancestors honored friendship more than love. A sign of this is that we find the word friendship very often in the ancient writings as opposed to love, which is obviously missing or is apparent only through its verb. Well, is love more important than friendship, and if not, why does it appear so? The answer to our question is to become clear as soon as we first define the friendship and the term “to be friendly”; for the better we define the better we understand.


We may describe the term “to be friendly” as wishing for someone what you believe to be good things, not for your own sake but for his, and being inclined, so far as you can, to bring these things about. A friend is one who feels thus and excites these feelings in return. So friendship is an ethical state, and “to be friendly” its actuality.


Since “to be friendly” is nothing else but to love one for his character, it is clear that love is related more to disposition and less to state. For a friend may love but whoever loves is not necessarily a friend. Moreover, a man may love without being loved, yet friendship without mutuality does not exist. But if this is the case, disposition cannot be more important than state. For as more stable or more lasting a thing is, the more precious it is, and states are more stable as it is hard to change them. Furthermore, we acquire them by practice and not the contrary. A man, for example, becomes just or brave by doing the right thing and disposed in one way or another, and the purpose or the fulfillment are more precious than those which conduce to them.

But what happened and love came to be considered as a state also? Our question will be more elucidated if we consider when the use of the word love began. Since mutuality happens not only on account of virtue but also both for pleasure and for benefit, by the advent of Christianity the necessity of separating the main friendship, which is friendship for virtue, from the other kinds of friendship became more urgent. So, while the word friendship was extending at first in all kinds, gradually began to separate from the other kinds, leaving its place to love. Thus, for example, in the old days while the word friendship was referring both to that of husband to wife and to that of parent to child, we now use the word love instead.

As for the question “Why love seems to be more important than friendship?” the answer is simple: too many the vicious, very few the virtuous. I mean that the most part of us choose our friends rather for benefit or pleasure and less for virtue. This in connection with the fact that the definition of the main friendship is unnoticed, and the different use of the word love, makes us praise love more than friendship.

Written, translated by George Kotsalis