Passion may be less enduring than love.

Passion vs. Love

by Barrett Barlowe

Passion is more than just love's selfish little sibling. Passion's flames might burn hotter, but love's embers glow steadily for many years. The difference between passion and love has sparked heated debate over many centuries. Practical observations can help you distinguish between the two--hindsight arrives too late to prevent heartache for those romantically entangled. Both love and passion's meanings have changed over the years, and they continue to evolve as society's cultural and moral attitudes shift.

1. History of Passion and Love

Passion originally meant endurance through suffering, and the Catholic Church referred to Christ's suffering on the cross as "The passion of Christ." Passion's meaning later evolved into a burning and irresistible desire. Popular in the age of romantic writers and poets, it was epitomized by Goethe in writings, such as "The Sorrows of Young Werther." The ideal romantic's life consisted of a pursuit of passion and full involvement of the senses. Western Christian religion once divided love into two--spiritual and carnal love. In the middles ages, nuns were married to the Church, becoming spiritual brides of Christ. The age of chivalry saw the rise of courtly love, which took place between a knight and a married lady of the court. The usually unconsummated love affairs resulted in some jousts fought, many poems written, but little physical contact between the pair.

2. Modern Emotions

In modern times, people ascribe passion to strong emotions of any kind. Passion is a driving force--and deemed a potentially addictive one. Modern passion can damage; society views it to be a somewhat selfish emotion. Love fared better over the centuries and now combines both spiritual and physical aspects. Modern love is passion tempered with intimacy and respect.

3. Function

Passion has its place in history. It motivated men and women to excel, explore and take risks. Invention and science both are closely linked to passion. Passion can be attractive to others. People with energy and drive were historically more likely to attract mates and to propagate their genes. Love helps ensure the stability of family and children. The patience and understanding of love lasts longer than sometimes-quixotic passion.

4. Effects

Love can nurture and support others. It tends to be more focused on the object rather than the subject. Passion usually ignites love, but time quenches passion's flames and feed love's strength.

5. Theories/Speculation

It is difficult to make love a commodity, but items symbolizing love, such as roses or jewelry, serve to put into material terms an intangible thing. People's definitions of love change over the course of their lives. Mature love might be more about acceptance and tolerance than the idealization of another. Passion is not necessarily a destructive or addictive force. Properly channeled, passion compels people to reveal their true nature. A person wearing his heart on his sleeve is more about passion, and less about love.

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