What is love?

October 20, 2020

Around this time 5 years ago I started a project called HapiDaily ("have a positive impact daily"). At first it was 365 different ways to make a difference in others' lives (and in your own). However, after a few years of this, I turned the project into an attempt to break down what love looks like in day-to-day interactions and everyday expressions. (Check out the history of HapiDaily for more context!)

(Note: any time I use the word "love" here, I'm referring to the form of love we classify as "Philia" or "brotherly love", not "Eros" or "romantic love" — although I believe this form is the foundational core of romance and intimacy.)

So what is love? In the most broad sense of the word (verb), love is the act of expressing interpersonal affection. But what does that mean? What does love look like? What are the most universal expressions of love?

I believe love is manifest in acts of communicating, sharing, giving, and helping.


  • Listening
  • Conversing
  • Discussing
  • Talking
  • Writing
  • Calling
  • Thanking
  • Praising
  • Encouraging
  • Congratulating
  • Complimenting
  • Explaining
  • Expressing
  • Apologizing
  • Forgiving
  • Joking
  • Laughing


  • Interacting
  • Playing
  • Celebrating
  • Bonding


  • Creating
  • Making
  • Gifting


  • Collaborating
  • Assisting
  • Supporting
  • Serving
  • Aiding
  • Contributing

Over the years of working on the HapiDaily project, I've gotten more broad and general with this outline of love. So if we go back in time and trace the project's progress in reverse, we can make this breakdown more granular:

Looking at the past two years of ideas, I'd extend this definition by saying that these 4 acts only qualify as love if/when they demonstrate the values of:

  • recognition
  • appreciation
  • affirmation
  • admiration
  • attention
  • support
  • praise
  • encouragement
  • understanding
  • respect
  • gratitude
  • generosity
  • empowerment
  • connection

Values are still a bit too abstract. But looking further back at years prior, I'd say that if we try to get more concrete with this outline, we end up making a nearly infinite list of general activities.

While love can't be outlined in totality without taking into consideration every nuanced context it could exist in, sometimes it's nice to generalize such an important yet complex concept into broad, simple examples. I'm fascinated by the possibility that this word, LOVE, which is one of the most sacred yet most common words in our language, one of the most popular ideas in art, and one of the most desired things in life, could be broken down into just 4 simple acts. This breakdown (albeit an oversimplified reductionism) suddenly makes "Love" feel so simple, tangible, easy, and commonplace.
And that's pretty neat.

(Acknowledgement: I realize that this outline is just as susceptible to encountering the same problems that the "Five Love Languages framework" faces; namely that sometimes it can frustrate the heck out of me for being so crudely reductionist. So take this reductionism with a grain of salt, recognizing that, while it may be incredibly useful for a quick conceptual analysis, it is a broad oversimplification, lacking nuance.)