“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength
While loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
There is nothing like a good love story.
But there is nothing nobler than loving someone so much that it gives you the courage to do the right thing and let them go.
Much of what we see in our daily lives is affection. It is developed through familiarity – we tend to become fond of people we see every day – family, friends, and associates. Affection falls somewhere between “like” and “love”. In “Rose” we see it between Caroline and Tyler, and Bonnie and Jeremy.
“Phileo” is love based on friendship. The city of Philadelphia gets its name and its slogan – “the city of brotherly love” – from this word. This is the type of love that involves understanding and compromise. We see it within families and among friends. In “Rose” we see “phileo” developing between Caroline and Tyler, and Bonnie and Rose, and we see it in the reunion of Elena and her brother, Jeremy. And – of course, between the Salvatore Brothers .
What we see between Elena and Stefan is “eros” – the kind of love where there is a physical and emotional attraction between two people. They are said to be “in love” or have “fallen in love”.
If we are lucky, most of us will get to experience this type of love in our lives – often more than once. Unfortunately, it is a love that can quickly fade if it does not develop into something deeper, with more substance. Sometimes “eros” develops from “phileo”, and then the love has a real chance of lasting. I believe this is what we have seen between Elena and Stefan.
The highest form of love is “agape”. It is unconditional. It is sacrificial. It is completely selfless. It is the type of love that parents show their children – and often the type of love that children show their parents. It is what we all want in our own relationships – to move from affection, to friendship, to romance, and finally to agape – where we know that our partners care just as much about us and our needs as they do for their own.
We rarely get to glimpse into a situation where “eros” turns into “agape”. But that is what we have seen in “Rose” in that final scene between Damon and Elena. It was a privilege to watch.
And it is genius the way the writes brought us there.
First, we see affection. between Caroline and Tyler – Jeremy and Bonnie.
As we move further into the episode, we see “phileo” developing. Jeremy shows his concern for Bonnie when she weakens herself performing a spell. Caroline and Tyler reach out to each other – both have a secret and are both are feeling alone.
The familial version of “phileo” comes across in the banter between the Salvatore brothers on their road trip. Check the expression on Damon’s face when he learns that Stefan has been “off his diet”. He can’t resist one of his snarky remarks when he learns that the blood Stefan has been drinking is Elena’s (“How romantic.”).
But it does not come quite as quickly as those remarks have in the past.
When Damon stakes Elijah, we see both “eros” and “phileo”. Damon very much wants Elena to run to him and thank him for saving her life, and we see the pain on his face when she winds up in Stefan’s arms yet again (that is the “eros”). But, we also see Elena wordlessly thank him, and we see him acknowledge her with a silently mouthed “You’re welcome” and a wistful smile (that is the “phileo”).
Next, we see a further mending of the bond between the Salvatore brothers (more “phileo”) when Stefan apologizes to Damon for his part in the turn of events that has led them to where they are now.
We have glimpsed in prior episodes that as young men, these brothers really loved each other. We have also seen that a terrible rift occurred when Stefan became the cause of their current “lifestyle”. When Stefan apologized to Damon for his part in turning him, we see on Damon’s face how much Damon loves his younger brother – how grateful he is to have heard what Stefan had to say.
I believe it was Stefan’s apology – his “phileo” love for his brother – that catalyzed the “agape” love in Damon.
It is precisely because Damon loves his brother Stefan as much as he loves Elena that he can no longer make a claim on her heart.
Agape love allows Damon to release Elena from any pain she may feel by rejecting Damon for Stefan – despite the pain it causes him personally – and releases her into the arms of his brother.
When he erases Elena’s memory, he is not only erasing the memory of his declaration of his love for her – he is erasing any feelings she may have for him so that she is free to love Stefan without conflict.
The courage in this noble gesture is reflected in that single, silently falling tear.