This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Art of Loving" by Erich Fromm. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Looking for The Art of Loving quotes? What lessons does Fromm teach about false love and genuine love?
The Art of Loving was originally published in 1956, but many of its lessons are just as relevant today as they were in the 20th century. Erich explores what makes love genuine, what mature love is, and the importance of self-love.
Continue below for quotes from Erich Fromm with explanations.
Erich Fromm Quotes on Love
According to Fromm, humans seek out love as a way to cope with the pain of isolation and separation from each other. The moment we develop our own identity—the moment we understand ourselves as an individual rather than an extension of our parents—we begin to feel the anxiety that comes with separation. In Fromm’s view, this separation anxiety is the fundamental driver of all human activity. More than anything else, we all want to feel connected: to each other, to a higher power, to nature, to something.
Here are some The Art of Loving quotes from Fromm.
“Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.”
To Fromm, the most common way that modern people pursue connection is through false love. Fromm believes that false love is more common than genuine love in modern society because of the rise of capitalism, which requires people to turn their energy into a tradable good in the form of labor: They give labor and get money in return. As a result, we’re less inclined to give ourselves freely; the idea of giving someone time and energy without getting anything in return (which is an expression of genuine love) has become unthinkable. Instead, we practice false love, in which we only give affection in order to get something in return.
“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.”
What is love, really? In The Art of Loving, psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm argues that what most people think of as love is actually a form of false love—giving affection only to get something in return—instead of genuine, mature love. He believes that this failure to truly achieve loving connection is why so many people are unhappy, despite having all their basic needs met. However, if we can learn how to genuinely love others, we’ll be happier and less isolated.
“Mature love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality.”
In Fromm’s view, the healthiest way to overcome the anxiety of separation and connect to others is through genuine love. Genuine love happens when two people join together while still maintaining their individual identities. They do not become enmeshed—instead, each is a whole person unto themselves, so they can give love to each other wholeheartedly.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Art of Loving summary :
- Why you might be wrong about what you think of as love
- Why so many people are unhappy, despite having all their basic needs met
- How to genuinely love others to become happier and less isolated