Erich Fromm

Self-Reflection on Love: Erich Fromm

Have you ever been in love with someone before? Then, what is exactly love is? People say love is like a magical, fantastic feeling you get when you meet someone who is very special for you. Love is portrayed as a miraculous, yet inexplicable element that we must get at some point in our lives, just like in the princesses’ film, Snow White, Cinderella and others romantic film that captures minds and hearts of all those hopeless romantics. However, love is explicable and is more like a logical process rather than mysterious things. According to Erich Fromm in his book, “The Art of Loving”, love is defined and said to be an art which has 4 elements, knowledge, care, responsibility, and respect. If one aspect is not done, then maybe “The Art of Loving” will not be ideal. This essay will discuss more about love in Erich Fromm’s perspective including the writer’s direct experiences of love, the analysis of the writer’s experience according to Erich Fromm perspectives and the conclusion.


According to Erich Fromm, love has 4 elements which are mutually interdependent. As mentioned above, these elements of love are care, responsibility, respect, and the last one, knowledge. Care about others implies a concern for their being and welfare. The element of care can be seen clearly in a mother’s love for her child which is very impressing of how a mother caring about her daughter or her son. There is no different even with the love for flowers or animals (Fromm, 1962). It is likened as if a woman told us that she loved dogs but we saw her forgot to feed them, then we would not believe in her love for her dogs. Care implies another element of love, responsibility. Responsibility in this term is the responses towards the needs of others human being. To become “responsible” has a meaning that we are ready and we are able to “respond”. In the case of motherly love, responsibility refers more to the physical needs. But, in adults’ love, it refers more to the physic needs of each other. Not only care and responsibility, respect is another element that is also important in the art of loving. Respect is not like saying as “I know the best for you” but it is more like respect for autonomy and other individuality (Odwyer, 2011). Respect in here means the ability to see a person as he is and to be aware of his unique individual. It also has the meaning of the concerns towards others that she or he should grow as he or she is and develop in his or her own ways. To respect towards someone, it is impossible without not knowing him or her. Knowledge is the one who guides care and responsibility, also it will be empty if it were not motivated by concern. Knowledge in this term means we know and have the knowledge about someone such as we know about his preferences, his likes and dislikes.


Erich Fromm criticizes modern people who see love in the vision of beauty and pleasure alone without seeing love as an essential part of the art of living. Fromm put forward some mistakes of the modern people in understanding love. First, the issue of love is seen only as a matter of “loved” rather than “loving”. Therefore, the most important issue for most people is how to be loved, or how to be loved. Because the problem is ‘how to be loved’, people are trying to ‘create’ themselves as attractive as possible to the opposite sex. This is adapted to the taste of the times or trends that develop in social life. Second, the issue of love is the object's problem not a matter of ability. People think that loving is an easy matter, the difficult thing is how to find the right object. But the object of love is always changing from time to time. Fromm pointed out, for men today, attractive girls are just like the gifts they always wanted. In contrast to women, attractive men are the presents they always covet. The meaning of "attractive" here is none other than the conformity with the character of a character sought in the market of personality. According to Fromm, these biases are the result of the world which has strong materialist values.


I have parents who really love me, my mom who is always make healthy food for me and my dad who always pick me and my brother up after school. My father is an independent person, a kind of father that does not like to bother others. Consequently, he demanded me and my brother to be a person like him, again, a person who really does not want to bother others even the slightest. “If you still can do it by yourself, then you should do it by yourself”, that is what my father always said to me and my brother. As a father, he loves me as his daughter. But I found that he was too hard in educating me to be as independent as he was. One day, I finish all my activities at school later than the previous day, which means I have to go home alone on public transportation because my father has already picked up my brother 2 hours before and I know he will not want to go back to my school which takes 15 minutes from my home, only to pick me up.unfortunately, on my way to search for public transportation, I stumbled and fell off which resulted in my foot being scuffed. Of course, I can still walk but it takes a little longer to walk. I immediately called my dad because I knew he was not doing anything at home. I told him to immediately pick me up where I fell, near the bridge crossing the road. the answer he gave does not match what I expect. I expect him to say "okay, wait there, I'll get there soon". But he asked me back if I still can use my foot or not. I answered that I still can use my foot to walk. He then told me that I should not be a spoiled child and a whiny child which I should be an independent child. Because I do not want to debate with him, I ended up go home on public transportation with my scuffed foot. I was thinking that he should not be like that, even my friend’s dad is willing to pick up his injured daughter when he was on meeting and I am jealous of them who have really nice father.

According to Erich Fromm, my dad is the one who teaches me and shows me the road into the world. My dad’s love for me also conditional as Fromm said as the principle that said he loves me because I fulfill his expectations and do my duty. In the story above, I fulfill his expectations to go home by myself even though my foot is scuffed and it can be seen that my father is a bit hard when it comes to educate me. In the other side, I believe he really loves me by educating me hardly to be independent because he knows that all life lessons he gave will be really useful for me. If we see the 4 elements of love, my father did have responsibility on me by educating me, taught me many life lessons by told me to go home alone because I still can walk by my own. He did also have knowledge and he also respected me. He has knowledge that I am a person who still not really independent enough, still have many flaws and he knew that he should educate me harder so in the future I will not fail and be an independent woman. He respected me because in educating me, he never complains about my weakness but he helps me a lot to fix them. However, the element of love, care was missing that day. I felt hurt because he did not care about my injured foot even my feelings and chose to stay at home rather than pick up his injured daughter. The macro reason of why my father educated me really hard is because of his friends, he saw that his friends are too nice with his children, makes them really not an independent person because everything the children want, his father always provides them. Because of this one element was missing and the macro aspect that ruins, my father’s love towards me cannot be seen as an art, cannot be seen beautifully, and the art of loving was not ideal.

Another story, my father is also a frugal person because he values money very much. Maybe one of his principle is “Only buy things that are really important and do not waste money for things that do not important”. Back then he was too cruel because he did not let me buy a new pencil. He said that my wood pencil is still 10 cm long and I still can use it. When my family has more money to at least buy new things, my father still does not allow for the reason that the old stuff can still be used. In fact, the goods were almost useless. Here, my family does know that he really loves us because he is afraid that we all might be wasteful in buying new things, especially my mom; He has knowledge that my mom is very wasteful and royal when it comes to money. He cares about us, so he prohibits us for buying new things that do not really important. Because he knows that he has responsibility as a chairman of the household, he is taking care of us by always reminding us that we should not be wasteful. What I love about him is that he respects us by always giving us a long reason of why we can not buy that things even though he is tired without being mad or angry at us. But his love towards us is not ideal according Erich Fromm, the art of loving is not coming out beautifully. It is because there is a macro aspect that ruins the art of loving which is the materialistic nature of my father, he values money very much. Sometimes my family were hurt emotionally because he did not let us happy a bit by buying new things.


Erich Fromm suggested that love has 4 elements which are care, knowledge, responsibility and knowledge. If one of these elements is not fulfilled, then the art of loving will can not be said as an ideal. But if these 4 are stable, the art will be very beautiful. According to Fromm, our society respects more into material (money, market technology, etc.) and material is the macro aspect that ruins the art of loving as the example has already been given by the writer above. Basically, human is care about others, but this basic is ruined by the macro aspects. From this essay, we know that to make the art of loving becomes beautiful is really hard because the 4 elements must be stable and as much as possible there is no aspect of destructive macros.


Fromm, E. (1962). The art of loving.

Odwyer, K. (2011). Can we learn how to love? An Exploration of Erich Fromms The Art of Loving’. Self & Society,39(2), 36-48. doi:10.1080/03060497.2011.11084197

Pabisa, B. Y. (n.d.). KONSEP CINTA MENURUT ERICH FROMM. Retrieved from