skip to Main Content
Business Lessons From Josef Pieper 1 – The Desire To Serve

Business Lessons From Josef Pieper 1 – The Desire to Serve

by Jordan C. Lofton

A few months ago Justin Holiday, a Golden Source Consultants’ Associate, wrote a series of blog posts about faith, hope, and love.  What a strange set of topics for a consulting firm to bring up in regards to business practices, right?  The truth is, I asked Justin to share his perspective on how the three concepts apply to GSC.  You see, I myself am reading a book by Josef Pieper on the very same topics.  You haven’t found his writings on the bookstore shelf next to Malcom Gladwell or Steve Jobs?  You won’t.  Josef Pieper was a German philosopher who lived in the 20th century.  He wrote three treatises that are well known and respected, On Hope (1934), On Faith (1950s-1960s), On Love (1960s).

As I began reading these treatises several months ago, my goal was to give my CEO-brain a break from business topics.  However, as I read each chapter I found myself thinking about how the topics of faith, hope, and love apply to or should apply to business.  Rather than simply leaving the topic introduced excellently by Justin, I intend to spend several blog posts expanding upon them.  I’ll begin with love.

Pieper opens his treatise On Love by trying to review the different translations or definitions we have been given in language to understand what love is.  There are nine root words given to us from both Latin and Greek that shape our understanding of what love is.  Allow me to expand on the six Latin words with a business lens.

Studium – The Desire to Serve

Long ago when a knight would introduce himself to a fair lady he would kneel, offer her his hand, and say, “Pleased to be at your service.”  He received great joy from the actions of service he could provide to his damsel because he realized that the act of serving her was a way of expressing his love for her.  She also understood that in accepting a knight’s service she was requiting that love.

In a business relationship, the act of desiring to be at the service of your client is much the same.  It’s a humbling of oneself before another to offer services to please and aid the one we love.

Pietas – Pity or Mercifulness

Arthur Schopenheur is quoted as saying, “All true and pure love is pity.”  All business is created to fill a need.  It is in listening to the problems and challenges of the customer that we attempt to offer solutions.  We use our gift of pietas to put ourselves in the shoes of others so our mercy can be the key to eliminating or reducing the challenge of a client.

Affectio – Active Loving

When we have affection for someone or something, we are actively showing them our love.  Through our words, our deeds, and our thoughts, affection is poured out.  We see how this form of love comes into play within our workplace as managers grow employees, as a team member steps up to help someone struggling, or someone goes out of their way to delight a customer.  We put love into our work actively through affectio.

Passio – Passive Loving

We recognize this Latin root as the root for the English word “passion,” but it is actually intended to mean that we are passive.  As Pieper explains, “It is something that happens to us.”  Pieper quotes Goethe to go on to explain “Love is suffering…You have to put up with it, you don’t seek it.”

Anyone who has ever been passionately in love may recognize this overwhelming sensation that takes over and sometimes causes pain as we pine for our lover or ache at seeing them separated from us.

In business, we talk about people who are “passionate” about what they do.  These individuals are in love not with what they do as much as the reason for doing it.  Value to a customer.  They are taken over and become passive to the notion that their work can make a difference.  When a customer doesn’t find value or chooses an option of lesser value these passionate individuals experience suffering.  Not because of lost revenue, but because the love they cannot control has been cast aside.

Diligre/Dilectio – Electing or Selecting

When we set out to choose a partner there is a set of criteria.  The person should have a beautiful smile, a sense of humor, be kind, be beautiful, and the list goes on and on.  One day we meet that partner, eyes lock, and there is a selection.  There is a choice made that of all those we have to court, this one person is “the one.”

When a customer selects a business, we the business should understand this is an expression of love.  There was something pleasing in us that enamored us to the client so we can meet the list of requirements they have for “the one.”

Caritas – Something We Are Willing to Pay A High Price For

This word is the root for our English word charity, so I was shocked that the actual definition was about pricing.  Then I thought of how profit is really driven.  It is the amount of value a customer finds above the cost of production.  We as customers are willing to pay more for the things that bring us great value.  So as a business, if we wish our customers to express caritas to us we must provide greater and greater value to them.


Amor is the one Latin word given to encompass all the other definitions.  In truth, we know that the word love is a loaded word, but the Romans found a way of helping us unpack all the different dimensions.  As a noun, love is something that can be given or received.  However, it is the use as a verb that we must put into practice in business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top