By MaryRuth Hackett, Together Let Us Go Forth Magazine
We were made to give and receive love. It is part of our very nature. As such, many of us think that loving should be easy. In reality, however, members of the same family don’t always communicate expressions of love the same way. When we experience a miscommunication of the heart, it can be frustrating and result in feelings of rejection rather than affection.
Although we are all created to give and receive love, we are created uniquely. Knowing how our friends and family members both express love for us and interpret love of others can go a long way to understanding their hearts. Nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Gary Chapman published The 5 Love Languages and revolutionized the way we talk about the expression of love. According to Dr. Chapman’s theory, we all express love in one of five ways:
- Words of affirmation: These can be verbal and written expressions of love such as notes, compliments, encouraging text messages and phone calls.
- Acts of service: Physical expressions of love in the form of service is anything proactively doing something to ease a loved one’s burden.
- Giving/receiving gifts: Both tangible and intangible items or objects given to let one another know you care.
- Quality time: Undivided and dedicated attention given to a loved one.
- Physical touch: Physical expressions can be platonic or more intimate.
Those with a tendency towards quality time are more likely to appreciate you taking time out of your day to have a cup of coffee together, whereas those with an act of service love language are more apt to be appreciative when you wash the dishes as an expression of love and appreciation. Those with words of affirmation will appreciate the phone call to catch up, and those with physical touch may simply want to curl up together and snuggle.
We love because He first loved us. (1 Jn 4:19)
As a domestic church, a family cultivates love for one another and love for Jesus Christ. It is within the family that our children learn how to know, love, and serve God by first knowing, loving, and serving one another. If it is true that the primary task of parenthood should be to raise children who are able to give and receive love (Popcak, 2010), then we must teach them to be poly-linguists and understand all the languages of love.
A few years ago, I sat down with my teenage boys and presented the concept of the love languages to them. We discussed our own love languages and the importance of realizing that others may communicate differently. We discussed each family member and their primary modes for the expression of love. As a result of the conversation, the three of us gained a level of clarity with respect to our interactions. For instance, I was able to recognize that when my son was busy and still took the time to take out the trash, that was an unspoken love note sent though his service. Similarly, when he fought his chores, it was often an expression of some unspoken anger.
Other ways to communicate love creatively in the home:
- Write little notes to put into lunch boxes or throughout the house
- Send a card in the mail to a friend
- Invite someone to coffee or lunch
- Make a meal for a loved one
- Offer a back or foot rub
- Take a walk with a loved one
- Put your phone down
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through Him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. (1 Jn 4; 7-11)
— MaryRuth Hackett, Ph.D., is a mom of four with a doctorate in educational psychology, specializing in child development. She hosts the Parenting Smarts podcast, blogs at Parenting with Peer Review and authored Daughter by Design: Discovering Your Identity as God’s Beloved Daughter.
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