The “five love languages” is a concept invented by Pastor Gary Chapman (see the official site here), and it theorizes that different people show and experience affection in different ways.
Some feel loved by “Physical Touch.” Others value “Giving Gifts.” “Acts of Service” or “Quality Time” are how some people feel most affirmed or loved, while “Words of Affirmation” complete some people’s world.
Do You Speak My Language?
Most of us don’t go around wanting to hurt people, or offend them, or do things that make them uncomfortable.
But what if someone told you how much they admired you and enjoyed being your friend…in Tagalog? Chances are you wouldn’t have any idea what they meant, and wouldn’t be built up by it.
We’re full of friendly feelings, kind thoughts, and compassionate impulses. We want to make everyone around us feel special, and show the love of Jesus.
How can we do it in a way that they understand? Sure, they might know we mean well, and appreciate what we’re doing…but can we do it in a way that speaks to their heart?
Refocusing the questions
I once went through a quiz to discover my love language, and the questions went something like this:
“I feel affirmed when you _[pick one]_.”
“When you _[pick one]_, I really feel loved.”
There’s nothing exactly wrong with this…except my responses would vary depending on who I was thinking about (Mom, Dad, brother, coworker, best friend).
Mom is always doing things for us. So when she buys me a gift, it means that much more – because she went out of her way to do that.
My brother’s big on hugs. When he does the dishes without being asked? That’s huge.
So…I’m not unique in this revelation, but if we really want to identify our own (and others’) “love language,” let’s start with how we prefer to give affection!
Step 1: Subject in a Controlled Environment
Take a look at yourself! You can know yourself better and more easily than you can know anyone else. So…
A coworker is going through a hard time. You:
- Take a meal to their house.
- Sit with them at lunch and try to just “be there.”
- Write them an encouraging note.
It’s your mom’s birthday! You want to show her how much she means! You:
- Buy her something big and expensive.
- Go to her house to give her a big hug in person.
- Call her on the phone (you’ve composed a poem in her honor to read to her).
- Take her to a movie/concert/dinner/something she enjoys
You want to affirm your best friend. You:
- Write down all the things you appreciate about them, and give them the note.
- Mow their lawn, fix their sink, or babysit their kids.
- Buy them a little something, just because.
- Ask to spend a day with them, doing whatever they want.
When you want to reach out to someone, what’s your default method?
Obviously, you probably don’t go around hugging strangers (that would be weird)…but do you make sure to kiss your family members before bed every night? Do you like giving high-fives, fist-bumps, and side-hugs? You might be a “Physical Touch” person.
Now that you’ve done this step, you have a better idea what to look for. And we can actually apply this knowledge to translating your care for someone into their language!
Step 2: Observations in the Wild
Now for the hard questions. When Taylor sees a coworker feeling down, he/she:
- Bakes a cake for them.
- Slips a note into their locker.
- Hugs them (not caring that it’s weird!)
- Sits and listens to them…no matter how long it takes.
Taylor’s grandma isn’t feeling well. He/she:
- Volunteers to drive Grandma to all the doctor’s visits.
- Calls Grandma every day, just to check in.
- Does the laundry and dishes for her.
- Assembles all the kids to go see Grandma in person.
When Taylor wants to let you know he/she’s happy to see you, he/she:
- Hugs you.
- Tells you how important you are in his/her life.
- Offers to do a chore for you.
- Asks to go out sometime, to a movie/concert/dinner/shopping/ministry opportunity.
- Gives you something (even if it’s just the cupcake in his/her hand!).
Starting to make sense? What is Taylor’s default method for telling someone, “You are special” or “I like being your friend”?
With this data, you can move to the next step…
Step 3: Speak Their Language!
I’ve been (re)reading this awesome book about sharing the Good News of Jesus in a way your listeners can understand. It’s not just about avoiding “propitiation” and “double predestination”…it’s about finding the piece of the amazing good news about Jesus that specifically speaks to their hearts, that the Holy Spirit wants to use to bring them to God.
This applies to showing affection, too! God calls us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But if your grandma doesn’t adore heavy metal rock as much as you do, that CD you gave her won’t seem loving to her (except that she’s your grandma and knows you mean well).
How can we show love, concern, affection, and self-sacrificial humility to those around us? How can we “speak” in a way that their hearts instinctively understand that we want to build them up?
When my dad gives me a present, I know he loves me…but when he vacuums, or fixes the house, I see him stepping out of his “default” to show how he cares for us!
Now step out there and speak in someone else’s language. Even if they knew you cared before, this might make them say, “Hey…I guess they really mean it!”
Kimia Wood is into gifts…so (ahem) check out that Books tab (cough)!
She currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.