Love languages: Words of affirmationWhere's the Faith?, Latest Issue Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?
We just enjoyed the month of February. Besides Black History Month, for what else is this month known? The love month! Yes! There was Valentine’s Day, aka Singles Awareness Day! Such a fun day to celebrate and show love, whether you’re in a relationship or not. I remember how much fun I had on Valentine’s Day in elementary school.
The week before we’d bring in shoe boxes and decorate them to show our unique personality. Then on the 14th we’d all bring our little Valentine’s Day cards for everyone so no one was left out; you remember how they’d come in sheets and you’d have to separate them by the perforations. A challenge was choosing just the right card for the right person, and if you had a crush on someone it was the perfect opportunity to be daring. No wonder I’m still single! LOL. Every day can be Valentine’s Day!
Bottom line is I love love! I celebrate love.
And we are all born with a need to love and be loved. We are happiest, most fulfilled, most productive and creative when our “love tank” is adequately filled. It’s when our “love tank” gets empty that we suffer the consequences in relationships and even our health.
I’ve been reading the New York Times Bestseller The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Dr. Chapman has a passion for helping people form lasting relationships. Don’t we all want that?
I’m reminded that love speaks every language. Sandi Patti had a popular song years ago: “Love in any language, straight from the heart…pulls us all together, never apart.”
Dr. Chapman asserts we all have an emotional love language that is most meaningful to us. And in his research he’s broken them in to five categories or five languages:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
No one language is better than the other; there is no hierarchy, no correct order, it’s about what speaks to us on a deep emotional level. Now, take note. It’s rare for couples to have the same primary love language. For stronger and lasting relationships, Dr. Chapman says we must be willing to learn our partner’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love. In a way, in selecting the right Valentine card in elementary school, we were seeking to speak the same “love language” of another person.
Let me just focus on one love language to demonstrate how all this works. I’ll choose “Words of Affirmation.”
Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Nice! Now, if we take that literally, only six compliments a year would keep Twain’s emotional love tank going! I’m almost positive your partner would want and, more importantly, need more than that!
Solomon, who’s the attributed author to many of the proverbs in the ancient Hebrew Wisdom Literature wrote, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” There is power in your words, and verbally affirming someone can be actually life-giving to someone who has that as their primary love language.
What would happen to the emotional climate of our relationships if we used words of affirmation regularly? As we’ve said, words are powerful, and verbal compliments are far greater motivators than nagging words. Let’s say you wanted your partner to take out the garbage, and when he finally takes the garbage out, say, “Dan, I want you to know that I really appreciate your taking the garbage out.” It works much better than saying, “About time you took the blank garbage out. The flies were about to carry it out for you!”
When we receive affirming words, we are far more likely to be motivated to reciprocate and do something our partner wants.
Giving verbal compliments is only one way to express words of affirmation. There’s always encouragement. Now, the word “encourage” means “to inspire courage”. Every single one of us has areas where we feel insecure. We lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing all that we’d like to do. Think of the latent potential within someone you love; maybe what they need are your encouraging words to help them keep going or to succeed in an area which they didn’t even think possible.
Encouragement requires empathy and seeing the world from their perspective, not yours. If you have a pattern of critical and condemning words, it may take a lot of effort, but take heart. It will be worth it.
In I Corinthians, we learn that love is kind. So, use kind words, and remember to have the tone we use match the words. “I would be delighted to wash the dishes tonight,” said in a sarcastic tone most likely will not be received as an expression of love.
In conclusion, let me share some of Dr. Chapman’s suggestions on how to put this particular love language into action. Keep in mind that these suggestions are written primarily for practice among couples; however, they can be useful in all relationships.
“Set a goal to give your spouse a different compliment each day for a month. If ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away,’ then maybe a compliment a day will keep the counselor away.”
“Write a love letter to your spouse, and give it quietly or with much fanfare. Words are important! You may also want to write an encouraging letter to a friend or to someone who’s struggling.”
“Compliment your spouse in the presence of family and friends; this will build them up and make them feel significant.”
“Look for your spouse’s strengths and express how much you appreciate those strengths.”
See, Words of Affirmation are not rocket science. This same focus, this same intentionality can be used if a partner, friend or associate has a different primary love language. Just be sensitive to that fact and try to determine their love language. Then actions should flow easily if they come from the heart and come from love. And not just in February, not just for Valentine’s Day, but every day. Trust me that as we fill someone else’s “love tank,” ours in turn will be filled.
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