Discussing “Love Languages” with a 13 year old is not a very productive use of time. A couple of nights ago when I attempted it, there was more than a little bit of eye-rolling, snorting and grunting…and then there was an actual physical exodus away from my irritating presence. There she went…out of the kitchen and right up the stairs. My youngest child has strangely always put herself into self-imposed time-outs. If she has been “too much” and gotten people annoyed with her, or if we have been too much for her and she is annoyed with us, she goes to her room and stays for and extended amount of time – Usually until I go and check on her. I am always the one who tries to smooth things over. I hate it when people don’t get along…especially if I am one of the people.
My oldest son is 19 years old today. (Happy Birthday, Will!!! Your Mommy loves you!) Will is the most adult of all of the people in my family…maybe not extended family that includes Grand parents and aunts and uncles. Maybe. But it is certain that Will has a very calm, cool and collected head on his shoulders. The rest of us…not always so much. We are emotional, passionate and argumentative. He has that in him also, but he holds his tongue and uses his eyes and ears before making any rash judgments. Will weighs things…sees the long-term potential outcome. The rest of us see the obvious- at- the -moment, right- in- your- face thing. He sees the BIG PICTURE. He would make an outstanding judge one day.
And Will is responsible, steady and honest. And I value his opinion.
But he is not at home…he is at college now.
So, I texted my oldest son after I was left alone in the disgust dust left by my daughter’s departure. I wanted to see if my oldest child could tell me why my youngest child always seems to hear “blah blah blah” when I try to share with her the secrets of life.
He replied immediately to my text, like a good child who knows his mommy is a mess or in distress…”I wish I could respond in text to all of that but I can’t. But I’m sorry, and …call me if you can.” A sincere , sympathetic “sorry” can make a lot of things better immediately.
I took a shower and had an “Ah-Ha!!!” moment as I so often seem to do in the shower. Actually, I should probably walk all day and shower when I stop walking because those are the only two times that my brain ever really seems to work!
Anyway, I did call Will later. And I told my son that I think I understand why his little sister and I speak different languages…because we do. His little sister and I have very different love languages. I don’t know that anyone in my family has the same “Love Language” as I do…but I can “Parlez Vous…” or “Hablo…” enough in their language to get a smile or a head shake or a hug.
All right, you “Nay Sayers” out there! Don’t “pooh-pooh” Love Languages”. They are a VERY real thing. It may be awkward or uncomfortable… something that does not come naturally to you…But I am willing to bet that if you “spoke”to people in their love language and showed people that you loved and cared for them by learning to speak their love language…there would be so much harmony and good-will and peace and happiness. Misunderstandings would be minimal. Bitterness and hate would be replaced by appreciation. Perfect understanding is not the goal. We will never understand anyone perfectly. Trying…is the goal. And people are very gracious with mess-ups when they see “trying” taking place.
You think I am exaggerating? You think I am kidding?
Let me first tell you what the different “Love Languages” are…you may not know what you are, and it is probably a good idea to find out…but more important than finding out what “love language” you speak, you should be very diligent in finding out what love language people that you live with/ work with/ care about speak. Especially the people that you love. How are they to ever KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them…unless you tell them they are loved by you in ways that they understand? In a language that they speak?
It is like being an English man, only knowing how to speak English,who travels to a remote village in China… where the people only know how to speak Chinese. Why would the English man expect to get what he wants by speaking English. Let me give you a hint…he probably won’t get much of what he wants by speaking his language. But if he learn to speak their language…even just a little bit… with sincere interest…and with enthusiasm to learn more and more..they will LOVE LOVE LOVE him. He will be everybody’s favorite…because he cared enough to know how to communicate with them. He wanted to speak to them in a language they could understand. It need not be fluent.
I’m not kidding.
This is what I realized…
My love language is “Acts of Service. I show people I love them by performing “Acts of Service” and I feel loved when people notice and are appreciative of the the things that I do for them.
And…because “Acts of Service” is my love language, I also feel loved when other people perform “Acts of Service” for me.
Love languages can also be “Words of Affirmation” or “Quality Time” or “Physical Touch”. All of those languages at times speak to me, but usually only if the “Acts of Service” part of my need is being met too. In other words, don’t tell me sweet words, ask me on a date or try to snuggle if I have needed you to help me and you left me to do everything myself. I will do do do do and do for others. But occsionally I need help. And when I say I need help, I am being vulnerable by admitting that I cannot do something by myself and that I do not trust the outcome if I attempt to do it by myself. If I trust you to do it correctly, then I am in turn giving you a big compliment …and you need to understand and appreciate that “Words of Affirmation” IS NOT my love language!
When I ask for help it might also be in desperation because I am exhausted or frustrated or have reached my limit. If I have humbled myself to say , “help”… then I mean I NEED help.
If you will straighten your room or put away your clothes or take out the trash or the dogs or put the dishes away or make the bed or plunge the toilet or put in the fluorescent light bulbs in the basement or unclog the drain or take my car for new tires or make dinner or fold laundry… I am so happy. I am Giddy happy. It does not take much to make me smile or purr or clap. My Grinch-y heart will grow ten sizes with a little bit of “Acts of Love” sprinkled on me.
So, if a person who I serve constantly is not appreciative of what I do…and if a person does not feel the need to serve others…then there is a disconnect. A communication gap. A language barrier.
The one “Love Language” that does not usually speak to me is “Gifts”. I am an ungraciouos gift -getter. I don’t want to be. I hate this about myself, really. I am certain that I have hurt feelings by my lack-luster responses to nice but none-the-less non personal gifts that I have received. I do not really need any thing. I have too many things. But I do love and appreciate gifts that are personal and gifts that show that the giver had me specifically in mind when they got the gift. That, in my opinion, makes what they did more of an “act of service” than about the gift. They went out of their way physically or mentally to do something just for me. To my heart…that is love.
When someone gives something that is meaningful to me…a dark chocolate candy bar or a little bird hand-carved out of wood, or a tiny wish box with a dragonfly on it, or a heart felt card with a long message, or a picture of a special memory, or a pair of perfectly colored earrings, or a bird feeder with seeds …I love it. I would rather have one thing that cost a couple of dollars or less and that tells me that the giver knows me and cares about me, that a gazillion billion trillion dollar anything. (Caveat * if someone wants to buy me a camper trailer or a house boat or a sea-fairing yacht… or if there is a beneficiary who wants to make arrangements for me to travel all over the country-side of France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Germany etc. and provide me villas to stay in that are within bicycle or hiking distance of an open air fresh market or breath-taking vistas, I would not say “no”.)
Sorry, my ADHD brain, and deepest desires of my heart and I digress..
Back to the problem in a nut-shell: I get frustrated at my youngest daughter because she does not seem to appreciate what I do for her. I get her “Chick fil a” …I buy her “Twix” bars…I straighten her room and buy her Chinese Food and Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars. I let her cook things from scratch and make a mess in the kitchen that I end up cleaning up. I bought her a guitar and lessons.
But she likes to go shopping. And get her nails done. She wants someone besides me to cut her hair. And she expects for me to do things for her …and when things are not done in her time or in her way, she shows her displeasure. And she sometimes expects me to do things for her even when she doesn’t ask me nicely. She doesn’t want to help. She doesn’t want to do her part in laundry and dishes. I don’t feel loved.
I feel like she wants… but she doesn’t give.
But this is not true.
The truth is, that I would likely not notice what she gives any more than she notices what I give.
A Twix to her… is a candy bar. She probably does not say to herself, ” Mom knows that Twix is my favorite, so she stop by the store to buy me a King-sized one…because she loves me.” She probably says, “Mom was out and got me candy. It is yummy.” Case close. The act of Love seen as a snack.
And/ But if my daughter buys me something she is telling me that she loves me. The mug might be put up in the cabinet with all of the other mugs, because for me it was not the mug… but that she thought of me that showed me she loves me.
But for her, she might think I have rejected her love by not displaying and using the mug every day.
See, what a big tangled-up mess this seems to be?
Like many other people, my daughter likes gifts. She does not expect expensive things, but she likes things. I cannot call her a “hoarder” – yet …but she is a collector of miscellaneous stuff…And that is not bad. Actually when I think about it, her stuff probably has sentimental significance to her too…and her trips to get her nails done might be about Quality Time with the people she goes with…
She is not materialistic. She likes small things and inexpensive things as well as expensive things. I am happy that she gets pleasure from abundance and beauty . The abundance of beautiful things should be celebrated! I celebrate abundance in nature and she celebrates abundance in a mall. We are probably more alike than we are different actually.
Let me tell you a quick story.
A few days ago I heard a nice man that I know telling friends about his wife and her family. His wife was not there to confirm the tale, but apparently she was a “military brat” with a very rigid father. The Military Father liked everything just so. If anything was ever of place, it made the Military Father crazy. And apparently, whether from nature of nurture, the Military Man’s daughter…the Story Teller’s Wife… grew up to be just like her orderly father.
The man telling the story was laughing as he said that she tries to keep everything just so -just like her Military Father did …but the man goes behind his wife, and when she straightens, he messes things up. Somehow he believes that he is helping her get over her “OCD” ness. He wants for his wife to get over her need to control. It was not the place or the time, but I would have liked to tell the man that he is the one who need to get over his need for control. He is expecting her to be like he is and the way that he wants for her to be…instead of loving and excepting her for who she is…”OCD” ness and all.
I don’t think that this man is mean or evil. I just think that he isn’t thinking about how much it might mean to his wife if he understood her.
Does her neatness hurt him? I don’t know. Does his purposefully messing things up hurt her? I have to think that it probably does.
We all want for other people to understand us…and give us grace for our imperfections. How much time do we spend trying to understand someone else? Do we give people grace when we think that they are lacking or lazy or somehow wrong or imperfect? A friend told me the other day that he was reading a book that suggests when you start to judge someone, ask yourself, “Are they doing the best that they can?”
Think about that for a while. And when we feel unloved by someone we can ask our self, “Are they loving us the best way that they know how?” Are they trying? Are we noticing? They may not be speaking to us in our language…but are they trying to communicate something with us? Is it love?
We cannot make them learn our language…hopefully they will. We can only do what we can do.
There is more than our way … there are more ways to love than the way that speaks to our heart. What speaks to the heart of the people in your life? Are we willing to learn that language so that we can communicate with them? Love can be lost in translation…If I said “wo ai ni” to you over and over and over and over to you a million times would you EVER know that I was saying “I love you” in Chinese? Do you care enough to learn a new love language or two or as many as it takes to tell the people in your life that you care about them…that you love them? God help me. God help us all to love one another…because THAT is what THIS is ALL about.