By Natalie Nyquist
Can’t you picture it? You return after a few days away from home, and little siblings rush to meet you. One smothers you in hugs and kisses, another jumping up and down asking if you brought her anything. Your father takes your coat and bag upstairs, while mom tells you she missed you and is so glad you are home.
Demonstrated in this common scene are four very different ways of showing love. Understanding your friends’ and family’s love languages can be very helpful as you seek to serve and love them. For me, it has been encouraging to see that, while I have a different love language than everyone else in my family, because I understand what they need, I can serve my dad and spend time with my brothers, therefore showing them love in a way they can easily understand.
If you’ve ever felt “unloved”, it may be because your loved ones are not showing love in a way you easily see, but recognizing the various ways of expressing love is a tremendous help. Christ alone perfectly loves each of us and fulfills every need we have for acceptance and understanding. May our goal be to love as He has.
Words of Affirmation
We all like to hear an encouraging word now and then, but some people need that “I love you” on a daily basis. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a low self-esteem, though that is a common misconception. Quite simply, words of endearment and praise are as vital to some people as water and bread. I know that for me, having someone tell me “I love you”, is just about the best thing in the world. 🙂 This is definitely my love language. Hearing encouragement, promises of loyalty, love, and, as the title suggests, affirmation of your character, talents etc. is essential. For those of you who are the “Words of Love” type, you probably give this love more than you receive it. Perhaps you like to talk things through thoroughly and analyze conflicts down to the bone, much to the dismay of the other types, who would just as soon put the situation behind them without spending an hour discussing it. 🙂 Remember if you are feeling unloved, that all the affirmation you can ever need is found in the Bible. There should be more than enough passages of love and loyalty to lift you up. 🙂 The key to showing love to this type of person is to say the assumed, even if you think it is a given. The people who long to hear “I love you,” and “I’m proud of you”, will be amazingly encouraged by those simple words.
Know an adorable little girl who thrives on cuddles and hugs? Or perhaps you are the type of person who needs that goodnight hug and kiss from your parents. My brothers have learned to endure my hugs, my ruffling their hair. Just by their allowing it they demonstrate their love for me, even as I show them my love. For the people in your life who enjoy that hug or hand squeeze, make a special effort to show them you love them in the way they can most easily recognize. Whether its the three-year-old you teach in Sunday School or an older sibling, physical touch is one of the best ways to show Christ’s love. Remember 1 Cor. 13 and keep your heart and motives pure.
Acts of Service
I need not expound to you the significance and necessity of serving the Body of Christ. This love language is an intense form of that need to serve. I have a friend who is constantly cleaning, writing sweet notes, taking time to teach someone something, reading to a sick child, being a peacemaker, or helping someone with something.
However, to love someone in this way, you must die to you personal wants and selfish ambitions. That is the hard part. But those whose language is acts of service need you to serve them. Doing a chore for someone unasked may be a wonderful opportunity to love.
This language could easily be seen as a more fleshly desire. It may seem selfish. But let’s look at it from God’s point of view. He too gives gifts to His children. Why? Out of His amazing love for us. I do not see anything wrong with the occasional thoughtful gift given as a sign of love, in hopes of encouraging another and aiding their spiritual growth. Some people are gifted to show love in this way. Learning to give as God gave – out of love.
All of us enjoy spending time with loved ones, and who doesn’t feel treasured when you have an in-depth discussion, or fun game with your family? For some people this is their primary way of receiving and expressing love. For some it is the hardest to give, as it requires, in some ways, more of yourself than others. It is perhaps easier to hug someone than spend an hour with them, but true Christ-like love is willing to love in all ways.
As nice as it is to know what your language is, more importantly, strive to learn other’s languages, and earnestly love them. Jesus perfectly loved everyone by healing, teaching, touching, caring, but most of all, by that act which we can never truly appreciate; His death is our life, and because of His love we can and must love others.