I was sitting around a kitchen table the other day with some British friends trying to explain to them what the 5 Love Languages were. As always, in the cross cultural communication that goes on in my world, there were giggles and gasps as I tried explaining to (non touchy) Northern Irish folks that “physical touch” was a “love language” and that it doesn’t have to be dodgy sounding for that to be a way you communicate or receive love from people. I need 10 hugs a day at least for optimum health!
The table was full of laughter and banter and muddled explanations on my part of physical touch, quality time, words of encouragement, acts of service and gifts. One of my friends decided going around the table and trying to name each persons’ love language was a good idea which brought more laughter and amusement as we guessed around at what people’s “language” of choice might be.
Personally I like to claim three of them …just love me! Can I be greedy!? Words of encouragement would always be one quite precious to my heart. Touch, definitely as I make my Northern Irish friends frequently uncomfortable with unwanted hugs and shoulder pats and most definitely quality time.
As I reflect on that meal and some of those friends I think encouragement is not just words of encouragement. Encouragement is the whole concept. The “love languages” idea is not best used for my greediness to be loved but for me to learn to love others well. What would really encourage my friend? My dad? My sister in law? My someday husband?
How do I learn to think outside of myself and serve them by loving them in the way they receive love – even if it means a thoughtful gift – which is never the way I think.
Or doing the dishes for them because they like a clean house when all you need to show me love is to hang out with me intentionally.
I love the idea of the Five Love Languages because it is a way to encourage someone else in a way that might not be natural to you but it shows what love is- sacrificing for the other and getting beyond yourself.
As I think back around that table, even without knowing the concept, some of those friends have been just that for me:an encouragement with offering to pray for me every day the month of November, a nice hot meal when I have had a bad day – no questions asked – just the offer of dinner, a shoulder to cry on or a hug. I’m grateful for their encouragement and hope I can learn to better encourage others myself.