My mother attends Calvary Baptist Church in Winston Salem, NC. Dr. Gary Chapman has served on staff there since 1971. He currently holds the position of Senior Associate Pastor. But he is known around the world as the author of “The Five Love Languages” series of books. The first of those books, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, was published in 1992 and has since sold 10 million copies in English and been translated into 49 other languages. It has also spun off other books such as: The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition, The Five Love Languages of Children, and The Five Love Languages: Men’s Edition.
According to Dr. Chapman, a love language is a way by which an individual speaks and understands emotional love. It’s how a person not only expresses love toward others but senses love from others. And what are the five love languages? They are:
- Words of Affirmation: People who are wired with this love language put great stock in verbal compliments and words of appreciation. They show love by bragging on others, and they feel loved when others brag on them.
- Quality Time: People who are wired with this love language prioritize attention. They show love and feel love by turning off the t.v., computer, and phone and engaging in intimate conversations, long walks, or other one-on-one interactions. They see time as the most valuable gift you can give someone.
- Receiving Gifts: People who are wired with this love language are all about the exchanging of gifts. The gifts don’t have to be large or expensive, even though they can be. They just have to be from the heart. These people show love by giving a gift to another, and they feel loved when someone gives them a gift.
- Acts of Service: People who are wired with this love language believe that actions speak louder than words. If they love you, they will do things for you, and if you want to show them that you love them, you should do something for them. These people tend to be very practical and down to earth.
- Physical Touch: People who are wired with this love language are huggers. They like hand-holding, arms around the shoulders, pats on the back, and little kisses on the cheek. It’s all about flesh on flesh. These folks don’t see the need for the concept of “personal space.”
Now, as you might have guessed, these five love languages oftentimes overlap in the lives of individuals. For example, many people who value quality time also value physical touch. Likewise, many who value receiving gifts also value acts of service. This isn’t hard to understand.
And, yes, the difference between the sexes frequently comes into play in these matters. The stereotypical male will be high on acts of service while the stereotypical female will be high on quality time. Unfortunately, those two love languages don’t usually jive, and this communication gap has been a major contributor in the demise of many marriages. You know, he decides to mow the yard at the very moment she wants to go for a walk.
While most people have traces of all the love languages, Dr. Chapman’s point is that each person majors on one or two. As for me, my two are Words of Affirmation and Acts of Service. If you want to show me that you love me, pay me a compliment or do something for me. Those are the things that register with me the most. And if I pay you a compliment or do something for you, you should know that I care.
My wife, Tonya, can attest to the fact that I’m not much on quality time or physical touch. If you ever see her out for a walk holding hands with a man, you should assume that she’s having an affair. It’s either that or I’ve done something really, really bad and am trying to make up for it.
I’m not so much into receiving gifts either. I’m normal enough to like birthday presents and Christmas packages, but I don’t fly mad if I don’t get them. My mind just doesn’t think that way.
If you have trouble determining what your particular love languages are, here are three questions that can help you decide:
- If you get a birthday card in the mail, are you more touched by the card itself or the monetary gift inside? The sending of the card speaks to acts of service. The monetary gift speaks to receiving gifts.
- If your father or mother gives you a big hug and says, “You did a great job,” are you more touched by the hug or the compliment? The hug speaks to physical touch. The compliment speaks to words of affirmation.
- If you and another person spend the day on a certain project, are you more touched by the fact that the job got done or by the fact that you got to spend all those hours around that person? The finishing of the job speaks to acts of service. The hours spent on the job speak to quality time.
In all my years of preaching on the subjects of marriage, parenting, and relationships in general, I’ve never run across anything better than Dr. Chapman’s five love languages. They really do get right down there where we live. It’s no wonder the books are so popular.
That’s why I encourage you right now to give yourself a quick mental checkup to identify your specific language or languages. Then talk to the people closest to you (your spouse, your children, your mother, your father, and your friends) and ask each of them what he or she feels is his or her language. This will enable you to most effectively show your love for them going forward. And if there is anything this world needs these days, it’s people effectively showing authentic love toward others.