You may or may not be familiar with Gary Chapman’s ‘Five Love Languages’. If you are, you have probably come across it in relation to romantic relationships and what we want and need to feel loved. But, its use goes far beyond just romance and can help us in almost any relationship we are in, including in our churches.
Gary speaks of five languages of love:
- Words of affirmation – Is written or verbal words that show value. It’s not just ‘You’re great’ but shares what that person does or is that makes them valued.
- Touch – Is about physical contact. Everyone has a different level of comfort; it can be a hug, a pat on the shoulder, sitting next to someone rather than alone etc.
- Quality time – Is not about the length of time you spend together but the quality. It is about not being distracted, being able to relax and to really talk or do something together.
- Gifts – Is not about how much money is spent, but about the thought that has gone into it. It is knowing that you have been remembered and shows that the other person really knows you.
- Acts of service – Is about practical help that is needed. It’s delivering a meal during a stressful week, giving a lift to someone can’t drive.
Each of these explores and shares a different part of a relationship: wanting to spend time with someone, to help them out and to show how much you value them. They are all important. However, we have a natural inclination to show and receive love in different ways.
Someone may show their love through sharing kind, thoughtful and encouraging words, but most feel loved when someone chooses to spend time with them.
Love your neighbour as your neighbour would like to be loved.
We know that we are called to love others as we love ourselves. Most of us would desire people to get to know us and what we need, not simply to assume our needs are the same. Jesus is not telling us to love everyone identically to ourselves, but to take the time and effort to really love the other in the way that they need.
January is a time of quiet after the busyness of December. It is often a time when there is less planned, less time spent together and less to look forward to. It is a time when many of us can feel lonely, even if we are not alone. It’s a perfect time to reflect on our own Christmas and what made us feel most loved (chances are it fits into one of the five languages) and talk to others about what made them feel most loved. And of course, to those around you, show them that you care in a way that they will recognise and be aware of how they might be showing you love in their own way.