In his book “The 5 Love Languages” Gary Chapman explains how each one of us has our own love language (our preference for the way love is expressed to us). For me, of the 5 love languages, acts of service would rank #1 while words of affirmation would rank last.
But understanding loves languages, is not so much to know our own, but the love language of others, especially those closest to us. When we understand their love language then we can intentionally express love to them in a personal and meaningful way.
When I was 15 years old, my younger sister called me at home. This was unusual because, well, she never called me at home and she was suppose to be doing her paper route.
But on this day she called for me specifically and immediately I knew she was upset. She was calling from the safety of a customer’s home and told me a kid in the neighbourhood was harassing her and asked if I could help. She told me where she was and I quickly headed out the door.
I ran the few blocks to where she was and the kid was still outside waiting for her. I won’t go into details about what happened next…let’s just say, I handled the situation with the appropriate force necessary and he got the message that he was way out of line.
Eventually, my sister came out of the house and we finished her route together.
That night over dinner, the doorbell rang and my dad got up and talked to whoever was there. A few minutes later he returned to the table with a puzzled look on his face. Turns out the kid came to apologize for what had happened earlier in the day but my dad was confused because we hadn’t told him about it yet.
After filling him in on the days events, I don’t think he knew whether to be disappointed or proud…the slight smile on his face told me which way he was leaning.
Here’s the point of the story. Words are not my love language…I mean, I think a $7.95 Hallmark card is a rip off…and I don’t need to hear “I love you” multiple times a day and it’s not uncommon for me to say “words are cheap”. But that’s me, not everyone else.
I was more than happy to stand up and protect my sister that day because she’s my sister and I loved her and cared about her. The problem is I never told her that. Sure we argued and fought like most siblings did but beneath all of that, I loved my sister…my older sister too. But I never told them that growing up. I would have done anything for them, and I guess punching out the neighbourhood bully was my way of saying it…it was my way of letting them know how I felt about them. But it wasn’t enough. Words matter. Especially words that communicate value, appreciation and love.
The bully had an older brother who happened to be in my math class and the next day as I entered the classroom he was at the door waiting for me. We looked at each other and he nodded…then I nodded back and walked in. We never talked about what happened. He knew why I did what I did…in his eyes my actions were justified.
I still believe “actions speak louder than words” but over time I’ve come to appreciate that words matter and to love someone involves actions and words. In recent years I have told my sisters how much I love them…when you live hours apart perhaps you rely on words more.
Sometimes actions do speak louder than words…but I’m learning to tell those closest to me that I love them and appreciate them because words matter.
Q. Who in your life needs to hear words of affection and affirmation from you?
Instead of assuming they already know, who needs to be reminded that you love them. How and when will you do it? By all means, show them, but don’t forget that words matter too.