By Janet Thompson, Crosswalk.com
Love is the distinguishing characteristic of a Christian. They will know us by our love. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. (2 Cor. 6:6 NLT)
As Christians, we try to show the love of Christ to everyone, including our family. But there’s a difference between marital love, parental love, and the agape love we show to others. Love is both biblical and practical.
In relationships, author Gary Chapman says we all have a love language that reflects how we give and receive love. He wrote a bestseller The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, which focuses on marriages. He’s expanded this concept to a number of relationships including a book to help parents understand their child’s love language, which is often not the same as the parent’s love language just like spouses often have different love languages. Understanding your spouse or child’s love language—what makes them feel loved—leads to constructive communication and endearing closeness.
Chapman explains that in romantic relationships falling in love is an emotional “tingly” feeling during dating and maybe lasts for the first few years of marriage. But this starry-eyed “in love” experience is temporary as a husband and wife’s differences begin to emerge. What was intriguing when you first met can become irritating. Long-lasting marital love requires adjusting to those differences and learning to live with them. Instead of trying to remake a spouse to be just like us, we learn to love them for the way God originally made them.
Mature marital love becomes an attitude we choose and our Christian love propels us to care more about what the other person wants than what we want. Love is the opposite of being selfish, and marriages where each spouse gives 100%, expecting nothing in return, are the ones that can successfully survive the challenges that every couple faces.
Each of us, including our children, intrinsically enjoys a love language that speaks directly to our heart and makes us feel truly cherished and loved. For me personally, it’s the “Acts of Service Love Language,” which you might have guessed is NOT my husband’s love language!
What Is the Origin and Characteristics of Love Languages?
The concept of “love languages” is how we best receive love from others. My husband and I had the opportunity to hear author Gary Chapman at a Christian Couples’ Retreat. He spoke about how he developed the theory of love languages. The primary concept of the five love languages is that everyone has a specific way of feeling loved and we tend to express love from our own love language, which might not be our spouse’s or child’s love language. Actually, it seldom is the same and that can lead to conflict, misunderstanding, rebellion, even not feeling loved and appreciated.
Here are the five love languages with the Scriptures Mr. Chapman shared with us that inspired each category of receiving and giving love.
1. Words of Affirmation
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. (1 Cor. 8:1)
This love language uses affirming words to encourage and build up the other person instead of criticizing, rebuking, and correcting, even when we think we’re right in a discussion.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph. 5:1-2
Giving gifts universally says to the other person that you were thinking about them and they’re worthy of your time and resources.
3. Acts of Service
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
Unsolicited help in an area the other person wants or needs assistance conveys that you’ve been listening and want to please them with not just words, but action.
4. Quality Time
He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:14
Spending undistracted one-on-one time assures the other person that they’re more important to you than anything else is.
5. Physical Touch
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16
Being physically close to or touching the other person, like hugging or holding hands, provides personal sensory assurance that you genuinely care and might even provide a sense of safety and protection.
When we learn how to give love in the way the other person receives love and how to communicate our own love language, we build resilient lasting relationships. Our natural bent is to give love the way we feel loved, but if our love language isn’t the other person’s love language, we may be disappointed with their response. We need to learn the love language of those we care about and love, not just lavish them with our own love language. But we also need to share with the other person what our love language is so they’re aware and don’t have to guess.
Everyone has a dominant love language with a close second. For example, as I said earlier my love language is Acts of Service, but Gifts is similar. Not so much the gift itself but that the other person took time to shop for something I would like without me having to specify what I wanted. A friend recently celebrated a birthday and her husband said he would accompany her to the stores of her choice and he would buy her whatever she selected. She said her husband’s willingness to shop with her was the real gift.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Silvia Jansen
What Is the Acts of Service Love Language?
People, like me, whose primary love language is Acts of Service feel appreciated and loved by actions others take to assist us, especially in difficult tasks or ones we don’t know how or can’t do for ourselves. Anything that makes our life easier, lifts a burden, or solves a problem for us enriches our day!
What makes the Acts of Service love language even more special and appreciated is when we don’t have to ask for it. The other person notices we need help so does something spontaneously or unexpectedly. An Act of Service beyond our expectations is powerful in filling our love tank! Actions speak louder than words to us.
Examples and Tips if Acts of Service Is Your Love Language
If Acts of Service is your love language, it’s important to not set your expectations too high for the other person to meet or become demanding with an endless to-do list.
Show Gratitude for Service
As a writer, I need my computer to function properly and my husband is a computer genius. I’m not good at solving technical problems when they arise. My husband is my hero, and I feel so loved when he hears my distress calls and comes right up to my office to help me. I’m careful to always praise him and lavish him with gratitude when he cracks the mystery. Since his love language is physical touch, a hug and kiss show my appreciation in a way that speaks to him.
Let the Other Person Know What You Need Done—Don’t Make Them Guess
Recently, we’ve had a dripping kitchen faucet that’s driving me crazy. Instead of just asking my husband to try to fix it, I complained about it all the time. But because it wasn’t bothering him, he didn’t share my angst. I even said to him that I knew why Proverbs 27:15 used the example of dripping water to describe a nagging wife. A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm. Still, he didn’t respond. He wasn’t noticing my repeated clues.
Finally, I point-blank asked him to try to stop the dripping after weeks of hinting and yes nagging. Even though it means so much to those whose love language is service to have the service done without us asking, sometimes we just need to clearly articulate what we want so the other person hears and understands. We can’t expect them to be mind-readers to show their love.
Don’t Take Acts of Service for Granted
I also must not take for granted all the Acts of Service my husband does routinely to help me like washing the dishes after dinner, folding the clothes on laundry days, paying the bills, balancing the budget, changing the sheets because I have a bad back, and taking out the garbage. These are Acts of Service I should recognize, appreciate, and periodically let my husband know how much his helping around the house means to me.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Tom Merton
Remember Not Everyone’s Love Language Is Acts of Service
It’s important that we don’t expect the other person to receive love the same way we do. Even though I appreciate my husband thanking me for dinner every night or telling me how delicious the meal is, I need to remember that his love language is touch and he’s making an effort to respond to my Act of Service to him. I would probably receive much more cooking kudos if I gave him a big kiss every time he complimented my cooking!
Gary Chapman gave an example of a revelation when he and his wife were first married and struggling with their differences. He realized how smooth every married couple’s day would go if it started out like this, especially if one of their love languages is Acts of Service:
Honey, what can I do to help you?
How can I make your life easier?
How could I be a better husband (wife)?
If you have a spouse whose love language is Acts of Service, here are several ways to determine how you might show them love:
Observe his or her behavior—what frustrates them the most that they can’t do by themselves or need to have help to accomplish?
What does your spouse complain about the most?
What does your spouse request most often?
Ask your spouse what’s on their to-do list.
Become a Student of Each Other
Understanding the Acts of Service love language can be challenging because it usually requires the other person to take some kind of action, and they might not choose to do it or may not do it the way the spouse expects. It’s important with each love language to give and receive love openly, honestly, and from the heart. Keep your love vibrant and alive without falling into a rigid role but be flexible, understanding, and always putting the other person’s needs before your own because you genuinely want to please and make them happy.
Be a student of each other and your relationship will never become boring or too predictable. Learn to love your spouse the way God created him or her and love them with all your heart, sole, and mind. Keep Jesus at the center of your relationship and be forgiving. That works well with all five love languages!
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Eph. 5:33 NLT
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Nattakorn Maneerat
Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 20 books. Her passion is to mentor other women in sharing their life experiences and God’s faithfulness. Janet’s new release is Everyday Brave: Living Courageously As a Woman of Faith available at Amazon, Christianbook.com, Barnes and Noble, and signed at author’s website. She is also the author of Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness; Forsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter; Face-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources. Janet is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet and sign up for her weekly blog and free online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com. Join Janet on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.