Valentine’s Day sucks.
I know too many amazing people who, just because of that “holiday,” spend a whole 24 hour period of their lives each year feeling lonely, rejected, disqualified, and deficient. The average person will mope for 528 hours in their lifetime over this silly holiday that relegates love - the most exquisite, essential, and majestic pursuit - to simplified obligatory expressions of affection with chocolate samplers, plush teddy bears, and heart jewelry.
Ok... I made that statistic up, but I bet it comes close! Here’s the truth. Valentine’s Day may not feel like it’s for all of us, but love most certainly is, and we are not just invited, but commanded, to participate.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Loving God and loving people is what we’re called to and what brings life meaning and purpose. And… learning how to do it well is a worthy, lifelong pursuit. If I could only reclaim the time that I invested in self-pity parties just because no one loved me enough to give me a mylar balloon and a rose. If that’s what you really want on Valentine’s Day, go to the 7-11 and get one.
But, here’s something more productive that we can all do on Valentine’s Day and every day. Let’s learn how to love the people in our lives better! All of us can do this, whether married, single, young, or “seasoned.”
Ever heard of “The 5 Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman? It’s a classic. It’s been around for more than 25 years and is still the first book I recommend to every couple pursuing marriage after the Bible. But it’s not just a marriage book. This book is for any one who just wants to grow in their understanding of how to love the people in their lives well, including friends, family, co-workers, kids, parents, etc.
The big idea is that the way love is communicated and received is not the same for everyone. For example, is it more meaningful to you when someone gives you specific words of affirmation or when they buy you a gift or get your car washed?
A friend of mine who has read this book was just telling me how this has played out in his marriage. His love language is words of affirmation but his wife doesn’t naturally do this. She grew up in a family that didn’t talk about their feelings. So, her way of expressing love to her husband isn’t words but rather showing her affection through physical touch.
She believes she is expressing her deep love and affirmation of her husband when she holds his hands or gives him hugs, but he’s waiting for her to speak! And while he’s great at expressing his love for her by telling her how he feels about her, she just wants his arms around her. Both have good intentions and want to love the other well but they are speaking different love languages. This can leave both partners in a relationship feeling unloved if they don’t understand what is most meaningful to the other.
To love people in their love language is to put our preferences aside and intentionally think about what would communicate real love to the person we are trying to love well.
If I want to really show my husband Gary my love for him, there’s nothing like having quality time together. It doesn’t matter much what we’re doing, but just that it’s the two of us hanging out. For me, I am most impacted when he’s serving me by taking care of things I need done or he’s planned something for us to do that he knows I would love.
I have a dear friend who loves gifts and another friend that would rather us just have a great time out together. My friend and co-host Dave Paul doesn’t like gifts at all but it took me awhile to believe him! Now I don’t feel guilty if I don’t get him a Christmas or birthday gift because I know it’s how he prefers it. What freedom!
Here are the 5 love languages in Dr. Chapman’s book:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Do you think you know yours? How about the people in your life? This book is an eye-opening tool to help us get better at doing something we’re all called to do - LOVE each other.
Remember, we are all invited to the love party. I hope this Valentine’s Day, you won’t buy into the hype of the holiday but instead, you will remember what’s true. You are deeply loved by a God who knows your love language. He is crazy about you. Look for Him to show you in very personal ways, that He sees you and knows what you need. And I’m pretty sure it’s better than a 7-11 mylar balloon and a rose.
Do you want to take the Love Languages Test? Check it out here.