In recent decades many readers around the world have gotten to know of the concepts of intra-gender communication through Dr. John Grey's MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS series of books and tapes. Further, some people have learned to relate to all other humans on the planet better by reading and listening to CDs on EMOTIONAL INTELLIGIENCE by Daniel Goleman. However, far too few people have read the series of books by Gary Chapman on the 5 Love Languages. Five Love Languages is the metaphor that Chapman uses to counsel married couples, singles and children all around the United States in a manner quite similar to what Grey and Goleman have done.
In this writing, I look primarily at one of the books in this wonderful series of writings and seminars by Gary Chapman on his metaphor of the Five Love Languages. This is namely the book: THE LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD (2002: Northfield Publishing). Chapmen's list of other books in this array of writings on this metaphor include: THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES, THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES OF CHILDREN, THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES FOR SINGLES, THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES OF TEENAGERS, and FIVE SIGNS OF A LOVING FAMILY.
Chapman's contribution to the world of interpersonal, interfamily and sacred/religious communication is very significant--and as of yet I have heard few critiques of his five languages metaphor. Importantly, Chapman is a Christian counselor who is certainly not as tainted by the political and religious scandals or intrigues and moral boondoggles of many of his contemporaries--and seems to be a much better listener to his clients and fans than the political TV & radio pundits, Dr. John Dobson and Pat Robertson, are.
WHAT IS THE LOVE METAPHOR?
Reading any of Gary Chapman's books or even by simply viewing his own website, one can get a brief and important introduction into what his five love languages metaphor is all about. We learn that the five love languages are (1) Words of Affirmation, (2) Quality Time, (3) Gift Giving, (4) Acts of Service, and (5) Physical Touch.
Words of Affirmation means : Using words to affirm the other person is a key way express love.There are thousands of ways to express affirmation by words ….The words may be spoken, written or a song. To people whose primary love language is words of affirmation, such affirming words fall like spring rain on barren soil [p.26].
Quality Tim means: Giving the other undivided attention“The important thing is not the activity but that the two of you are together. When you give someone quality time, you are giving him or her part of your life. It is a deep communication of love.” [p. 26]
Gifts communicate: He or she was thinking about me. For these people nothing makes them feel more loved than a gift. “Gifts need not be expensive. You pick up a colored, twisted stone while hiking, …take it home …give it to a ten-year old boy, tell him where you found it, and tell him you were thinking of him…when he is twenty-three, he will still have that stone in his drawer.” [p.26]
Acts of Service claims: Actions speak louder than words, so doing something for someone else is an expression of love. “To the person whose primary love language is acts of service, words may indeed be empty if they are not accompanied by acts of service. The husband says, ‘ I love you,’ and she’s thinking, ‘If he loved me, he would do something around here.” [p.27]
Physical Touch: Long before a child understands what the meaning of love is, he may identify love with a touch. “If the child’s primary love language is physical touch, nothing is more important.” [p. 28] Even if as a teenager, the same child pulls back at a hug or kiss, he or she would still like a pat on the back or an arm around the shoulder (or some other physical contact)—or he/she will feel unloved.
A quick summary of how the first chapters enfold in Chapman's book on THE LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD follows.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
In both the old and new testaments, we read a lot about affirmation of the Lord and of the Lord's affirmation of various men and women. That is, God encourages through his words:
“Do not fear, for I am with You; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.” Isaiah 41:10
“For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
WARNING: Chapmen notes that some people whom we might think of as servers of others in the world may, in fact, primarily communicate their relationship to their Lord by enjoying quality time with him. (Throughout all of Chapmen’s love language writings, one finds him giving examples of how misunderstanding another’s love language can cause stress in relationships.).
Chapman provides the anecdote of 19th century George Mueller. By 1875 George Mueller through his efforts and leadership had opened many orphanages and helped many street children. He had already fed, lodged, & educated over 2000 English children. Nonetheless, from his writings we discover that Mueller’s primary love language was not service.
Mueller's primary love language was quality time with God. His diary often reads as follows, “I spent from half past nine till one in the vestry. Had real communion with the Lord. The Lord be praised…!" Mueller is saying that he felt ill if he didn't have his quality time in communion with God.
Some people respond well to physical symbols.
For example, the Lord provided manna (food) from heaven to the Israelites in the desert.
In the new testament we find that Jesus turned a few loaves of bread and fish into thousands .
People are healed of illnesses by the disciples and other actors in the Bible through the Lord, saying that they didn’t have much to give but would give what they had.
ACTS OF SERVICE
Without asking for money or offerings, God completely took care of the Israelites as they roamed the deserts for 40 years.
Isaiah wrote that he, himself, was sent to serve-- “preach good news to the poor. He [God] sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners … and release the oppressed.” [Is.61:1-2]
In turn, Jesus healed the sick and the blind as well as chasing out demons for those in need.
God put a mark on Cain who killed his brother Abel. This protected Cain.
God touched and hurt Jacob’s hip after wrestling with him all night..
Moses was so close to God his face was aglow and had to be covered from the sight of others.
God sent an angel to grab and hold Abraham's arm just before he cut his son with a nice.
Jesus healed often through touch.
WEAK AND STRONG POINTS OF METAPHOR
Chapman's weakest point seems to be that he fails to readily admit that some people might have several love languages—not necessarily one or primarily one. On the other hand, the metaphor of 5 love languages seems to apply well to relations among men, women and children of whatever nation or family.
Moreover, Chapman makes an even better case for these claims:
(1) God speaks all 5 love languages, and
(2) Man can learn to speak more than one love language and can learn to appreciate it when the others, including God, communicate to him in another love language as well.
(3) Moreover, Chapman concedes, there are also many dialects of the 5 love languages by which man can relate to others or his Lord.
DETERMINING YOUR PERSONAL LOVE LANGUAGE
According to Chapmen, to determine one’s own personal love language with other humans, one should carry-out a relatively straight forward task. One needs simply needs to ask oneself these questions:
(1) How do I most express love to other people?
(2) What do I complain about most often?
(3) What do I request from others most often?
Amazingly, here is where most people quickly determine what their primary love language is.
Sadly, when I tried this I came up with 5 different answers depending on what facets of each of the three questions I focused on. As well, those friends, whom I have met with and discussed the questions with, were unable to provide perspective on which of the five love languages is my primary love language.
This trouble determining my own love language is, in a way, to some degree most troubling for Gary Chapman’s metaphor of love languages.
On the other hand, I personally have attention deficit, which might make it hard for me to focus on all aspects of these questions in determining what my primary love language is. Nonetheless, I realize from my own life experience and from what others have told me that some people, like myself, quite likely use various dialects of the five love languages. These languages overlap one or more other love language. This may lead to either constantly using various dialects of the five languages or that one may actually love multilingually.
On the other hand, every single one of my other acquaintances have been able to determine what their love language was simply by answering the 3 questions above.
DETERMINING ONE’S LOVE LANGUAGE WITH GOD
According to Chapman, how one man talks to or communicates with God is basically answered by the same questions:
(1) How do I most express love to God?
(2) What do I complain to God about most often?
(3) What do I request of God most often?
Again, personally, I realized that answering these 3 questions were not of much help to me in determining my primary love language with the Almighty. Besides my ADHD, this multilingual preference is possibly due to the fact that I have lived and worked in ten different countries and traveled extensively—in another 80 to 90 countries. Through my time spent meeting different peoples and worshipping in different environments, I may have acquired a multiplicity of dialects in more than one love language.
That does not mean that I need to hone my skills in a plurality of love languages. As a matter of fact, I might be weak in any particular one of the five at various times.
Further, I also need to emphasize that once again all my friends who have quizzed themselves using these same questions above were, in fact, able to determined their primary love language with God immediately.
CAN THIS METAPHOR BE EXTENDED?
One of the many questions I have is whether the 5 love languages as a model and metaphor can be applied across various faiths around the globe—including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Animism, etc.?
Chapman, it seems, has only planned to use the model in counseling Christians and families in the United States . Would the 5 love languages metaphor be applicable across all societies around the globe? Would the insights provided be as obvious in such other societies and families?
In a few days, I am going to hold a discussion, known as a “diwaniya” on this matter in Kuwait at a place known as the AWARE Center. We will look at this topic from the Islamic and Arab perspectives-- not just the intended Christian perspective, raised by Chapmen.
For example, one important Muslim perspective on worship [and man’s relationship to God or Allah] often revolves around what is known as the 5 Pillars of Islam. These 5 main deeds or pillars in Islam are: (1) Declaration of Faith, (2) Five Daily Prayers, (3) Zakat, (4) Fasting, especially in Ramadan, and (5) Hajj.
Most of these five deeds are easy to understand. Several religions around the world, including Christianity use fasting and prayer in making communications to their Lord. A declaration of faith in Islam might be correlated to a baptism or public announcement/confirmation of one’s faith before church congregation. Five daily prayers means that at five specified times a day, a Muslim will carry out prayers.
“Zakat” refers to acts of charity and tithing. Meanwhile, “The Hajj” is the most famous and most highly practiced form of pilgrimage in the world. It involves a journey from any corner of the world to Mecca via Medina carried out once in believer’s lifetime.
Various perspectives on or interpretations of these deeds appear to fall into categories or love languages of (1) Words of Affirmation, (2) Quality Time, (3) Gifts or (4) Acts of Service, and (4) Physical Touch.
This hypothesis comes from my own observation of Islam as a Christian observer who has lived in and traveled in a dozen Islamic lands. However, I am looking forward a bit more to see what insights Muslim discussants will have next week when we discuss LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD—and man.
One interesting point of looking at man’s relationship to the Almighty through love languages is that it frees man from his religious trappings to some degree when analyzing what his relation to God.
In other words, traditional religious baggage--which may prescribe or proscribe what a man must do in his faith or religion, can be eliminated from a good part of the discussion. One focuses primarily instead on the relationship of God to individuals and how they communicate with one another.
Through his counseling and presentations on the topic of love languages, Gary Chapman is encouraging people to:
(a) learn to get along together better by acquiring the abilities to express
ourselves in more than one love language,
(b) learn to understand when someone else is communicating love to us in a different love language than we prefer, and
(c) learn to appreciate the fact that our God may communicate to us in
different love languages—even ones we have failed to pay attention to until now.
Therefore, Chapman demonstrates that humans need to acquire more abilities in other love languages, in order to appreciate those communications from our Lord better & in order to grow in our maturity and faith as believers. In short, some formal religion prohibitions and rules may be bypassed in applying and discussion Chapman’s metaphor of the LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD. The focus, then, will be to a great degree on how God and man interact—not how formal religion or religious leaders or traditions have told us to act and communicate
PROBLEMS WITH LOVE LANGUAGE METAPHOR
As noted above, the framework of love languages is very useful and it has enabled me to appreciate why some people might dance and raise their hands as they worship while others might silently meditate or wander about in prayer on a pilgrimage.
Moreover, since as a Christian, I have been disturbed when certain Christians have put down by others due to critiques of their form, I now know much more about why one person or one group might worship.
Further, with Gary Chapman’s Love Languages framework, I have a bulwark to argue against wholesale condemnation of one Christian group by another. (Maybe we can even cool down the catholic and protestant or orthodox divide—or even the Shiite or Sunni divide.)
For example, if an intellectual Christians with a bent towards the spoken or written word says, “We want some juicy sermon to chew on and ponder!” while they are disdaining the joyful half-hour singing--which I enjoy in my fellowship before the service even really kicks off--, I can feel comfortable knowing that the love languages framework is large enough to explain these differing preferences among faithful.
Such widespread recognition of the variety of LOVE LANGUAGES (and dialects) may help critiques of ecumenicism (and other interfaith integration efforts) to rethink their distain for a process that has a better chance of leading to world peace than the current evangelical models in various faiths which have left the world an insecure place to date.