I’ve been thinking about this book quite a bit lately, especially since reading part of The Five Love Languages of God.
My primary love language is words of affirmation. In high school I started focusing on good things teachers said about me. I’d learned well that if I was good enough at something, people would say good things, so I did my best to excel, and often did. I also began to focus on God more and imagine Him saying good things about me too. I also listened to a lot of songs and Christian TV programs that were positive and encouraging and said good things.
When I went to college, I started going to a UPC where the pastor often said encouraging things. His whole sermons were often wrapped in “You can make it” and “God loves you”. I ate that up. But there was less and less of those kind words over time. A compliment was a very rare thing for me in my former church, though negative words were common. More than that, the Bible was used so negatively that reading it became difficult.
According to the books by Chapman, people who are disciplined or rejected in their primary love language feel it more severely. That’s why telling one child “go to your room” brings them to tears, while another cries when you tell them you’re disappointed in them.
Abuse-especially in the primary love language-seems to deplete a person’s “love tank” very quickly. And even the average person needs at least two positive words for every negative one. (http://www.peggybert.com/2010/09/30/…egative-words/) (I personally think for many people it’s closer to five to one.)
Church abuses speak to people’s love languages in a very negative way. When a person whose primary language is quality time is shunned continually, they feel rejected. Because the rejection is from the church-especially if they view the church in terms of “man of God”, “people of God”, “church family” and so forth, they begin to feel rejected by God Himself. And then the abusive church may point fingers and tell them that proves they aren’t right. They try to “get right” and, not knowing why they are being rejected but still experiencing that pain, feel they can never please God.
The same is true for words of affirmation. My former pastor would often say what, to me, were very harsh things from the pulpit. Seeking comfort and understanding, I would go to him, hoping for an encouraging word. Instead I would be rebuked. People several times told me “You should hear what they’re saying about you!” and act like others’ slander shouldn’t affect me. Again, in these times if I went to the pastor, I would often be rebuked or told I was doing something wrong.
People whose language is acts of service must feel the harshness of a church that will not let them serve in any capacity (we had to have written permission from the pastor to clean a window or scrub a toilet) or in a church where everything is done for a handful of people and everyone else is expected to fend for themselves. Those who love to give surely feel unloved when no gifts, cards, or even hugs are shared. And in a church where people aren’t supposed to touch, and if they do-outside of a handshake-they are accused of lust (even woman to woman or man to man), those whose language is touch must feel they are in a very cold place indeed.
I’ve been reading The Five Love Languages of God. Chapman gives specific examples in the Bible of passages where God expresses His love for us through words of affirmation. (He does something similar for each language.) It’s been a long time since I’ve heard some of those verses. Many times something in a passage above or below was twisted to express God’s anger, hatred, wrath, and so forth. It’s amazing to me that someone reads these passages differently. I also see why the negative preaching and rebukes were taking such a toll.
Also, now finding myself in a church where people do love each other, I’m amazed at the different outlook. People who are treated in positive, respectful ways are more likely to be positive and respectful themselves.
It’s interesting that the Bible teaches so much on love, even saying God IS love, but love was seen as “soft” in my former church. In the past few months, watching healthy people interact in positive, loving ways, I’ve come to think maybe my former church missed it not in doctrine or in legalism, but first in love.
Loving people tends to bring out the best in them.