Have you ever gone all out to make someone feel loved and hit a wall?
I’m blessed to be married to a woman who has all five of the love languages described in Gary Chapman’s bestseller The Five Love Languages (Northfield Press, 2015):
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
When I bring flowers home or cook for her birthday, Laura feels loved. No surprises there. But the cool thing is that when I just do the mundane things I would have to do even if I weren’t married—pay bills, file taxes, buy groceries, repair a toilet—she feels loved.
Recognizing love languages can be powerful. My primary love language is quality time. Receiving gifts is lowest on my list, which makes it hard for Laura to come up with gift ideas for me. But, because she knows gifts aren’t my thing, if I can’t think of a gift I want, she can skip the gift buying, spend some quality time, and we’re both good.
I’ve discovered, though, through painful experience that love languages have their limits. Years ago a family member was not feeling loved–not by me, not by other family members. I wracked my brain for ways to make him feel loved. I’d try one thing. It wouldn’t work. I’d try something else. I used all five love languages. No dice.
After years of frustrated attempts, several of us came up with the perfect gift to show our love. We would create the dream workspace for his hobby that he had fantasized about for years. Though we did the work over a period of months, we managed to keep the project under wraps until the grand unveiling on Christmas. It was the ultimate Christmas surprise!
Upon seeing his new workspace, his exact words were: “I almost feel like somebody loves me.”
It took a couple of weeks for those words to fully register. The people who loved this person the most had gone all out to give him his dream gift. And he almost felt loved. I had assumed that if we could just be creative enough, determined enough, we could break through the wall around this person’s heart. I was wrong.
That Christmas I learned a powerful truth: I can’t make anybody feel loved. In fact, it’s not my job to make anybody feel loved. It’s only my job to love. It’s up to those I love to choose whether to receive my love.
Jesus loved perfectly, yet many rejected his love (John 1:11). Should I expect more when I love?
When I resign from the impossible job of making others feel loved, I can focus on what truly is my job—loving them.
- Have you ever gotten caught up in trying to make someone feel loved?
- If you took seriously the insight, “It’s not my job to make anyone feel loved,” what difference would it make in your life?