Love is an attitude (head), affect (heart), and action (hands). Here’s a way to get a handle of it, literally!
“LOVE” might very well get the vote for the most used and abused word, ever! It’s a good thing that languages like Spanish and Greek help a little by having different words to mean different kinds of love, from a ‘strong like’ to ‘brotherly/sisterly love’ to ‘unconditional love’ to sheer ‘eros.’
If truth be told though, the hardest part about love isn’t so much understanding it; it is showing it. I have a mentor who likes to say that the biggest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing. But sometimes we just don’t know how.
The Community Temperature Reading (CTR) by my mentors Pete and Geri Scazzero (an adaption of Virginia Satir’s work) has helped me practically love my spouse, children, friends and team members much better and I suspect might be of use to you too.
1. APPRECIATIONS | “I appreciate…”
Call it thanksgiving or praise, even God loves to be appreciated! I suspected having created us in His image and likeness makes us love being appreciated as well. Learn to say, “I appreciate…” eg. “I appreciate washing the dishes last night when I was too tired to.” Like me, some people, cultures and families are very stingy with appreciations. I tend to verbally appreciate only, almost exclusively, extremely high performance but I’m learning to be much more generous in saying, “I appreciate…”
You may have come across Dr. John Gottman, “the guy that can predict divorce with over 90% accuracy.” According to him, for every one negative feeling or interaction between partners, there must be five positive feelings or interactions. How is your appreciation:criticism ratio? The last I checked, I didn’t like my ratio with my children. I’m working on that.
2. PUZZLES | “I am puzzled…”
My most frequent exercise is “jumping to conclusions,” especially in situations in which I have little information yet strong opinions and a big mouth. And it doesn’t help at all that my ‘high D’ personality makes me unafraid to confront people and situations! I often come across as judgemental, even when I have the best of intentions.
I’ve learnt that “puzzle is a loving word.” Now instead of being super upset and angrily asking one of my staff, “Why didn’t you reply my email?” (with all sorts of assumptions lurking) I’m learning to rather say something like, “I’m puzzled as to why you didn’t reply my email.”
Peter and Geri Scazzero share in their Emotionally Healthy Relationships course, “instead of thinking, No one washed the dishes last night. I live with a bunch of slobs! you can say, “I’m puzzled as to why you left your dirty dishes in the sink last night.”” Try it. You can appreciate me later.
3. COMPLAINTS WITH POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS | “I notice… and I prefer…”
If you adopted this one, I would feel really loved as my personality cannot stand whining but loves solutions. No doubt, as long as we are imperfect humans in a broken world we will all have concerns and complaints. Many of us tend to suffer in silence though on one hand or unproductively complain about everything without taking responsibility for anything, not even suggestions for improvement.
The panacea to this, how to love well when there are things you don’t dig, is to use the words: “I notice… and I prefer…” eg. “I notice our clinical meetings start late, and I prefer we start at the agreed upon time.” This gives voice, a respectful voice, but also gives the other ears to hear, especially coming with a clearly stated alternative. Even if the ‘possible solution’ preferred is merely the opposite of the complaint, like in the example above, verbalizing it as an alternate proposal will be taken better. Give it a try.
4. NEW INFO | “My new information is…”
True, “love does not keep a record of wrongs;” but true love keeps news up to date. I wise man once told me, “It isn’t distance that keeps us apart; it is silence.” If you know me well as a public speaker and prolific writer you might find it hard to believe this but I tend not to be as communicative at home as I am in public. The CTR tool has given me a reason to consciously say, “My new information is…” It could be about an event, decision, appointment, achievement, opportunity, activity, whatever! As the Scazzeros put it, “relationships can only grow when people know what is happening in each other’s lives, both the trivial as well as the important.”
5. HOPES AND WISHES | “I hope…”
I found out rather late in my marriage how much Anyele feels loved when we verbalize our hopes, dreams and plans for the future. No wonder!, for “hopes and wishes offer windows into our unique souls, revealing significant parts of who we are” (Pete & Geri Scazzero). eg. “I hope we can get to visit the Caribbean next year.”
“LOVE ME THIS WAY”
The people in our lives are crying out, “this is how I want to feel loved, would you please love me this this way?” If we all regularly practised any of these five skills the people in our lives would feel loved; if we did more than one often they would feel much loved; if we made a habit of all five they surely would feel very much loved. Don’t just say you love somebody; don’t just feel the feeling, do it these five ways! If you didn’t know how, now you do!
Post Script | Great Commandment vrs. Great Commission
For those who are Christ followers, it may be worth noting that the Great Commandment (to love God with your all and love your neighbour as yourself) comes before the Great Commission (to make disciples) in sequence and in rank (Jesus said the greatest command is love). Besides, the Great Commission includes teaching the Great Commandment if we are to teach folks to do everything Christ commanded. The first of the fruit of the Spirit is love. Remember God Himself is love. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” There’s no way getting round love as a Christ follower.
One curious thing about the Great Commission is how many of us have read it to mean that making disciples of Jesus is by teaching them stuff that Jesus commanded. Meanwhile, a careful and slow re-reading of the text shows the essence is to train or teach people how to obey the stuff Jesus commands. Jesus said “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” not just “teach them everything I have commanded you.” No wonder there are so many Christians who know ‘everything’ but do nearly nothing the Scriptures say! This understanding of the Great Commission has made a world of difference to me and those I walk/work with. The Community Temperature Reading (CTR) tool above, teaches you how to obey the command to love. Try it!