In 1995, Gary Chapman released his book "The 5 Love Languages" and it took the Christian world by storm.
It’s sat comfortably on the New York Times bestseller list since 2009, since then finding an audience with believers and nonbelievers alike. You may have even read one of the spin-offs: "The 5 Love Languages of Children", "The 5 Love Languages for Singles", "The 5 Love Languages of Apology", or "The 5 Love Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace".
“The 5 Love Languages” (geared toward couples) has, by far, had the most success, however. Since its release it’s been utilized by marriage counselors, praised by pastors, and helped countless married couples find depth and intimacy in their relationships.
Sound too good to be true?
The book operates on the theory that there are five primary love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. We each have one or two dominant ones, and it’s important to understand them, how they rank, and how they need to play into our relationships. But unlike most personality profiles, it equips you to “read” not just yourself, but the person right in front of you—allowing you both to love (and be loved) in the way you really need.
As with anything that comes from the human mind, there are some subtle flaws lurking beneath what looks like a foolproof approach. And according to pastor and author Tim Challies, understanding these flaws won’t discredit The 5 Love Languages...it will allow you to use them better. Here’s what Challies shares in his vlog, “The Problem with Love Languages”:
1. Love languages can mask selfishness.
“It’s possible that I am actually using a love language that you appreciate, in order to manipulate you, so you give me love,” Challies shares. “In other words, I will speak your language so that you speak mine, or I will speak your language to the degree or the extent that you speak mine.”
According to Challies, this can enable a “back and forth” pattern where we (perhaps even subconsciously) tap into another’s love language in order to “primarily...feed our own desire to be loved.” Instead of studying the languages to learn to give to one another, we focus on receiving love from one another.
2. Our love “languages” are actually love desires.
And as Challies points out, our desires can’t always be trusted.
“These languages simply show how I desire to be loved. As we look at the Bible, we know I can’t trust my desires. I’m a sinful person. My desires are deeply flawed, because I myself am deeply flawed. My desires may simply point to my idols; those things I’m convinced that unless I have this, I cannot be happy, I cannot be joyful.”
Challies does provide some insight into ways we can redeem these flaws, using the love languages in a way that’s God-honoring and constructive:
- Use them to help you understand the variety of ways there are to love and be loved.
- Pay attention to how our loved ones actually want to be loved. And realize (and appreciate) that this is usually the way their love toward you will manifest.
"The 5 Love Languages" was never meant to replace the gospel. But does this mean we should dismiss it as a resource? Not at all. I would actually encourage you to pick it up, read it, and take it in. Don’t let skepticism keep you from embracing the life-changing impact of a book like this. Just be aware that it’s not foolproof, and we need Jesus in every step of the process.
I think we can all appreciate Challies’ closing thoughts:
“Now, how do I know that love languages are flawed but can be redeemed? Because Jesus Christ did not speak the language I wanted, He spoke the language I needed. That is the heart of the gospel. He spoke in the language I needed most, that proves to me I cannot trust what I want. Instead, I always, always need to look to Him and to His word.”
Article Date: November 16, 2017
Cristina Ford is editor of Crosswalk.com
Image Courtesy: ©Unsplash