I was a newly married man when I first heard the phrase ‘The Five Love Languages.’
The concept put so much into perspective for me, both for myself and for my understanding of how to love my wife. I’m grateful that I encountered Dr. Gary Chapman’s simple little test that has helped me to see why I need ‘words of affirmation’ in order to feel loved. I understand that my words of affirmation to my wife, however, fall flat and that she doesn’t feel love from me in the same way I do.
My wife feels my love when I share ‘acts of service’ with her and my son through ‘quality time’ and my daughters through ‘gifts,’ (of course!). The point is that we all need love—we crave it—but we experience it deep in our souls through different ways. Dr. Chapman has helped the world understand this through a simple and powerful construct—the Five Love Languages!
I believe that there is an associated concept to the Five Love Languages that can be equally powerful when it comes to helping people experience God’s love. God, in fact, is fluent in our love language and is striving to make himself known to us in a way that is radically oriented around our deepest soul longing.
I believe that every single one of us has a love language and that God speaks it to us in a way that we can understand. In many ways, we cry out to God through our love language with what I call our ‘Heart Hope.’
A Heart Hope is a specific type of longing that is associated with our love language. It is the question behind the question, the drive that fuels our lives and, as you probably guessed, there are five of them!
I believe these Five Heart Hopes drive us and our spiritual journey over the course of our lives. As I describe the Five Heart Hopes, try to figure out what your own as you read the description (Hint: knowing your Love Language will be a helpful key. If you haven’t taken the free test, you can do so here).
I Am Seen: People who experience love through ‘words of affirmation’ are crying out to be seen. They want to know that what they do and who they are isn’t going unnoticed. Being seen is a powerful experience.
Think back to when you were a child learning to do something for the first time—perhaps bravely jumping off a diving board or doing your first cartwheel. The words are palpable, “Daddy, watch me!”
There is something deep within us that longs to be seen, to know that we are not invisible and that someone cares enough to see us. I believe people with the love language ‘words of affirmation’ are crying out to be noticed. As this is my primary love language, I can tell you with all assurance that my Heart Hope is to be noticed, to be loved by being seen and recognized.
I Matter: People who experience love through ‘acts of service’ are crying out to know that they matter. They want to know that they are having an impact and making a difference, regardless of whether they are ever known for it or seen doing it. This is very unlike people like me who need to be seen.
The Heart Hope ‘I Matter’ drives us to ask over and over questions like “What’s the point?” “What kind of legacy am I leaving?” “Am I having an impact?” There is something deep within us that strives to make a true difference and people with the love language ‘acts of service’ cry out to know that their lives and actions matter.
I Have Worth: People who experience love through ‘gifts’ are crying out to know that they have worth. Very frequently, they give gifts and long to receive gifts because it is in the giving and receiving where they feel their worth.
Gifts have a way of tangibly symbolizing a person’s value to the gift giver. A thoughtful, well-timed, and sincerely given gift causes our hearts to soar. It is in that moment a person who longs to be loved through gifts will tell you that he or she feels his or her worth. The Heart Hope ‘I have worth’ is so powerful that many will spend all they have to feel this euphoria again and again.
I Am Known: People who experience love through ‘quality time’ want to know and be known intimately. Unlike ‘words of affirmation’ people who want to be seen and known widely, ‘quality time’ people want to be known deeply.
They are crying out for deep, intimate connection; this is what quality time is all about. Being known is at the core of what it means to be created in the image of God and this Heart Hope burns within us and will never be fully met until we are with God in eternity. For now, however, our Heart Hope can be met through deep meaningful relationships with others and, most importantly, with Jesus.
I Belong: People who experience love through ‘physical touch’ want to know that they belong. Touch for these kinds of people is the vehicle through which they experience attachment, a sense of inner peace that comes from knowing that they are connected to others around them. The Heart Hope ‘I belong’ is a cry for deep and meaningful acceptance through embrace.
We feel this Heart Hope met when we collapse into our loved one’s arms after a long journey, wake up to the kiss or cradle of a spouse, or are clung to by our children. To be embraced is to know that we belong.
In some ways, all of us have all five of these Heart Hopes, but based on our love language type, we are usually driven by just one of these burning quests. At the very core of each and every commercial, sermon, self-help book, inspirational speech, or 12-step program is an attempt at answering the cry of one or more of these Heart Hopes. They are compelling on their own, but the great news is God speaks our Love Language and answers our Heart Hope.
We could take each of these Heart Hopes and demonstrate how Jesus, in fact, spoke the love language of his disciples as he called them, loved them, and gave his life for them.
Because I am a ‘words of affirmation’ person whose Heart Hope is to be seen, I’m particularly drawn to the calling of Nathanael. In John 1:47-49, Jesus answers Nathanael’s Heart Hope by seeing him and loving him through his words of affirmation:
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” (NIV, emphasis added)
What is your Heart Hope? What is the Heart Hope of those around you? Knowing a person’s Love Language can help us know their Heart Hope and connect the good news of Jesus to their story in such a way that is powerful and transformative!
R. York Moore is an author and serves as National Evangelist and National Director for Catalytic Partnerships for InterVarsity USA. York is a convener of leaders for evangelism and missions in America, and a founder of the Every Campus initiative.