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Love Language - Words of Affirmation
by Reverend Murray Spackman, Vicar.
Sunday 16 March, 2003

 Mark Twain once said – “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”    If we take Mark Twain literally, six compliments a year would have kept his emotional ‘love-tank’ at the operational level.  You, or your spouse, and I,  will probably need many more than that!.

            Today we come to the second in the series on “The Five Love Languages”which is “words of affirmation”.

            Mark Twain thought he could live for two months on a good compliment.   Psychologist William James said that possibly the deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated.    Havent we all, at some time or other, felt that we just weren’t being  appreciated – that we were simply being taken for granted?

  We work our hands to the bone – day in and day out, but no one ever says a word of appreciation?  Its like we were just a piece of furniture around the house – or a robot working , or a cleaning or meal-making  machine?  We would give anything – in those situations -  for someone just to say a simple word of appreciation?   If ‘Words of Affirmation” is our Love language then we will especially sensitive in this area.  And on the other hand, we will also respond most warmly to words of affirmation and appreciation.

I would like to highlight just a few of the different kinds of words which can be used to fill up anothers emotional love-tank, especially if their Love language is “Words of Affirmation”.. .

1.  There is the word “Affirmation”.    To ‘affirm’ something is to confirm its truth and to strengthen it.    Solomon – author of ancient Hebrew wisdom literature and one of the great Kings of Israel wrote; “The tongue has the power of life and death.”    Many couples have never learned or realised the tremendous power of verbally affirming – that is strengthening each other.  I think we underestimate by a thousand percent the effect of Verbal compliments on another life – especially if that is their Love Language.. We know how important this is in children’s life, for their own self-image and personal growth – but it’s also extremely true for adults as well. And most important of all,  with husbands and wives.  If our love language is “Words of Affirmation” we will either feel loved , or un-loved , depending on whether or how often our spouse just says those simple ordinary words to us , of affirmation. Even the words – “I love you” can transform household drudgery or a dull ordinary day into a special act of love and service.  

            One of the secular readings which Brides’ and Grooms’ sometimes choose for their Wedding Service is entitled  “The Art of Marriage”. I came across it when we were in England nearly seven years ago.  It’s a rather lovely, homely, piece of advice appropriate for a couple on the threshold of a new life together.  It begins with these words –  “A good marriage must be created.  In the marriage, the little things are the big things.  It is never being too old to hold hands.  It is remembering to say  “I love you” at least once each day….”       This is not rocket science is it!  But it is what makes marriages better!

            Words of Affirmation need only be simple expressions like  - .  ‘That dress looks fantastic on you.’ - or - ‘You look fabulous in that suit’:-or-   ‘I really admire you for all the hard work you put into that job day after day that provides for the family.’ or  - “That was a great meal you cooked – exactly what I felt like.”   How often do you  say those or similar words of affirmation to your husband or your wife?  If ‘words of affirmation’ is your spouses love language – then in using those kinds of words to him or her   you are strengthening – affirming – his or her spirit ,and filling up their love tank – And if  you haven’t been doing that frequently – then their love tank is going to be dangerously empty  – and like all the other love languages – if you don’t speak the love language your spouse understands, the result will be a vacuum in their love-tank.   And as we know  , vacuums will always attract something/ or someone to fill it – with usually dire consequences.   The thing is –  and this holds true for ALL the love-languages - if this is your spouses love language but its not yours – then you wont appreciate just how important it is for him that he hears you affirm him.   If its his, or her  language – then you must learn to speak it! 

            There are other words as well as the word “affirming” which I could use here also. 

            2. the word “Appreciation” which means – to add value to. When you appreciate something you are putting extra value into it. The more you ‘appreciate’ something the more valuable it become to you.  When we speak words of appreciation to our spouse, or our children – we are adding value to their life – the value they have of themselves and the value we place on them. When we speak words of appreciation to our spouse we increase her value in our eyes – and that makes her feel loved,  and it also makes us feel good in that we hold someone precious close to our hearts.  When you speak words of appreciation you are filling up that love-tank!     

3. There is another type of words also which we should be speaking to those whose primary love language is ‘Words of Affirmation’  - and they are Encouraging words.   The word ‘en-courage’ means  ‘ to make courageous’.   When we speak encouraging words we are putting courage into the other.   And most of us need courage, don’t we?   Life has a way of draining it out of us!  We get our knocks and bruises in life – and its easy to withdraw from the challenging edge of life, and take shelter on the sideline.  When we speak words of encouragement we are giving the other that extra energy – extra courage – to do something, to release some untapped potential in some area of their life.  That potential may be awaiting your encouraging words which  they otherwise probably would never do, without your support. That extra courage will make them feel loved – and their love-tank level will rise. 

            But God also speaks to us ‘words of affirmation’.  In fact they are too numerous to quote.   Time and again, in scripture, God tells Israel how He has loved them with an everlasting love. God tells His prophets to remind the people how much he loves them!    Jesus was continually affirming – valuing people.   Jesus said  - in answer to some questions by his followers – that the words he brought to them  “bring God’s life-giving Spirit.”   If “words of affirmation” is your love language  - you will find ample evidence of God’s love for you expressed in this way throughout the scriptures.  The Bible, it is said, is God’s love-letter to mankind.- It is his word of salvation, of love and of life. 

And we can also express our love for God in the same way. The book of Psalms is mostly a book of love letters to God. I think King David’s primary love language was  “Words of affirmation” because he just can’t stop extolling the praises and virtues and character of God.   For us today in our worship, our  songs and hymns and words of scripture,  and the singing of praises  are all different ways by which we express our love language of ‘words of affirmation’ to God. If you feel closest to God when you are reading His Word – or singing praises to God – then chances are that “Words of affirmation is your Primary Love Language.

            For the rest of today – I want you to be on the lookout for opportunities to speak Words of Affirmation to all those around you. Especially to your spouse and your family members.  Im sure you wont have to dig too deep to find something about them and what they do that you can affirm. And tomorrow – do the same for your work mates , and your boss.  Keep it up for a week, every day. And see what transformation can take place. – especially if your spouses Love Language is “Words of Affirmation”.

Questions for thought / discussion:

1.    How might a person ‘learn’ to speak another “Love Language”? 

2.  What are the particular difficulties associated with learning to speak the Love Language of “Words of Affirmation”? 

3.    What is wrong with the comment: “She knows I love her – I don’t have to tell her!” 

4.     Who do you think are affirmed more often  – men or women? 

5.    What are ways in which God affirms us? 

6.    What were the ways and words in which Jesus affirmed those around him? 

7.   Who in your group recognises they speak/respond to  the Love-Language of  ‘Words of Affirmation’?

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