The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. [1 John 4:8]
One of the upperclassmen in my fellowship asked me this question, “Have you eaten yet?” around dinnertime before he left. We were studying in the same lounge, and I was watching his stuff as he stepped out for a little bit. When he came back, he had to leave, but before he did, he casually just asked what I was doing, and if I had eaten. Two very casual, normal questions. But what if it had nothing to do with the questions themselves, but rather just the fact that he cared enough to ask?
Asian parents are often criticized for not being “loving” enough. When I was younger, I definitely felt like my parents didn’t love me enough because it was never in our vocabulary to say “I love you” to each other. However, this ridiculous notion only exists when people look at the situation through one lens of love, the lens of words of affirmation. Yes, it is true that on average, Asian parents tend not to verbally say “I love you” to their children as much as other parents may, but this does not mean they don’t love their children just as much. Love manifests itself in different ways.
Love languages are the ways in which we perceive, receive/experience, and show/express love. The five basic love languages are gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. I think the one category that doesn’t quite fit under any particular category, but is still a love language, is discipline. We mostly see this in parent-child relationships. The fact that discipline is often overlooked is perhaps why we, as children, are often deluded in thinking that our parents don’t love us when they punish us. However, God, the perfect Father and who is love itself, disciplines us because He knows what is best for us and how we best learn and mature. If someone didn’t care about you, they wouldn’t waste the time and effort trying to change who you are for the better and shape you into who you were meant to be. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves [Hebrews 12:6].
We should be careful to try to accommodate people and love them in the ways that they most feel loved, but we cannot require or demand a validation that they feel loved by us. Let me explain what I even mean by that. (Disclaimer: don’t ever say this during dinner with other people). A few years ago, while having dinner with some friends, one of them told me he doesn’t know how to love me, and subsequently said that he didn’t feel loved by me. I just looked at him, unsure of what to say, so I asked him why. I came out of this dinner realizing that the best we can do is to try to love people with the love languages that cause them to receive love the most. The key word is try. However, sometimes our best effort goes unnoticed, or we revert back to our own personal best love languages in order to love them. This doesn’t mean we love them any less because they may not perceive our love for them; thus, we cannot demand validation or acknowledgement that our love is received.
My mom still asks me to this day, every time we call, if I’ve eaten dinner yet, or if I’m going to fellowship or church if it’s a Friday or Sunday when she calls. It’s just her way of making sure I’m doing okay and taking care of myself, but also it lets me know that she’s thinking of me and my life here in college. Although my personal love language is quality time, I think my mom’s is definitely acts of service, including asking how I am. As the recipient of love, we should try to be conscious of what the other person’s main love languages are, and recognize when they’re trying to show love to us. No effort is ever wasted in love. Love never fails.
So maybe I was overthinking that interaction with the upperclassman. He may very well had just been curious, or asking out of courtesy, or trying to make conversation as he was packing up. However, knowing his personality and how reserved he usually is, I know he was making an effort simply because he cared about me, and it just reminded me how maybe this is his love language. Perhaps “have you eaten yet?” should be added as a new love language.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. [1 John 4:18-19]