|South Haven, MI|
This week I have enjoyed reading Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages for Singles. I am almost finished with the book and so far it has been an edifying and convicting read. Believe it or not, the chapter that hit home for me was the chapter on the love language of Gifts. For a long time I have presumed that Quality Time is my love language because that’s what I got when I took the quiz online (not a very thorough quiz, if you ask me). But as I read Chapman’s book, the love language of Gifts was the one that I related to the most and here is why.
Chapman clarifies in his book that people who prefer Gifts as their primary love language are not necessarily materialistic. I think this is why I always was turned off of this love language, because I thought that if I appreciated gifts as a token for love I was simply materialistic. But the key to gifts as a love language is not the love of the gift itself but the love for the one who gives the gift. A couple weeks ago my brother Greg was helping me dust my bedroom when he asked me, “Why do you have all these knickknacks?” Well, I like knickknacks because they are pretty but most of my knickknacks are actually gifts from people. They serve as decorations but they are also are reminders of the people I love and the people who love me.
When I thought about gifts in this context, I realized that there are a lot of things I am sentimentally attached to.
My doll, Millie, for instance. She is the first gift I ever remember receiving. I got her from Grandma McLane, our adopted grandmother at the time, when I was three years old. She remains to this day one of my most beloved items for no reason apart from the fact that she was a gift from someone who loved me. I still have Pancake the Panda, a gift from one of my best childhood friends growing up. Then there is the dress I inherited from my mother, sewn by my great-grandmother on the occasion of my mom’s eighth grade violin/piano recital. And then there is the accordion that used to belong to my dad, one of the most precious things I own. The value of these items is not in their inherent quality but in the love of the people who gave them.
When I was about ten or eleven years old (I can’t remember which birthday it was!) there was one summer when my family went to visit my Granmutti, my dad’s mom. It was near my birthday so naturally I presumed we would celebrate my birthday once we got to Mutti’s house. Unfortunately when we arrived, my siblings and parents told me, “Dani, we’re not going to celebrate your birthday until after we go home.” I was disappointed. What about Mutti? Didn’t she want to celebrate my birthday? Mutti told me the same thing the rest of my family did. “Well, we’re not going to celebrate your birthday because you’re celebrating when you go home.” I was devastated! I tried not to show how disappointed I was, but I’m sure my family could see it.
The next day Papa took Ruth and me to his Cousin Janelle’s house to help her with her horses. We fed them, groomed them and she eventually let us ride them. This was during the days when I was still horse-crazy (I wanted to be a barrel racer and trick-rider when I grew up) and so I had a lot of fun but I was still sore about the fact that Mutti was not planning to celebrate my birthday. When Papa, Ruth and I arrived back at Mutti’s house there was a birthday cake waiting on the dining room table and Mutti and the rest of my family cried “Surprise!” when I came in. You cannot imagine how overjoyed I was! A cap gun was hidden in the middle of the cake and among my presents I received a cowgirl outfit, cowgirl hat and gun holster from Mutti. That remains to this day one of the best birthdays ever because Mutti not only remembered my birthday but she took the time and effort to discover what would make a meaningful gift to me.
Gifts are not always material items. Letters are one of my favorite gifts to receive. Someone’s time can also be an incredible gift, which is why quality time is one of my favorite love languages as well. Any and every gift usually speaks to me in a huge way, because it’s not necessarily the gift itself that matters but the thoughtfulness behind the gift. For me, gifts are ultimately so special because they are a reminder that I am remembered, that I am thought of by someone even when I am not with that person. This does not mean that I am materialistic or that I expect or need gifts all the time. If anything, receiving tons of gifts all the time would somewhat diminish the value of gifts.
One thing Chapman emphasized in his chapter on Gifts is that gifts cannot replace the other love languages. While we each have a love language that speaks the most deeply to us, we all still need to receive every single other love language on some level. Gifts cannot compensate for lack of quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch and acts of service. A gift given as means of apologizing or making up for a failure to follow through on something else loses its flavor. There is a proper context and purpose for gifts. That being said, gift-giving is not easy. I am actually rather poor at giving gifts because it is not a love language I am fluent at speaking. In my family, my siblings and parents usually prefer quality time and acts of service to gifts. The love language I am most fluent at speaking is probably words of affirmation but the primary love languages that mean the most to me are gifts and quality time.
Are you familiar with the Five Love Languages? If so, do you know what your primary love language is?