Evelyn Leite is on Christian Women Speakers!

Love, Love, Love

Around the middle of February people go out of their way to do the "love" thing. After all, hearts and flowers and commercials are everywhere, and anyone who misses all that is indeed a slacker or a freeloader on the highway of caring. What about the rest of the year? Oh yeah, there are birthdays and Christmas but what about the ordinary days? In the 1970's there was a commercial on TV and radio that said "How do you say 'I love you'?" The answer was you tell them "fasten your seat belt."

There are a hundred ways to say "I love you" but many people do not pick up on them. I have a friend who, when his father was alive, despaired of ever hearing those words. When we would go to visit his father, these are the words he would hear:
"Did you get enough to eat?" "Why don't you get here earlier?" "It's cold out. Zip up your jacket." "Here, take this food home with you." "Don't forget to wear your gloves." "Do you need any money?"

Now my friend is in his 50's. He does not need to be told any of these things and when we left he would fume, "what does he think I am, stupid? I am too dim-witted to zip up my coat? 'Did I get enough to eat?' he asked that every time. How dumb is that question?" He was plainly hurt and disappointed every time we visited.

"Hug him," I said and I showed him how to do it. Soon they were hugging when we arrived and when we left, something they had never done in over 50 years. Still, the pain at the words unsaid persisted. "Thank him for caring, hear those words as loving." Impossible for him to do because his mind was fixed on hearing the exact words. Stiffness and suppressed resentment got in the way of communication between them. "You say the words," I said, "You tell him exactly what it is you want to hear from him." It was too risky for him to do. When he tried, he choked on the words. Like a dutiful son, he visited, he took care of things, he pushed aside his pain and he smoldered.

Saying "I love you" to your family members

Lots of people want love and do not recognize when they have it. That is because they have a prescribed idea in mind of what it should look like or be like and are not willing to explore the idea that it might be broader than their definition of it. There is romantic love, friendship love, and family love. Recognizing any of it can be difficult. A lot of people think sex is love. There is a book called The Five Love Languages. In this book the authors say that if you really love someone you will learn what their love language is and give it to them in a way they can recognize. That is truly a great idea; however, if you can't get the people you care about to read the book and telling them falls on deaf ears, you can still get the love you want by giving it and learning to interpret sentences such as "did you get enough to eat?" as a demonstration of caring. My friend struggled to do this. One night, when his father lay dying in the hospital, he went to visit. As he was leaving he said, "I love you dad" and turned to leave. Just as he got to the door he heard a thin weak voice say "Jerry, I love you too."

Evelyn Leite, MHR, LPC, is an author and speaker who shares her heart-wrenching, real-life experiences with humor.