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February 1, 2023

A Different Love Language

Back in 1991, the band Extreme released a song called “More Than Words”. It begins, and continues, like this:

Saying “I love you”
Is not the words I want to hear from you

What would you say

If I took those words away


More than words is all I ever needed you to show
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me

It had a really catchy tune (you may be humming it now) but at the time the words did really “speak” to me. We all want to hear those words, to be told that we are loved. And if we are in love we long to say them over and over again. Saying “I love you” to someone you truly do is such a joy.

The song came back to mind recently as I contemplated how we really communicate and what messages we are truly sending. So often we send and receive mixed messages and end up confused as to what the hell is really being meant. The more I thought about it the clearer it became that our words are actually the least important and reliable way we communicate.

So if we take away the words then what are we left with?

The first thing we are left with is our actions. Our actions communicate our truth. Our truest beliefs and principles are communicated not by what we say, but by what we do.

If we say we respect someone then our actions should reflect that. We may say we respect our employee’s or spouse’s or children’s opinions but if we  interrupt, denigrate and consistently ignore their views or opinions then our actions have shown our real truth. One way we can “act it” and show respect is by pausing our instant response so that we can truly listen to their thoughts, even if we disagree.

Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” It is their actions, not their words, which tell us their truth. A politician says they support the rule of law but then ignores it when it comes to their own benefit shows they have no respect for the law. A preacher teaching chastity, purity, and honesty who then turns around and has extra-marital affairs or enriches themselves from church funds shows that it is not god who they serve in truth. A business executive who speaks of fairness and then pays themselves 670 times more than what their average worker makes is not interested in fairness.

Our actions around and towards those we love speak volumes to them about our true feelings. We show our love by physically being there for them which means helping out without being asked, volunteering for tasks, and just stepping in to lend a hand. And yes, holding them close in our warm embrace as if we’ll never let go.

In their book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom the Toltec writers don Miguel Ruiz with Janet Mills list the first and most important “agreement” (with yourself) as being “impeccable with your words”. That is, always insuring your actions match what you have said. It is only then that we develop trust from others and from ourselves.

It is important to learn to trust ourselves, and so often we don’t. We say to ourselves “I’ll start exercising next week”. Or I’ll diet, or I’ll quit doing whatever. Then when we don’t follow through with our actions we lose confidence in ourselves and our own self-image goes down and stop being the amazing people we are. Better to have aid nothing at all.

Actions truly do speak louder than words.

The second thing we have left to communicate with after taking the words away is our time. Our time communicates our love. It is with our time that we show what we truly love, and the gift of our time is the most precious gift we have to give.

When we take time away from our hobbies or sports or even our work to spend it with our children we are showing them that they matter. When we sit in from of the TV or staring intently at our phones and ignoring those we love we are telling them very clearly what we care about and what’s important to us.

Having to earn a living demands that a lot of our time be consumed by our jobs (hopefully you might love that too) and leaves little of that precious resource called “free time” to spread around over all the others things that demand our attention. So spend that time wisely on the things that truly matter most to you.

When your spouse asks you to sit and watch a movie with them, do it. Put down the phone, the iPad, the hobby and join them, giving your time with joy to the one whom you love. When your best friend says they need your help to do something let go of what you were doing and give them your time to help them. Your time is the one thing that no-one else can ever give to someone, and we all have very little of it.

We know who makes time for us and who doesn’t. We know who actively reaches out to spend their precious time with us, and we know those we have to coax and cajole to get even a few minutes. What do your loved ones know of you and how you spend your time?

Take the words away. Let your actions and how you spend your time be the true reflection of who you are and who you care about. And the song was right. If we do that then we won’t need those words anymore for they, and you, will already know.

Listen to the song here:

I knew.

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