Tools / Principles to be discussed:
- 5 Love Languages
- Brave Communication
- Culture of Honor
- Self-love / Love-tank
As with any tool, we can use tools the right way or the wrong way. For example, a hammer can be used to drive a nail into wood or it can be used to hurt someone. Obviously, a hammer was created with the intent to pound nails, not to harm others. Likewise, if we are not careful, we can use self-help tools in the wrong way. Incorporating self-help tools in our lives does not automatically translate into a healthy and whole life. How we use these tools and the heart behind it is what really matters.
I’ve learned this the hard way, but I believe the defining factor whether we are using these tools correctly or not is whether our tools are powered by love or selfishness. Selfishness is the antithesis to love. Heart motive is everything! If your main concern in using these tools is all about you and how you need to get your needs met, fill your love tank, be loved, and/or be honored, then perhaps a retooling is in order.
In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul addressed the Corinthians’ use of spiritual gifts which can be considered a type of tools. In my opinion, the Corinthians were probably using the gifts in all the wrong ways: showing off their gifting, manipulating and competing with each other, and seeing who’s the greatest. As a result, Paul gives a really clear explanation in chapter 13 that even if you had all the gifting in the world but do not have love, then it means nothing! He explained that all the gifts were designed to be powered by love! Powering the gifts without love as the source would be a misuse of it’s intent and original design. I would like to propose that the Corinthians misused the spiritual gifts when their heart motive was rooted in selfishness and not love. As such, are we using powerful self-help tools with the right heart motives?
This blog article is not intended to shoot down, discredit or attack any of the tools mentioned. Used correctly, these tools can be powerful agents in our lives. I’ve just personally misused these tools and seen them misused. Instead of developing love in us, these tools can actually keep us self-focused and selfish. When this happens, we validate and identify with our old man (sinful nature) and keep the old man alive. This results in identity confusion and internal torment because we were meant to put off selfishness, not manage it. When this occurs, we cut off the power of God’s grace to form love in us and we instead end up striving to be love by managing our old man with self-help tools.
5 Love Languages
The 5 Love Languages (“5LL”) helps us understand how people receive and give love in different ways (physical touch, gifts, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation). The 5LL was intended to bridge the gap between people who are missing each other in terms of giving and receiving love. It is to provide understanding and awareness of how someone might be loving us, but we are unaccustomed to recognizing that portrayal of love. It also allows us to proactively learn how to love someone intentionally in the way they best receive love.
Misuse: We misuse this tool when we expect or demand someone to love us in our love language. If someone doesn’t love us according to our love language, then we oftentimes reject their love because it isn’t coming through the package that we want. We end up judging love, discriminating love and blocking love because it’s not the way we want to receive love. We won’t be happy until they love us in the way that we want to be loved. If they don’t love us in that way, we believe they don’t care. This tool wasn’t meant to be self-focused, but instead others-focused. It helps us love and understand others better.
Retooled: What if instead, we use this knowledge to be aware of how people might be trying to communicate love to us. Then we don’t force people to jump through our hoops to find the magic button for us to feel loved. Instead we recognize when someone is trying to love us, and we receive it, validate it, and affirm it. Let’s use the 5LL to empower us to be greater lovers of people instead of being entitled receivers!
Brave Communication is a tool for healthy and intentional confrontation. It aids in fostering understanding, vulnerability, connection and intimacy between people.
Misuse: I think we use brave communication the wrong way when it’s more about US than THEM. I’ve personally used it the wrong way, “bravely communicating” to others because I need them to change something that is bugging me. I’ve realized that if my intent for confronting my friend is because I need him to treat me a certain way, then I’m most likely not doing it out of love. Signs of misuse could be: If the person doesn’t change after our confrontation, we take it personally, judge them and partner with bitterness or offense. Confronting a friend out of love isn’t first and foremost because how he is treating you.
Retooled: I believe the best way we can use brave communication is through love. If your friend has a booger in his nose, a good friend will let him know. So we call friends higher to how we truly see them, as God sees them. We let them know that we experienced them in a certain way and that they might not know that their behavior might affect others the same way. The focus is THEM, not US. Healthy confrontation allows us to sharpen each other and fosters trust which leads to intimacy.
The by-product of this can result in your friend correcting their treatment of you, but if it doesn’t then you don’t partner with offense or bitterness because your motive was love from the beginning. Yes, if they don’t change their behavior, then your relationship might suffer, but you can always choose to love regardless if love is reciprocated. Isn’t that how Jesus loved? When they know that your intent is love, they will more likely care to change their behavior because they know you aren’t trying to fix them for selfish reasons. It is more likely they will be interested in changing their behavior for the sake of closer connection with you.
Make sure you’re using brave communication and not brave manipulation!
Culture of Honor
In a culture of honor, we honor because we are honoring people. We honor people because we see people as God sees them: valuable, accepted, powerful, and amazing. We see people through the eyes of Jesus. We honor people for who they are while not stumbling over who they’re not.
Misuse: Culture of Honor is misused when we honor because we need to be honored back. And if honor is not reciprocated, then we get bitter or offended and retract the honor given. It is also misused if we demand, expect or are entitled to honor from others.
A sign of misuse can be if you say, “You’re not honoring me right now.”
Retooled: We honor without needing to be honored back.
Self Love / Love-tank
Yes, it is true that we need to love one another as we love ourselves and it is hard to love someone else when you don’t even love yourself. But, as with many truths, you can take a truth too far to the point where truth becomes overemphasized. In the case of self-love, I do believe that as Christians we need to know that we are not worthless sinners, but that we are amazing and the price Jesus paid on the cross determines our value. However, sometimes we can attach so many steps and ministry methods to keep us focusing on loving ourselves, that the focus becomes overemphasized.
I know personally for me, when I am too self-focused, self-conscious, and everything revolves around me filling up my love tank, it is a never-ending and time consuming job! At what point am I ever just ok? At what point is God’s love enough? And the more self-focused I am, the harder it actually is to love others. If I believe that I have a love tank that is leaking, then yes, it becomes an exhausting job trying to checkmark every thing on my checklist in order for me to be ok and thriving.
But God has made a way for us to know our value and acceptance. He settled that once and for all on the cross. What if His love can keep us overflowing? What if we have erroneously believed that we are limited by a leaking love-tank, thus capping ourselves off from grace that can empower us to live from an overflowing tank? What if we don’t need as many self-loving methods to keep ourselves healthy and whole as we think?
Let me illustrate a few points regarding boundaries with the following story:
In Mark 6, the twelve disciples have just come back from a missions trip healing the sick, casting out demons and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. They were excited and telling Jesus testimonies of everything that happened. After the missions trip, the disciples were hungry and tired. If you’ve ever been on a missions trip, you know that afterwards you are spent! So, Jesus invited them to a deserted place to rest, but a great multitude saw them and came after them.
Jesus then told the crowd, “Hey everyone! You know that I’ve been with you for the past few days ministering and healing everyone who came to me. But today, we came out here to rest and to fill up our love tank. We don’t have anything left to give right now. So I’m gonna set a boundary, but believe me, it’s for your best interest. I’m saying ‘no’ right now to be able to give you my best ‘yes’ later.” Confused, the sick and hurting start hobbling away.
NO! Jesus did not say that! Instead, He saw them like sheep without a shepherd and was moved by compassion. Once they saw the crowd coming, I bet the disciples knew exactly what Jesus was going to do and they probably were not too thrilled. They were looking forward to resting and eating. So they came up with a plan and said, “Hey Jesus. We are in a deserted place and it’s getting late. So we should dismiss the crowd because we’re afraid they’ll faint on the way home from not having anything to eat.”
But Jesus turns the tables on them and says, “You give them something to eat.” Then the disciples think to themselves, “Jesus can’t be serious right? We haven’t even eaten ourselves and we only have a few fish and loaves of bread. On top of that, we are so tired from our missions trip. We don’t even have the physical energy to feed five thousand people!”
And we all know the end of this story, Jesus multiplied the food and the disciples witnessed one of the greatest miracles with their own eyes and hands.
I propose that sometimes we cut off the grace of God to work a miracle in and through our lives because the miracle often comes when we are at our limits. It’s at this point that we know that we cannot do anything of ourselves and need to depend on God. If you believe you have a leaky love-tank, you’ll have a leaky love-tank. If you set boundaries around your life based on your beliefs of your limitations, you may be limiting the spirit of God in you. You may be cutting yourself off from a miracle and a chance to mature in relationship with Him. At the same time, I’m not saying that we should live without boundaries. I just wonder how quick we are to set boundaries and say ‘no’ versus giving of ourselves in love. I say this because I too have been guilty of this!
In the beatitudes, Jesus says:
““You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
I wonder: Do our boundaries allow us to follow the beatitudes? If not, then perhaps we need to adjust the way we view and use boundaries.
Let’s make sure that the tools we’re using to love others actually form love in us and not hinder God’s grace from having its perfect work in us. When our heart motive is selfishness, we make agreement with the old sin nature and resuscitate the old man, keeping him alive. Thus, we inhibit the Spirit of God to transform our hearts in accordance with the new man. At the end of the day, we can structure our lives with a bunch of principles that keep us managing our old man, instead of becoming brand new creations. Yes, let’s take good care of ourselves and love ourselves well. But let’s not let loving ourselves become more urgent and important than loving others. These tools that were meant to help us learn to love others well could actually keep us from transformation in Christ if we use them with the wrong heart motives.
For a long time, Christians have been hurt by thinking that they are worthless sinners. Christians lived boundary-less, burnt out, stepped on and hurt by other Christians. When the church started teaching that we are valuable, amazing and that we should love ourselves well, I believe we took it to the far other extreme that unintentionally created selfish and entitled Christians. I don’t mean to be harsh because I went through the same thing. We can still be valuable and powerful Christians by showing the meekness of Christ, turning the other cheek, and going the extra mile to love others even if it costs us.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. (John 13:3-4)
I love this verse because it tells so much in one sentence. Jesus knew that He had been given all things from His Father (sonship), He knew who He was (identity), and knew where He was going (calling/purpose). He knew He was the son of God who had every right to show Himself as God, but what He did next spoke volumes. Knowing this, He didn’t demand respect and did not exert His power over people. Instead, He took the place of a bond-servant, girded Himself with a towel and washed His disciples’ feet.
Jesus did not use His identity and value to spend time loving Himself well. He spent His life giving Himself away. We were called to be like and to follow Jesus.
Are your self-help tools powered with love or selfishness?
Have any thoughts? Leave me a comment!