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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wellness Matters: Love does sometimes
mean saying you’re sorry, and a lot more

By Marty Seitz
KyForward columnist
 

In a previous column (click here), I mentioned Gary Chapman’s original basic five love languages, which I labeled languages of tender love (i.e., words of affirmation, acts of service, giving gifts, quality time, and physical touch). I went on to suggest five languages of tough love: refusing, relinquishing, refuting, reprimanding, and repudiating. Relationships are stronger when we major in showing love tenderly and minor in showing tough love.
 

This week I want to propose five additional means of expressing tender love.
 

Apologizing
 

Gary Chapman himself has already expanded his first set of love languages by writing a subsequent book The Five Languages of Apology, which are, by the way, expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting and requesting forgiveness.
 

I’m focusing on the larger, overall category of apologizing as one of my five additional means of loving tenderly.
 

Unlike the famous line from the classic novel and movie Love Story, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” I agree with Chapman that true tender love means being willing to say you’re sorry when appropriate. Too many times in counseling I’ve heard someone say, “My spouse never says he is sorry for anything,” or, “My spouse never admits she is wrong.” Never saying, “I’m sorry,” slowly kills love.
 

No one living can claim never to have made a mistake, so we all ought to apologize to one another from time to time. For many people, receiving a sincere apology is more precious than many other expressions of love.
 

Advocating
 

A second supplemental tender love language is advocacy. To advocate means to plead in favor of. I think that supporting, backing, endorsing, championing, assisting, reinforcing, promoting and interceding for another (all synonyms for advocating) are means of showing love and caring. Whereas, giving words of affirmation generally involves giving persons direct praise; advocating for persons means praising them to other people and speaking up for them to other people. To tell someone else, “John/Mary has a really good idea,” is advocating. For a husband to say to his wife, “You look stunning,” is affirmation. For him to tell others in front of her, “My wife is brilliant,” goes beyond affirmation; it is also advocacy. The Pretender’s song, remade by Carrie Underwood, “I’ll Stand by You” is about advocacy:
 

I’ll stand by you.
I’ll stand by you.
Won’t let nobody hurt you.
I’ll stand by you.

 

Seconding someone’s motion, speaking on another’s behalf and standing up for a person are all examples of advocating.
 

Advising
 

Advice giving has taken on somewhat of a negative connotation, but I think it can be an expression of loving/caring. Face it, sometimes one person knows something another doesn’t. Educating someone else can be a caring act as long as it isn’t done in a demeaning way. I love the way this idea is presented in the classic song, “Lean on Me”:
 

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you’d understand.
We all need somebody to lean on.

 

Teaching, coaching, instructing and advising are good things. If we want to profit from others’ knowledge, we also need to be willing to listen to their advice and to be teachable. Accepting others’ advice is also a way to give them affirmation. I also think that the teaching is better accepted if the teacher shows humility by including expressions such as, I think, believe, was taught, or have experienced rather than claiming to have the only right answer.
 

Accepting
 

I believe accepting other people’s foibles, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies is also one way of showing love and caring. My wife knows that I am, in some ways, a stereotypic absent-minded professor. If I am driving, for instance, she knows I tend to be on autopilot in that I’ll drive as if going to the place(s) I go most frequently. So, when we are not going to one of my common destinations, she will softly remind me that I’ll need to turn right, left or go straight instead of what I’m most used to doing (and about to do).
 

She accepts my idiosyncrasy, which I prefer to call single-minded focus rather than absent-mindedness, just as I accept the fact that she doesn’t like to eat liver and onions, although I do. I’m not good at remembering people’s names; she’s not good at judging the passage of time. She accepts that I’m not as good at figuring out how to use sophisticated technology; I accept that she’s not as good at figuring out how to fit everything into the car for vacation.
 

The Serenity Prayer can be adapted here:
 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things [in others] I cannot change;
Courage to [help them] change things [they can and want to change];
And wisdom to know the difference.

 

We all have some minor faults or weaknesses that cannot be changed. Criticizing such things in another person that don’t have moral implications does little good. I think we all have some failings and weaknesses as well as some areas of strength.
 

(Self-)Authenticating (Authenticity)
 

Please bear with one of my idiosyncrasies. I like alliteration. I wanted to choose words for these five supplemental tender love languages that started with the same letter. The fifth of these tender love languages has to do with being honest, truthful, trustworthy, having integrity and being authentic. Therefore, I chose the closest word (participle) beginning with A I could find—authenticating.
 

If you prefer, just think of this category as being honest or having integrity. People feel loved and cared for when they are told the truth and when others are authentic with them. In some ways none of the other love languages mean much if they aren’t given or expressed genuinely. What good is affirmation if it’s not honest? Of what value is an apology if it’s not authentic?
 

One of my favorite Billy Joel songs, “Honesty,” has the following refrain:
 

Honesty is such a lonely word;
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard;
And mostly what I need from you.

 

So whether you attempt to express your caring for another person or persons by apologizing to them, advocating for them, advising them, or accepting them, you must also convey your authenticity.
 

Marty Seitz is an associate professor of psychology in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Asbury University, where he has taught since 1989. He got his bachelor’s in psychology from Asbury University, studied at Asbury Theological Seminary, got a master’s degree in community counseling and a doctoral degree in counseling psychology from Georgia State University. In addition to his teaching, he has practiced as a licensed psychologist in Lexington since 1989, doing individual and couples’ counseling and has been working with the Access Wellness Group since its inception.
 

Read more Wellness Matters columns here.

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