“If you want to change your world, go home and love your family.”
Notice Mother Teresa didn’t say, change the word by going to the White House and protesting what you think is going poorly or needs to change. She didn’t say, go have a girls night out every week or even make a bunch of money and give it away so that people can have fresh water to drink. Nope. She said two simple, but profound basic things – GO HOME and LOVE your family!
Let’s start with what you think of when you hear the word ‘family?’ The definition of a family has definitely morphed over the years. It’s no longer the nuclear family of one man, one woman, and 2.5 kids in the suburbs. When you really boil it down, family could be defined as people living in community, trying to do life the best they can, in a loving and supportive environment. But how can we define ‘the best they can?’ What’s ‘best?’ You probably have your ideals of what that might look like, but ‘best’ will vary for everyone. Because we all have different values, beliefs, passions, and experiences.
Regardless, we can safely say, at our core, that we desire our families and those closest to us to feel loved. And that sense of love comes from deliberate actions like support, acceptance, and community which leads to a feeling of safety, happiness, and growth. And we could look to those who have been there and done that for examples. But that’s their stories. And although we could learn from them, we desire to see OUR family feel loved and be loving… no matter what season of life we’re in.
Where we love: Proximity
Mother Teresa gives us two practical steps to change the world, one family member at a time.
This seems so obvious but let’s face it… it’s so easy to do things that keeps you from time with your family. Well intentioned things – like overtime at work. It’s a novel thing to provide for your family and maybe get some extra money for vacation or a special trip. But sometimes, we unknowingly find our value in the marketplace. We get a satisfying rush getting things done and having our boss notice. And although there’s nothing inherently wrong with the rush, when we find our value in our work, we can easily neglect valuable time with our families.
Work isn’t the only culprit in amassing time away from the family. It could be our social life or volunteering at church, or even helping those in need… the less fortunate. These are all admirable endeavors that can bring great fulfillment, help others, and set an incredible example for your kids. But not to the detriment of personal time with your own family.
Sometimes we just intentionally avoid family time. We might not even like our family. And although this article is not specifically targeted to families in this category, it’s important to identify those in this sinking boat. And it IS a sinking boat. Without time and experiences in proximity to one another, you’ll drift apart. At best, things will be void and neutral. But in reality, no one is likely to feel loved and when times get tough and tragedy hits, you won’t have the loving relationship to fall back on. The result is pain, frustration, and likely, separation.
We’ve got to stop making excuses and just go home and ‘be’. Be at home. Be present. Be available. Be WITH your family. Modeling as much time as possible at home shows your kids that you enjoy them and like being around them. Being in proximity of the home allows you an opportunity to assist kids with their homework, chores, making dinner, etc. There is so much that happens in our home that we often aren’t even aware of when we’re consumed elsewhere. It’s vital to ‘show up’ and take part.
This isn’t a guilt trip for those with rough schedules. We get it. But what are you doing with the discretionary time you do have? If that’s consumed with golf, friends, hobbies, and activities away from home – this may be an opportune time to reevaluate your work and extracurricular schedules.
How we love: Practically
The second practical step Mother Teresa gives to change the world, one family member at a time is…
Love your family
Go home and love your family. Simple enough. You’d think loving your family would be easy to do. C’mon – just love them. But how? How do we really show love? How do we show them love in such a way that they’ll actually feel that love?
There is a tremendous book called, “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. With over 11 million copies translated into 50 languages – to say it’s changed lives would be an understatement.
His book describes five distinct ‘love languages’ that identify how people ‘feel loved.’ The premise: in order to love others the best we can, we must learn about the five love languages and discover the main love language of the people in our family. Once that’s known, we can speak their language regularly and intentionally so they will effectively feel loved. Brilliant.
It’s important to understand that all of the languages are important and need to be spoken. However, each person has one or two main languages they speak. And if we aren’t speaking that love language to them, then they aren’t really feelin’ the love and aren’t truly understanding how we’re trying to show them our love for them.
In order to love our families the best we can, and to change the world in the process, we’ve got to speak the language of love. Here are the 5 love languages:
Gift Giving | Acts of Service | Physical Touch | Words of Affirmation | Quality Time
It is imperative to figure out what love language speaks clearly to you. If you’re pretty sure what yours is, great. But we encourage you to take the simple and free survey of 30 questions in order to further clarify your love language. It only takes about 15 minutes and will be incredibly helpful to the relationships in your family. Once you’ve finished, we encourage you to have your spouse and children take the short survey as well. You can find the survey here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
Once your family knows their primary love languages, we highly recommend you write them down and post them on your refrigerator or somewhere prominent as a reminder to everyone. Because it’s easy to find out your language – it’s another thing to remember to speak fluently to your family – in a language they understand.
Here are the languages and how to speak them fluently.
- Quality Time: Quality time is simply time spent with someone who really values it. It’s focused, unhurried time where you are often one on one with them and have no distractions. It’s really important to remember that quality time is birthed out of quantity time. That means you can’t just decide to have 30 minutes of quality time. It’s more realistic to carve out three hours together and hope that a good 15-30 minutes of real quality jumps out. It makes sense that scheduling this time is imperative. And when you speak this language, the time you spend will be greatly appreciated, return great dividends, and cause the recipient to feel amazingly loved by you.
- Gift Giving: This one is super simple. When you give this person a gift, they feel loved. You can give gifts of all values. It’s more the act of giving the gift and giving it randomly that makes it special. Give them a gift just because you love them… with no strings attached. As stated, the price of the gift is not as important as the idea that you thought about them and selected a gift for them. It’s a generosity thing. It could be flowers, a new CD, Tshirt, book, balloon, even a handmade card or special trinket. When you give gifts to a person who has this as their primary love language, they will feel your love very deeply inside. It may not make much sense to you, but receiving gifts is vital to the relationship.
- Physical Touch: The gift of physical touch is way more than just sex… whether you’re married or not. There are all sorts of ways to speak this language in a healthy and appropriate way. If you are married, sex can be an important ‘conversation’ involving this gift but there are many other ways to speak it. You could hold their hand, give them a back or neck rub, put your hand on their thigh, cuddle and so much more. If your child speaks this language, have them sit on your lap, hug them all the time, and maybe lay with them for a few minutes at bedtime. Touching someone with this language makes them feel loved and fills their tank. But rest assured, this is an easy one to forget. To speak this language effectively, it takes regular intentionality.
- Words of Affirmation: When you speak words of affirmation, it’s like being a cheerleader for the recipient. A great way to do this is by complimenting them with genuine affirmation. You can tell them how great they are at something specific or something you’re thankful for about them. And if you want to exponentially share your love, affirm them in front of someone else. A word of caution – never add a call to action or discipline to your words of affirmation… nothing negative. Don’t say something like, “I love you so much. Now, please take out the trash.” Never add strings to your compliment or appreciation. But you authentically share a word of affirmation to someone who has this love language, they will hear loud and clear and their love tank will fill up.
- Acts of Service: When you serve someone by doing a task for them, it will show your deep love for them. This language takes time and intentionality as well. Some would call it work. By serving the one you love by doing something for them, without being told, will speak volumes of your love for them. You could make their bed, bring them a cup of fresh coffee, do a household chore without being reminded, or doing one of their household chores without being asked. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a small or big way to serve them. People who have this as their primary love language need you to serve them. And when you do, they will feel your love very deeply.
Here is a very strong encouragement and warning. While it’s important to know and speak all five of the languages, people in your family need you to consistently speak their primary language. The tendency and natural inclination you will find is that you repeatedly try to show your love to them by speaking YOUR love language. Let’s say, for example, you have words of affirmation as your primary love language and you constantly shower amazing words of affirmation to your spouse but their love language is gift giving. Well, while they will appreciate your kind words, they won’t feel very loved by you. If you could just stop with the talk and go out and pick some flowers in the field next door, arrange them in a nice bouquet, and present them to your spouse with a five dollar starbucks card – BOOM! They’re gonna feel it way more than all the words of affirmation.
Go home and love your family. It’s as simple as that. Home is where we love and the Love Languages are how we love. But it takes effort and intentionality. Set some small goals and don’t look back to the past. Your past doesn’t define you. What’s done is done. You can’t change it. But you can affect change on your future. What matters is where you’re going.
Family With Purpose believes in you. We believe every couple and every family can be healthier. They just often need some hacks and helps along the way. Some creative tools to make it happen. We’re here to help. We know you can do this. You really can. It’s all about love.
Let’s change the world by taking Mother Teresa’s wisdom to heart. Go home and love your family well. Just think, if we ALL did this, our world would truly a better place. But it starts with US – going home and loving our families!
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