Confession: When I was presented with the chance to participate in a launch team for an updated version of The Language of Love and receive an advance reader copy of the book, I was SO EXCITED because…I thought it was The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. My husband Chuck’s first wife – for crying out loud – gifted us a copy of the later for a wedding gift and it really helped us understand each other in the early stages of our marriage. But alas, this is not that book, and I couldn’t be happier about my error. Had I not read of this opportunity with what was obviously only a millimeter of my attention, I might not have read this incredible book. And it is incredible.
The Language of Love by Gary SMALLEY (See my mistake there? Yeah, ok. Maybe it’s just me.) and John Trent teaches the valuable concept of using word pictures in communication to be “instantly understood”. According to the authors, “Studies show that when we hear a word picture, our brains work faster and expend much more energy than while reading or listening to conventional words.” So what is a word picture? From the book: “An emotional word picture is a communication tool that uses a story or object to activate simultaneously the emotions and intellect of a person. In so doing, it causes the hearer to experience our words, not just hear them.” A simple example from the book is comparing anger to starting a fire inside your house. “It should be rarely indulged. And if it ignites, it should be extinguished. And soon. Or it can consume you and the whole house.” When using an example such as this, one can clearly communicate to another the danger of letting one’s anger get out of control. The word picture can pack a much bigger emotional and cerebral punch than the more straightforward, “It hurts my feelings when you get angry.”
Feelings are so abstract and can often mean different things to different people. They can even change meanings according to situations. The word “love” can mean “enjoy” – as in, I “love” ice cream. Or it can mean deep emotional commitment as it pertains to familial or romantic relationships. I know personally understanding my own feelings at times poses enough of a challenge without trying to explain them to someone else. That’s where word pictures come to the rescue. With the ability to associate an abstract emotion to a more concrete thing or situation, we can make more sense of it for ourselves – and often others. For example, the poem “Welcome to Holland” is a well-known word picture in the community of special needs parents. The author Emily Perl Kingsley likened the experience of this type of parenting to planning for a trip to Italy, where all your friends are going, but instead getting off the plane in Holland. It’s not awful. In fact, it’s beautiful, but not what you expected. And none of your friends are there. And furthermore, to enjoy it you have to let the dream of Italy die. I love the poem because it explains better than I ever could how the journey with my daughter is both painful and beautiful.
The authors of this book also point to the Bible as a source of significant word pictures. The writers used parables and other such illustrations to help us better understand God’s great affection for us. Our finite minds could never even begin to comprehend His infinite, limitless, unconditional love without the stories that Jesus and others teach us through scripture. “From evangelism to discipleship, from encouragement to correction, word pictures help us strengthen our own spiritual lives. And perhaps as an added benefit, they can help us pass that life on to others.”
Whether you seek better interactions with friends, co-workers, children or your spouse, The Language of Love offers practical help. And as a bonus, I found the word picture practice to be super helpful for my creative writing! The update of this book comes out on April 17, but you can pre-order it today here! (This is an affiliate link, so if you order this book, or anything else after clicking on it, I get a few cents to help off-set my website hosting costs. Thanks!)