The 6th Love Language: I Hope You Are Ready For This One!

The Background

Most Christians are probably familiar with the 5 love languages made especially popular by the 1995 Gary Chapman book of the same name. If you are not, here are the five: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch. Sounds great. So, what’s missing?

Although The 5 Love Languages was written over twenty years ago, the list is indicative of more recent trends that had only just begun at the time the book was written. Love, which carries a great many meanings, has generally been relegated to a soft, tender, and unrelentingly positive emotion or sensation. For more on the definition of love, see our short video, here.

In short, the problem for Christians, and I would suggest the world at large, is that this modern love is not the love of the Bible. A closer look at Jesus’ relationships suggests that Jesus had at least one crucial value and expression of love that seems to be left out of our modern understanding and activity. Without further ado… The 6th love language: Corrective Criticism.

The Giver

A pattern emerges when we look at Jesus’ life and the way He loved those around Him. Jesus was, for lack of a better word, harsh. He was constantly correcting His disciples, His family, His friends, and even the enemies that He commanded us to love. Interestingly, we are so culturally averse to criticism, that when I went to study this, most blog posts and even some academic sources that I generally respect, pretended that Jesus was only harsh to the religious leaders. This simply isn’t true.

Consider some examples:

Jesus to His mother:  “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” (I submit to you that Jesus’ use of “woman” was not disrespectful as it may sound in our modern cultural milieu, but this is not the time to extrapolate.)

Jesus to Peter: “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things that are of God, but those that are of men(Mt 16:23).’”

Jesus to James and John: “But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of (Lk 9:55).’”

Jesus to Martha: Paraphrasing, Jesus told her to be more like her sister in Luke 10:40-42

Jesus to all 11 remaining disciples: “Afterward He appeared to the eleven as they sat at supper, and He reprimanded them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen (Mk 16:14).”

Jesus to those in tragedy and mourning: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (13:5).”

Jesus’ first words to Paul (after temporarily blinding him. I might add): “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?… ”

Hebrews 12:6 brings the point home for us: “Whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

The Receiver

But it wasn’t just Jesus who viewed corrective criticism as a love language. Though ultimately inspired by the Holy Spirit and directed through God’s sovereignty, the New Testament was written by men – primarily Jesus’ family, friends, followers, and even an ex-enemy who was responsible for the bulk of the NT writings (Paul). Interestingly enough, the (earthly) reason that we have access to all of the above-mentioned rebukes is that those closest to Jesus chose to share them with us. After Jesus left, these were the words that stuck with them. When they were recounting their experience with their Lord and Savior, His criticisms of them are one of the primary expressions of love that they chose to burn into the annals of time.

Closing Thoughts: What Then?

The message is clear: correction is a love language. We should probably take this thing slowly to avoid irreparably damaging relationships, but we should go with it nonetheless. We must learn to both give and receive feedback that may not always be what we want to hear. If we care about being correct, then we must be willing to be corrected. Start taking some small steps with those you love. See if they are willing to create a safe environment where you can begin helping one another move forward by correcting error when it arises. WWJD? Jesus would tell those that He loved when they were wrong and we should do the same.

Like, share, and leave a comment. What do you think? Should corrective criticism be the 6th love language?

6 Comments
  • Cj
    Posted at 15:23h, 01 May Reply

    While I would definitely agree that Jesus did correct those He loved and we should do the same in gentleness, I would not classify it as a love language. The point of the love languages is that a person feels deeply loved when their particular language is spoken as opposed to others of the five. Should my husband give me a gift, I would be appreciative and thankful, but a gift does not make me ‘feel’ as deeply loved as when he fills up my gas tank on a damp, cold morning without my even mentioning it needed filling. My primary love languages are acts of service and quality time. I would hopefully receive a correction with humility and grace, but I’m pretty sure it is not what floats my boat in the warm fuzzies feeling loved department. In fact, I would find it very strange if you could find anyone who felt it was a language which made them feel loved by others. Did Peter feel loved when he was called Satan? But I do get your point and for those of us who prefer to avoid confrontation (Danny Silk would call us “lying cowards” in his book, “Keep Your Love On”) it is a needed reminder to keep working at it as an act of Christ like love.

    • admin
      Posted at 17:32h, 01 May Reply

      Hey Cj. Appreciate the comments. I definitely understand what you are saying. Interestingly enough, myself and several of my friends actually do feel that this is a love language that speaks to us. I can’t speak for them, but for me, you are correct that it does not give me the warm and fuzzies. But while it may not make me feel good right away, I am aware of the fact that for someone to take the time and energy to correct me in a loving way, they may well be showing love. Even more, I not only receive this way, but also give love that way as well. Confrontation can be very draining for both parties, but ultimately should be restorative. I wouldn’t expose myself to such drain and risk if I did not love someone. It’s much easier to be a “lying coward.” I had one person message me privately telling me how much the article meant to them, because they had been ill-treated for saying that he received love in this way. All of this raises the question(s), “Does it have to have to give the ‘warm and fuzzies’ to be a love language? Does an action have to make someone ‘feel deeply loved’ for it to be a love language? Or is it possible that rather than being feeling based, this type of love language strikes at something deeper, beyond the emotional response?”

  • Cj
    Posted at 19:56h, 01 May Reply

    Well, I will certainly chew on this thought and new perspective and it may be that I will come around to it (as I am wont to do after some time of contemplation) .. I appreciate the article and love when I am provoked to think deeper about something .. full disclosure, I very recently had to give this type of gentle correction to a young woman I had been discipling and she not only did not receive it well at all, but decided she no longer wanted to be discipled or go to our church and had extraordinarily critical things to say to the pastor about his sermons and leadership as well as mine. I’m still struggling with the entire experience (tho having worked with young people for years, this experience was unique), so that is perhaps the lens which caused me to not see this as a love language. But thank you for your perspective and I know I truly do appreciate your thoughts and writing! blessings!!

    • admin
      Posted at 20:58h, 01 May Reply

      Thanks CJ. That definitely sounds disappointing. We are so far removed from a healthy culture of correction that it often doesn’t work out as we would hope. I pray we can create some momentum behind it though and lift each other in various types of encouragement – love language or not. Stay in touch and keep us posted!

  • Bernadette Beyer
    Posted at 05:05h, 02 May Reply

    just read Hebrews 12 this morning and Gods word is very clere about us being called to be pure and that He disciplines those He loves,.so as much as we dont like it….”without holiness no one will see the Lord!” verse 14

    So u see, there is ni option….its.constant pulling ourselves closer to Him in everything we do

    • admin
      Posted at 07:26h, 07 May Reply

      Thanks so much for the comment Bernadette! Amen!

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