Being Other-Centered

In Chapter Two of “God Speaks Your Love Language”, Dr. Chapman writes about words of affirmation.

We all get his point that God’s words in the Bible are affirming.

In addition, some of us use words of affirmation as our love language gift to others.

Furthermore, some of us respond very well to words of affirmation that we receive as a gift from others.

I am going to tell you something you already know:  communication is the process of sending and receiving messages.  Gifting someone with words of affirmation is sending.  Responding to the gift of words of affirmation from others is receiving.

Let me tell you another idea you probably already know:  self-centeredness is a major stumbling block in the whole communication process.

However, let’s be honest and admit the irony.  It is very natural to be self-centered.

1.someone is talking to you and they are expressing very important ideas in their life but you wander off somewhere else in your mind. get approached on the street by someone who asks you for a dollar.  You don’t have just a dollar and you shake your head no and walk on.

3.your child asks you to play a game and you have this big project at work that is consuming you.   You can’t take time to play a game and you say “later son”.

4.your spouse has had a hard day and you have had one too.  You know you should give her some special attention [“pampering”] but you sit down on the couch, turn on your favorite show and “veg out”.

Does all this sound familiar?  It should.  We have all done things like this from time to time, but you might be asking, how does this really relate to Chapter Two?

Here’s how:  the communication you could have with another will be all jammed up if you are a person who uses words of affirmation and you assume that everyone needs your words.  They don’t.

Communication can also be jammed up if you are a person who responds well to words of affirmation and you expect people around you to give you the affirming words you need.  They won’t.

What is the key to making some moves in the right direction?

Be “other centered.”

This takes work.  The reason for all the work is that each of us has a perspective and it is unique.  None of us views the world exactly like another.  To understand the mental framework of another person takes empathy and imagination and some of us just don’t have that.  It takes work.

Can I get personal?

I am married and my wife knows I scored high on words of affirmation.  Does that mean she should use words of affirmation on me?


Not unless she wants to and she may have a multitude of reasons for not wanting to.

Let’s bring all this discussion to cold, hard reality.  Maybe she does not have the gift of affirming others.  If that be the case, I should not expect to get affirming words from her unless she works hard to become an affirmer.  Maybe she has this fear that I will get an inflated ego if I get affirmed too much.  That fear will keep her from affirming me.   Maybe she is in her own “me universe” and is not paying attention to me or anybody.  She is only thinking about herself.  That certainly will keep me from getting my words of affirmation.  The list goes on and on; reasons that this love language stuff will not work.

Again, a key element that Dr. Chapman does not discuss that will make it all work is “other-centeredness,” the opposite of self-centeredness.

It is the deliberate change of thought from “me” to others.  It is no longer thinking about what I need but one begins to consider what does the other person need?  What will make them happy?  For the person who thrives on words of affirmation, Chapman says that hearing the affirming words  “I love you,” are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward”.

You can’t force another person to give you this gift.  If you force another person to give you what you need, it is no longer a gift.  They have responded to your demand.

In my mind, this is what makes the gift of Jesus so hard for all of us to understand.  He is a gift from God “without strings.”  We needed Him to be with us to show us the way and He knew it.

And we struggle every day to understand how God could be so “other-centered.”

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