Have you ever had an unexpressed need or desire, maybe even one you didn’t realize you had until someone satisfied it for you?

I’m convinced we all do.

My sister recently gave me a present for no particular reason, something she had seen in a gift shop that instantly reminded her of me: a small gift book that “celebrated” me. Each page had a darling illustration and sentence that supposedly described me (or whoever was given the book).

Though my sister thought she was simply giving me a happy little book of encouragement, she was actually gifting me with something far greater: she met this innate need of mine to be seen and known, and loved and appreciated despite my imperfections.

For less than $10, she refueled my tank with hi-octane.

We all have the capacity to do this for those we care about, but how often do we follow through? Without thoughtful intention, it won’t happen.

Within the context of family and close friendships, eventually, I’m afraid it’s all too easy for us to take one another for granted. Early in marriage and when our children are young, it’s natural to nurture and encourage.  But over time, while familiarity among your family members doesn’t necessarily breed contempt, it can breed a wearisomeness or insensitivity which, left unchecked, can lead to complacency about “tank filling”.

What speaks love to those closest to you?

It’s important to remember not everyone expresses and receives love the same way you do.  One tool that has helped me tremendously in marriage, parenting, and friendship is identifying each person’s love language and doing my best to “speak” in their native tongue.

I was introduced to Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages early in marriage and it has served me well to remember them ever since.


My husband and three children each have a different love language; if I only expressed love the way I best receive it, three out of four of them would be left wanting. It would be like filling a gas tank with water–it might be full but it wouldn’t do a thing for that car. In fact, it might damage it.

People want to be noticed and appreciated. Though we shouldn’t live for the approval of others, we should be generous with our affirmation of the people we care about.

It is life-giving to my husband and children when I speak praise and acknowledgment so they can hear it.

Certainly we can all do this with our words, but if service is your child’s love language, it adds an important dimension to do something for him. If quality time is your spouse’s language, hiking a trail might be the way to accomplish it.

When our loved ones detect how well we’re paying attention, it fuels their tank. When we demonstrate love by speaking their native tongue, it’s oxygen.

It might look like a little gift book to me but it might be a bear hug for you.

Tell me about a gift you’ve received that expressed the giver’s depth in knowing, accepting and/or loving you. Or, can you think of a time when someone tried to speak love to you in their primary love language, but it left you running on empty?