One of the most helpful books on relationships is Gary Chapman’s, The Five Love Languages. One of the five he describes is the love language of “encouraging words.” While some people may really live on encouragement, any relationship will experience improvement in an environment of compliment, encouragement and appreciation.
These are what I call “grace words.” As the word grace implies, these are words that we give.
The beauty of this principle is that it not only affects the recipient, but it causes the giver of grace to look for opportunities.
Looking is a skill. It is part of being intentional about love. It is not merely responsive, but inherently proactive.
Let’s take each of these three types of “love expressed in words without actually saying love” separately.
WORDS OF COMPLIMENT
First, let’s consider words of compliment. We are not talking about flattery. Flattery is used to manipulate. But compliments are genuine, verbally recognizing what is true about someone. When I tell my wife that her green linen blouse looks really nice with her red hair, I am expressing outwardly what I am thinking inwardly.
Compliments simply say out loud what you are thinking.
This is so important in marriage because there is so much that we could say, but don’t. We just think it. However, our spouses are not telepathic (although some husbands would argue this point!).
To receive a compliment from your spouse is to receive love from your spouse. To give a compliment to your spouse it to give love to your spouse. So simple. But so powerful.
If you have children, the impact of a compliment is felt exponentially when the compliment is made in front of your children, regardless of how old they are.
This also applies when the compliment is in front of friends.
The more public the compliment, the more powerful the impact.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Second, let’s consider words of encouragement. Obviously, encouragement is closely related to compliment, but differs in that encouragement is spoken in recognition of a task well done or in the face of discouragement, in a moment when a spouse may feel like a failure or may be tempted to give up on something for which he or she is genuinely gifted or called.
Encouragement is a unique form of grace. It is grace because it contains a strengthening quality. It brings power to weakness.
When the apostle Paul was at a very low point, weak and discouraged, Jesus spoke a word of grace to sustain him – to strengthen Paul, enabling him to press on in his calling.
This is what encouragement does. It strengthens. It builds up. The implications for a marriage relationship are more than obvious.
If marriage is breaking down. Starting to encourage in even small ways can help the process of building it back up – strengthening the marriage in foundational ways by re-establishing trust and that “he is for me.”
WORDS OF APPRECIATION
Third, let’s consider words of appreciation. Again, appreciation is closely related to both compliment and encouragement. These are words, like compliments, that often are thought, but rarely spoken.
Words of appreciation are words expressed in super-complicated phrases such as, wait for it… “thank you.”
Look, I told you these principles were simple. Simple but powerful.
Words really are like plutonium. It doesn’t take much of that radioactive material to make a difference. The same thing is true with appreciation.
- “Thank you so much for dinner. It was really good.”
- “Thank you for taking the garbage out without me asking. I really appreciate your initiative.”
- “Thank you for picking up the milk on your way home.”
- “Thank you for paying the bills. Taking care of that for us is such a blessing to me.”
See, we are talking simple things.
But we know that when someone recognizes even the small things with appreciation, it motivates us to press on and acts like a relational magnetic, drawing two people closer together because of the verbal grace that is being extended.
Interestingly as well is that fact that as we compliment, encourage and appreciate, we sow life-changing motivation into the recipient of these grace words.
This is how a theology of grace works in the Bible. The more we hear God’s words of grace, the more we are not only drawn to him relationally, but also, we are strengthened spiritually and motivated to follow his wisdom and his ways
Apply This Principle Today
While this should be a no brainer, here are some ways that you can apply the power of grace words.
Compliment your spouse today. Remember, don’t flatter. Look, see beauty or virtue, and recognize it out loud with a compliment.
Encourage your spouse today. What has him down? What has she done well today? Speak courage words. Reinforce his calling. Let her know that what she is doing is important and that you are proud of her.
Show appreciation to your spouse today. A simple thank you will do.
If you think through these three kinds of grace words and begin speaking them every day, I guarantee you the quality of your relationship will begin to improve in a dramatic way
The Power of Grace Words – Discussion Guide
- Why are grace words so powerful?
- How does it make you feel to receive a compliment, encouragement or appreciation?
- What is the difference between a compliment and flattery?
- How can grace words becomes tools of manipulation?
- Why do we often resist using grace words, or keeping them to ourselves?
- Discuss the statement, “Grace changes everything.”