I was recently able to spend a few days with my newest goddaughter who is only a few months old. As I spent time with her and her parents, I was reminded of a realization I had a few years ago. Babies are the easiest to shower in all five “love languages.”
The five love languages are words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, gifts, and quality time. Simply by nature, normal parents will be quite generous with each of these toward their children, particularly babies.
My friend Maria was continually cooing over her daughter, affirming how good and beautiful she was. It wasn’t something that she had to earn–her parents were quite taken with her as she did everyday things like eat, sleep, and giggle. And, what is more, they told her how pleased they were.
Babies are often fought over, as people will stand in line to take a turn holding the baby. At times, beyond needing a diaper changed or food given, babies will cry simply because they desire to be held close to someone.
Acts of service are a pure necessity with babies because, unlike most other animals, humans are born in a state of vulnerability that lasts quite a long time. They must be carried for several months, feed, bathed, and attended to in many other ways.
While often of a practical nature, babies have gifts showered upon them in the form of clothes, accessories, almost entirely frivolous shoes, and toys.
Finally, by their very being, babies require quality time. In part, because so many things must be done for them, but also because they need to be held, to hear a loving voice, and to be consoled.
Despite the ease of loving babies well, I find it quite difficult for that to transfer to the rest of humanity. With my students and co-workers, it is far harder to shower such generous love in all five ways. But recalling that this overflowing of love is necessary for the little ones made me wonder: what would happen if it was attempted in small ways for the more mature? What might happen if I daily affirmed my students in small ways, just for being them?
Babies have affection poured over them for being beautiful, for burping, for smiling, for rolling over, for sleeping through the night, and the list goes on and on. If there is any time in life when we are able to be acknowledged as good simply for being alive it is found predominantly in our infancy. As we age, it becomes much harder to receive praise and affirmation. It quickly becomes something we must work to earn, which often makes us believe that we need to earn the Lord’s love. While that is untrue, there is often this interesting tension between the goodness in our being and the goodness that ought to come from us as we live from that true identity.
So what does all of this mean? Well, for me it means I want to work at affirming the goodness of the people around me, for their large and small contributions. When I encounter difficulties with students, I want to attempt to speak truth to them, to praise them authentically for the beauty and goodness they uniquely bring into the world. I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, but I am eager to try and see what it does in the lives of people I daily encounter. Words of affirmation don’t come naturally, but God’s grace is sufficient.
Pray for all the students and teachers headed back to school.
And pray for me–if you’ve journeyed with me on this blog for very long at all, you know that I need it.