February 15-16, 2003
Can You Hear Me Now?
Part 2: Quality Time
Happy Valentines Day weekend! What is your Valentine’s wish? It varies greatly from person to person, depending on your love language. Which of these describes you?
- Some people want words. Whisper sweet nothings in my ear, or write them down in a card—but it’s the words that count. Tell me that you love me.
- Others want a gift: a box of chocolates—fat free, of course—or flowers or power tools. It’s the thought that counts, but for some people, the thought is best expressed in a gift.
- Some of you appreciate an act of service: prepare a special meal, or do the clean up afterwards, or serve me breakfast in bed, or clean the whole house as a surprise.
- For others, it’s physical touch. These other things are all great, but when you touch me, that’s when I feel loved. There might have been some touching going on Friday night!
- And some of you want quality time. Take me out to dinner and a movie, spend the day or evening with me just hanging out and having fun—being together. That’s the love language we’re going to talk about today.
We’re going to look at practical ways to love people by spending quality time with them.
“I need you to talk to me.” “And I need you to be here.” Would anyone like to guess what their love language might be? Quality time.
Would anyone like to guess what the biggest enemy of intimacy is in our day? Busyness. We get so busy doing things—good things—that our relationships suffer. We don’t have time for our spouses, or our kids, or our families or friends. The pace of life is so fast, and when we finally slow down, we’re so tired that the time we spend together doesn’t seem like quality time. It takes time to build great relationships, and that is especially true if quality time your love language.
This series of talks is based on Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. In this helpful book, Dr. Chapman states that we all have a preferred method of expressing and receiving love. When someone loves us the way we prefer to be loved, our love tank fills up. We feel loved and happy. But if someone loves us in a different language, in a way other than our preferred way, we may not get the message. I can tell my wife I love her, but if I say in English and she speaks Swahili, she doesn’t get the message and doesn’t feel loved. Dr. Chapman says that while there are thousands of dialects, there are five primary love languages.
- Words of affirmation.
- Quality time.
- Receiving gifts.
- Acts of service.
- Physical touch.
Learning to speak others’ love languages will dramatically improve our relationships. If my child needs quality time, and I love by giving gifts, my kid may not feel loved. So our goal is to become multi-lingual in love! We want to build our skills and be able to love others the way they want and need to be loved.
But first, let me clear up something.
1. Love is doing what is best for others no matter what it costs you.
I probably should have said this last weekend at the very beginning. It’s important to define your terms so that everyone is on the same page. Let’s do some word association: what do you think of when you hear the word “love”?
- Feelings: falling in love.
- Sex: making love.
- A zero score in tennis.
We use one word for many things. I love my wife, and I love my kids. Do I love my kids differently than I love my wife? Yes, but we use the same word. I love lasagna, and I love my friends. Do I love lasagna differently than I love my friends? Yes, but we use the same word.
So when I say that we want to learn how to better love people, in the way that they need to be loved, what do I mean—love them like lasagna or Laina? What do I mean by love?
Love is doing what is best for others no matter what it costs you. Where did I get that definition of love? From the Bible.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
1 John 4:9-10 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
All of these verses say the same thing: if you want to know what love is, look at the cross where Jesus died. This is love; this is the ultimate and clearest expression of love. God gave His Son; Jesus gave His life…for you. That’s love.
When Jesus was dying for you, I don’t think He was feeling any romantic feelings; I think He was feeling pain. But that’s love. Love does what is best for others no matter what it costs you. Jesus did what is best for you, and it cost Him everything. It cost Him His life. That’s love.
We confuse romance, sex and love. You meet someone “special,” and you get dizzy, your pulse quickens, your palms get sweaty, and you get short of breath—pant, pant, pant. Hey, you could run around the building three times and feel that way! That’s not love, that’s infatuation or romance.
People say they fall in love. They talk about love like it is an accident, something totally out of our control. It’s like falling off your bike—no one plans on doing it, but you hit a curb or something and down you go. But love isn’t an accident, it’s a choice. It’s not something you fall into, it’s something you build on purpose.
Romance is fun. It’s a wonderful feeling. But like all feelings, it comes and goes. Dr. Chapman says, “The average life span of a romantic obsession is two years.” And then, he says, you wake up to reality. The rose colored glasses come off, and the hard work of real love begins. “We need to recognize the ‘in-love’ experience for what it is—a temporary emotional high—and pursue real love.”
The good news is that best way to keep the feelings of romance alive is by building real love. When you do loving things, when you do what’s best for others no matter what it costs you, you nurture loving feelings. Feelings are responses to external stimuli. You can’t command feelings, but you can encourage them by doing what’s best for others.
So love is doing what’s best for others no matter what it costs you. That’s why we learn love languages. People have different “best ways” to be loved. All five love languages are good ways to love, but each of us has preferences, what we like best. Sometimes loving a friend or a spouse in his language costs us. It’s hard for us, not our native language, and we have to work hard to learn it.
That will be the case for some of you with this second love language.
2. Love Language #2: Quality time.
The words “quality time” have been misused in our overworked culture. We talk about making sure our kids get “quality time” and we mean that we may not be around much, but when we’re there, we make it count.
ILL: Bill Cage realized he hadn’t been spending as much time with his girls as he wanted. After apologizing he said, “You know, it’s not always important the quantity of time we spend together, as it is the quality of time we spend together.” Kristen, 6, and Madison, 4, didn’t quite understand. Bill further explained, “Quantity means how much time, and quality means how good the times we spend together are. Which would you rather have?”
Not missing a beat, Kristen replied, “Quality time—and a lot of it!”
I can guess what her love language is! If you have a spouse or kids or friends whose love language is quality time, they want lots of it!
I was thinking this week about where this love language shows up in the Bible, and I thought of some interesting examples.
Mark 3:13-15 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15and to have authority to drive out demons.
Jesus chose and called his 12 disciples—the 12 men that He was going to train and entrust with His entire enterprise. He had a big job for them, but what was job one? To be with Jesus. To hang out with Jesus. Quality time—and lots of it—to build a relationship. Jesus wanted quality time with His friends.
Luke 10:38-42 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus stopped by Mary and Martha’s house, and what did Mary do? Sat at His feet and listened. And when Martha wanted to pull her away, what did Jesus say? “Mary has chosen what is better, and I won’t take it away from her.” What were Jesus and Mary sharing? Quality time—and Jesus clearly valued it.
Mark 6:31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
It was so busy that Jesus and the guys didn’t even have time to eat. So Jesus invites them: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Come with me—let’s go get some rest together. It was an invitation to some quality time.
Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Jesus wrote this to the Laodicean church. He was knocking on their door, waiting for them to invite Him in. And what would they do? Eat together. In Jesus’ culture, sharing a meal was quality time, a leisurely time of conversation. It’s an invitation that Jesus extends to you too—He wants to spend quality time with you.
What is quality time and how do we give it?
A. Quality time: giving someone your focused attention.
Quality time is giving someone your focused attention. It is togetherness, but more than just a physical sharing of the same space. It is an emotional togetherness. You can be in the same room with another person physically, but not be there emotionally. You can be present in body, but absent mentally and emotionally. That’s not quality time. Quality time is togetherness, focused attention, being fully engaged with the other person mentally and emotionally.
You can play with your child, and it can be quality time—you are focused on your child. But if you’re talking on the phone to a client while you’re playing with your child, that’s not quality time. That’s sick! Quality time is togetherness, it is focused, being fully engaged.
You can talk with your spouse, and if you look her in the eye, and give her your undivided attention, that’s quality time. But if you talk with her while you’re reading the paper or a news magazine or watching a game on TV, you’re not getting any credit for quality time, bucko! Nada, zero!
ILL: Have you ever watched couples in a restaurant? Some couples are engaged in conversation, talking animatedly, listening intently, touching often. I’ve also seen couples who hardly speak, eat in silence, staring out a window or across the restaurant. They’re sharing a meal, but that’s all—no quality time. They’re not engaged, connected, focused on each other.
What makes it quality time is what happens on an emotional level. Are you together? Are you focused? Are you engaged? Are you connecting on an emotional level? That’s quality time.
And there are basically two ways to do it.
B. Quality conversation: sharing your thoughts and feelings.
The first form of quality time is quality conversation: sharing your thoughts and feelings with each other. Again, it’s what happens on an emotional level that makes it quality time. I can have a conversation with you that never goes deeper than polite observations about the weather or our favorite sports team. It’s safe, but not very satisfying. We talked, but we didn’t engage or connect. Quality conversations go beyond polite small talk, or just reporting on events, to honest sharing of our thoughts and feelings.
ILL: Communication theorist Deborah Tannen observes that when men and women refer to “conversation,” they might not be talking about the same thing at all:
Students in my class on gender differences recorded casual conversations between women friends and men friends. It was easy to get recordings of women friends talking, partly because the request to “record a conversation with your friend” met with easy compliance from the students’ female friends and family members. But asking men to record conversations with their friends had mixed results. One woman agreed readily, but her husband insisted that he didn’t have conversations with his friends.
“Don’t you ever call Fred on the phone?” she asked, naming a man she knew to be his good friend.
“Not often,” he said. “But if I do, it’s because I have something to ask, and when I get the answer, I hang up.”
Another woman’s husband delivered a tape to her with great satisfaction and pride. “This is a good conversation,” he announced, “because it’s not just him and me shooting the breeze, like, ‘Hi, how are you? I saw a good movie the other day,’ and stuff. It’s a problem-solving task. Each line is meaningful.”
When the woman listened to the tape, she heard her husband and his friend trying to solve a computer problem. Not only did she not consider it “a good conversation,” she didn’t really regard it as a conversation at all.
His idea of a good conversation was one with factual, task-focused content. Hers was one with personal content.
Now this is not true all the time, but often men talk to solve problems and women talk to be heard and understood. I remember the first time this dawned on me.
ILL: Laina and I had been married about five years. One evening, we had a little disagreement—I heard someone this week describe it as “intense fellowship”. She tried to tell me about something that bothered her and rather than listening sympathetically, I had rattled off solutions: “Well that’s easy; do this.” This ended with her in tears and me sitting there frustrated with my arms crossed. Finally, she looked at me through her tears and said, “Why don’t you hold me?” As I held her and she cried softly, the Lord whispered to me, “She needs your shoulder not your mouth.” I knew what He meant. She wanted to be heard and understood, not treated like a problem to be solved. She wanted me to listen and understand, not give her advice.
Men talk to solve problems, women talk to be heard and understood. So ladies, we need a little coaching and help with this. Here are some tips.
1. Learning to listen.
Most of us, when we’re in conversation, are more focused on talking than listening. But good conversation starts with good listening. And, as I just said, many people whose love language is quality time want to be heard. So we’ve got to learn to listen. Give that person your ear, or when needed a shoulder to cry on, and not your mouth. Some tips on good listening:
- Maintain eye contact. When my children were little, they would take my face in their hands and hold it so I had to look at them. Eye contact says, “I’m focused on you.”
- Don’t multi-task! Don’t try to do something else while you listen. Put down your paper, turn off the TV or computer. Focus!
- Listen for feelings, not just facts. Ask yourself, “What emotions is this person feeling now?” Then ask them for confirmation. “It sounds to me like you’re feeling __________?”
- Watch body language. Their words may say one thing and their body another. Ask for clarification.
- Refuse to interrupt. Recent research indicates that on average, a person listens for only 17 seconds before interrupting and interjecting his own ideas.
- Feedback. Tell the other person what you hear them saying. This shows that you are listening and trying to understand, and also gives the other person a chance to clarify if you’re not getting it.
The goal of good listening is to understand the other person. If they feel understood, that is quality conversation, and their love tank fills up.
ILL: Charles Swindoll writes:
I vividly remember some time back being caught in the undertow of too many commitments in too few days. It wasn’t long before I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions through the day. Before long, things around our home started reflecting the pattern of my hurry-up style. It was becoming unbearable.
I distinctly recall after supper one evening the words of our younger daughter, Colleen. She wanted to tell me about something important that had happened to her at school that day. She hurriedly began, “Daddy-I-wanna-tell-you-somethin’-and-I’ll-tell-you-really-fast.”
Realizing her frustration, I answered, “Honey, you can tell me … and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly.”
I’ll never forget her answer: “Then Daddy, listen slowly.”
Quality conversation involves learning to listen, and learning to talk.
2. Learning to talk.
The secret here is self-revelation. If your love language is quality time and conversation, and those closest to you are not big talkers, this can be a problem. Many women report that they just can’t get their husbands to talk. Teenagers often answer their parents’ questions with monosyllabic answers. “How was school?” “Fine.” Maybe you are the closed mouth type. Your philosophy is, “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Or, “A closed mouth gathers no feet.” Dr. Chapman says that there are basically two types of people in the world: those who think there are two types of people and those who don’t. No.
The first type he calls the “Dead Sea.” In Israel, the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea, but there is no outlet. A Dead Sea receives but doesn’t give. A Dead Sea receives experiences and input all day, but is perfectly content not to talk. “How was your day?” Fine. “What’s wrong.” Nothing.
The second type he calls the “Babbling Brook.” Whatever enters the ear gate or eye gate comes out the mouth gate, usually within 60 seconds. Babbling Brooks love to talk. If there is no one to talk with, they may talk to themselves! Usually, Babbling Brooks marry Dead Seas. And it’s a good match! The good news is that a Babbling Brook can learn to listen and a Dead Sea can learn to talk.
But if you are a Dead Sea, then this will be a hard language for you to learn, and will require lots of practice. Start by talking about the facts: what happened. Then go to your thoughts: what did you think about it. And then try to express your feelings: how do you feel about it. By consciously walking yourself through those three steps—facts, thoughts, feelings—you’ll begin quality conversations.
ILL: One evening a man and his wife called another couple to see what they were doing. “Oh,” said the other wife, “we’re just drinking coffee and talking.” As she hung up the phone, she demanded, “Why don’t we ever do that? They’re just drinking coffee and talking.” Her husband said, “So make a pot of coffee.” They sat with their freshly brewed coffee, just staring at each other in silence. “Well, call them back,” he directed, “and find out what they’re talking about.”
There is one other way to spend quality time and that is quality activities.
C. Quality activities: activities which interest one or both of you.
Quality activities are any activity which interest one or both of you. The activity is incidental. The important thing is that we are spending focused time with each other. The emphasis isn’t on what we’re doing, but that we’re doing it together. Spending time together in a common pursuit indicates that we care about each other, that we enjoy being together, that we like to do things together.
What can you do? Just about anything as long as one or both of you enjoy it. Last weekend, you wrote down your best ideas for quality time—lots of ideas—and we printed a sampling on the back of your outline. There are lots of great ideas there for quality activities.
- Go out for coffee or cokes.
- Have a picnic.
- Take a walk.
- Watch a sunset or sunrise.
- Balance the checkbook together…that’s my idea of quality time!
Here’s a practical suggestion. If you have someone close to you whose primary love language is quality time, sit down with them and talk about what kinds of activities they would like to do. Make a list. And then start doing them. Also, if quality conversation is their dialect, schedule time to talk.
ILL: I think every couple ought to have a date day, one day every week when the two of you get alone and talk or do something fun together. But this is essential if one of you has quality time as your love language. This is Laina’s primary love language.
I’ll get home from a busy day at work—I’ve been talking with people all day and I’ve used up all my words. I say hi to Laina and the kids and then start looking at the mail, and Laina will ask, “So, Joe, have you asked the kids how their day went?”
“Well no. Kids, how did your day go?”
The kids will smile and say, “Great dad, thanks for asking.”
Quality time is so important to her that she tries to engineer it for everyone in our family.