What is your spiritual love language?
Gift giving. Words of affirmation. Physical touch. Acts of service. Quality time. Open up any relationship advice blog and you are likely to find at least one post discussing these five love languages, a term coined by Gary Chapman in his 1992 book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. It refers to the different ways that people give and receive love, usually in romantic relationships.
Understanding your love language and that of those around you can help you better connect to your loved ones by recognizing the ways they reach out and ways they hope others will reach out to them. Which got me thinking: Why can’t we have a spiritual love language as well? Understanding the way that you best connect to the divine can help you in your journey to find God. Your spiritual love language also can help you better understand how you show and experience love for the divine in your daily life.
Understanding your love language and that of those around you can help you better connect to your loved ones. Which got me thinking: Why can’t we have a spiritual love language as well?
The tricky thing about love languages is that the specific ways we each think about and experience love are so ingrained in us we may not even realize we hold them as beliefs. For example, I found myself carrying groceries and helping build Ikea furniture for my friends and loved ones without stopping to think about why; it made sense when I realized that I show love through acts of service. Similarly, I spent a lot of time gardening and sitting by Lake Michigan before realizing that I am drawn to these things because I find God in nature. Knowing this helps me to be more intentional about seeking God there.
To begin to understand your spiritual love language (s), it is helpful first to ask yourself some questions about your spiritual life. Not all the answers will be binary — many of these answers can exist on a spectrum, and it’s even OK for your answers to change depending on your mood! Not every question has to resonate with your experiences, but you may find them helpful to think about while working to get a deeper understanding of your spiritual habits and preferences.
When you pray, do you prefer to do so in silence or with some background noise? In solitude or as part of a crowd? In nature or indoors?
Does your spirituality feel rooted in rationality or emotion? Do you find yourself praying more in words or in feelings?
Do you prefer to pray or practice your faith in stillness or in action? Do you find yourself more frequently bringing your desolations or your exaltations to prayer?
Is there a saint to whom you have a particular devotion? Do you feel strongly connected to thanksgiving for creation?
I have identified seven common categories of spiritual love languages. You may even find that more than one really speaks to you!
Take some time to reflect on these and any other patterns you may notice in your faith life. Then, think about how those answers may together create a larger picture of the way that you show and feel love for God. I have identified seven common categories of spiritual love languages. You may even find that more than one really speaks to you! Although all are great ways of practicing your faith, some will resonate with you more deeply, and those are likely the ones that describe the way you best connect with the love of God.
Going to Mass
Although all Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass on Sundays, some people particularly love praying together in a crowd or feel their faith is grounded in a strong sense of ritual. Whether you go weekly or daily, if the form and structure of the Mass and being in a community of believers is one of your favorite ways of encountering God, this may be your spiritual love language.
Silent adoration / individual prayer
Some people prefer praying alone. If you find large crowds distracting or just prefer silence or stillness, silent adoration or individual prayer may be your love language. It is an experience of God that for some can seem more direct. If a lot of your prayer is offering up your desolations or consolations in private, you may find that seeking out more opportunities for individual prayer or adoration will help you grow closer to God.
Meditation in nature
Praying in nature has a long history among mystics and saints. St. Francis loved to pray in nature, and Jesus went into the desert for 40 days. If you have a strong devotional connection to offering thanksgiving for creation, this may be how you show your love for God. Taking a hike up a mountain and then praying at the top may be a helpful combination of stillness and action. It is easy enough to avoid distractions but isn’t totally silent. If this sounds like a good fit for your spiritual habits but isn’t a form of prayer you have practiced yet, give it a try!
There are infinite ways to feel God, so do not feel limited to only these seven languages. After all, every person on earth will have a different experience with their spirituality and a unique relationship with God.
Music and art
The goodness of God has been portrayed through art throughout the ages. From hymns to cathedrals to Renaissance paintings, Catholicism offers a wealth of art through which to encounter God. Some people can paint, sing, write or use another creative talent to express their spirituality — you may be involved in music ministry in your parish or write religious poetry. Others may not create their own work but love to find God in the religious art of others; you may love museums, have a favorite Catholic writer or follow the work of a modern iconographer. If any of these sound like you, religious music and art could be your spiritual love language.
Charity work and volunteering
Some people feel the deepest practice of their faith is through actions more than words. If sitting silently can make you twitchy, but you’re never happier than when you are helping someone, this could be how you best find God. Whether working at a soup kitchen or volunteering at church, this is a hands-on approach to living like Jesus and sharing the love of God with others.
You might have a Scripture app on your phone or take part in a weekly Bible study. Maybe the readings are your favorite part of Mass. Maybe you like to read a couple pages of the Bible before bed or you have strong feelings about your favorite translation. If this is your spiritual language, you love to find God in his written word of him.
Learning and teaching
Maybe you work in a Catholic school or teach RCIA Or perhaps you are studying for a theology degree, love reading spiritual texts or are always trying to learn something new about Catholicism. If you experience educating yourself or others as a deep practice of love and faith, this could be your spiritual love language. If your spiritual habits favor words over feelings or rationality over emotion, an academic approach to faith and theology might be your favorite way to find God.
There are infinite ways to feel God, so do not feel limited to only these seven languages. After all, every person on earth will have a different experience with their spirituality and a unique relationship with God. You might use all of these spiritual love languages at different times, or some of them may not match with your faith practices. Either way, reflecting on your spiritual love language (s) is a great way to understand how you encounter God in your daily life and how you practice your faith.