What do You Want?

When a cat stares at you, you are compelled to comply, there is simply no other option. Yesterday, as I was sitting down at my ancient eMachine computer (the equivalent of a writer’s creaky old Smith-Corona), our little cat Misha informed me that it was time for the Rubby Ritual. This is a religious ceremony in which either I or my wife are required to sit on the floor while she walks around us, rubbing against various objects (the corner of a couch, a door frame). Once during each circumnavigation she will draw near, at which point we are to hold out a hand, which she will then rub against, demonstrating that, like each of the other sacred objects, we belong to her. The procedure requires absolute rapt attention. Yesterday, I made the mistake of looking away—twice. Each time, Misha stopped, reached out with half-exposed catnails, and gave me a firm-but-gentle clawing.

Attention must be paid. 

It’s the same with humans. We need attention, and we each have our rubby rituals. Dr. Gary Chapman famously broke these into 5 Love Languages. The central idea being that, if you want to tell someone you love them, you need to tell them in their language, which is, more often than not, different from yours.

My wife Trudy and I love each other very much. But we speak completely different love languages. Recently, I began to feel ignored. I wasn’t feelin’ the love in my language (Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation). After brooding about this for days (because, yeah, that’s useful), I brought it up. After a moment, she informed me that she hadn’t been feelin’ the love in her language either (Quality Time and Acts of Service).

To quote a wise little alien, “Ouch.”

One of the main things Jesus taught us is that the key to getting something you want—not the piddly stuff, but the big stuff like Forgiveness, Kindness and, yes, Attention—is to give it, and to give it first. There’s a Catch 22, though: Sometimes others won’t respond immediately, or even at all. What then? Keep doing it anyway.

Why?

Because it’s not a transaction. It’s a transformation. When you give the things you want—which were planted in your heart for this very reason—you start to become the person you’re supposed to be. Most people will respond in kind, but sometimes they won’t. It won’t matter. Because something much more valuable than merely getting what you want will have occurred (Luke 6:35-38).

I tried to capture this idea in the chorus of a song (used in the soundtrack of my film Over-the-Rhine). It came out in these words:

There’s a paradox to living

Because the way to get is just by giving

And the way to live is just by dying

And the way to find love is to stop trying

And just love

Easy to sing. Hard to do. So, if you’ll pardon me, I have to get back to my language lessons. It’ll probably take the rest of my life, but I’m hoping to become fluent in Trudy. Oh, yeah, and Misha’s giving me that look again.

Attention must be paid.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to What do You Want?

  1. Ah, the love languages. So, the Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is love them in their language, not your own.”
    As if this isn’t complex enough, have you read the book about the five languages of apology? Same idea. You may think you’ve apologized, the other person may say, “You never apologized!”

    Liked by 7 people

  2. revruss1220 says:

    Great reminder! Thank you for sharing your experience and insight in such a well-crafted manner. We can all benefit from taking this to heart.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Mark Brady says:

    Wow Mitch! What good, Godly, and timely words. I’m at a point in life, of a new relationship, and it’s my heart’s desire to get this one right and pleasing to God. I will study the 5 Love Languages, and learn, and practice speaking her language. I thank God for you! I can tell you also love being made in God’s image, because, like Him, you love to create.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Cats are like that, yeah they are. We can learn a wealth of behavioral secrets from our pets. I believe that’s why God allows us to serve them.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Mary Jane says:

    it’s not a transaction. It’s a transformation – profound! loved this!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. cricketmuse says:

    Humans have rubby rituals as well. Claws too.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I have your love languages, and my husband has your wife’s. He thinks little of compliments, while I bask in them; but help him wash the car, and he’s thrilled!😊

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Roos Ruse says:

    Of all the Romance languages I studied, Love confuses me the most. I don’t mind the claws that require continuing studies. =>

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ann Coleman says:

    Very true! So often others (even those we love) don’t take things the way we mean them, and that can lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Great post, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Nancy Ruegg says:

    I, too, appreciated your statement: “It’s not a transaction. It’s a transformation.” If we believe that, a total attitude shift occurs–a shift our spouses will appreciate! P.S. Our son was teasing his wife; she asked him to stop. His response: “But, Honey, you know my love language is pestering!!” (Fortunately, she has a good sense of humor.)

    Liked by 2 people

  11. pkadams says:

    Amen ,amen ! Attention must be paid or penalties will accrue. And I love your chorus even though it’s tough to live out at times. Have a blessed day!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’ve become convinced that God gave us pets so the we could relate to His role in our lives a little better. I know that we’re more than his pets but our pets rely on us the way we rely on God. My gentle little Beagle mix has taught me a lot about how much God loves us.

    Liked by 2 people

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