It’s interesting how ideas can strike at normal, unsuspecting times. This has been happening lately in my interactions with my kids. As much as I would like to attribute these lightbulb moments to my extensive knowledge and experience, I’m sure it’s actually Father God giving me the right words to say at the right time.
The other day, I was having a discussion with my 8-year-old son because he has been having trouble expressing himself. He will get stressed out or upset and then fail to communicate anything until it’s too late and he blows up at whoever laid the final straw.
I explained that he’s like a balloon and every stressor, every hurtful word, every misunderstanding is causing the balloon to fill up until it eventually explodes. Then I gave him three ways to let the air out (I’ll give God the credit here):
These words have the power to change your relationships and your life. No kidding!
I want: When you desire physical touch from your spouse, explain, “I could really use a back rub. Can you give me one?”
I need: When you’re lonely, call a friend and say, “I need someone to talk to. Are you able to listen?”
I feel: If someone says something hurtful, respond with, “I feel sad when you say those things to me.” If the kids have been crazy all day long and you haven’t gotten a break, tell your spouse, “I’m so tired and stressed out.” When you communicate your feelings, you are essentially asking for empathy, understanding, and comfort.
In all of these, you’re not demanding; you’re requesting, so be sure your speech and tone communicate that the other person is free to say no. Love is free and not manipulated, demanded, or coerced, so this part is essential.
Opening Up Your Heart
The magical thing about these phrases is that they are ways of opening up your heart to give others the opportunity to love you. It’s rather difficult to love others if they don’t communicate their feelings, their needs, and their desires. Don’t leave people to guess through hints, obscure body language, or flat-out manipulation. Take responsibility for being direct with what you need (You DO have needs whether your realize it or not!).
Oftentimes we mistakenly believe that love always anticipates feelings, needs, and desires, but this is not true. My husband and I have been married twelve years and we still have to communicate what we need. On the other hand, the more we communicate and have those sometimes awkward conversations, the more we can anticipate each other’s needs and the better we can love each other.
To have the courage to even say these words, we have to believe that we are worthy of love. If we do not believe we are worthy of love, we will rely on more controlling or manipulative ways of getting our relational needs met.
A husband demands respect from his wife by telling her, “The Bible says you need to submit!” An employee is too afraid to ask for help. She talks to herself loudly in a “woe is me” sort of tone so that her co-workers can hear: “Everyone’s busy right now, so I guess that means I have to do this big, giant project all by myself.”
A mom who feels overworked and her kids have made a huge mess in the living room yells out, “I guess I’ll just do everything myself! Of course no one wants to help Mom! She has to do everything all the time!” Oh, wait. That last one was me just yesterday. Oops.
Knowing You Are Loved
Love requires vulnerability and open hearts. With that revelation, I have been focusing on speaking truth over my son and reminding him constantly how loved he is. Even when he is in trouble and I am upset, I remind him of who he is—“You are loved. You are a loving person. You have value. You are powerful and confident. You are God’s son.”
I’ve been more attentive to his needs and to finding little opportunities I have to show love to him. For example, I was scratching his back the other day and he asked if I could scratch his neck, so I did. And now, I make a point to scratch his neck. It’s just a small way that shows him that I’m listening and that I care about his needs.
The other thing I explained to my son is that when he fails to communicate his needs and feelings, he is left feeling unloved because he did not give us the opportunity to meet his needs. I love him and want the opportunity to meet his needs, but it’s his responsibility to communicate to me.
I’ll continue to show love to my children in any way I am able to, even when they don’t communicate what they need. But I’m not always able to guess what they need, which makes it so important for them to learn to communicate these things to me.
If you find it hard to say these three things to the people in your life, especially when you know they love you and it’s safe to open your heart to them, ask yourself “why?” Better yet, ask God why you may have trouble letting your needs to be known to others.
God wants you to know that you are His child (1 John 3:1, Romans 8:14, Romans 8:16, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:7)! You are loved (1 John 4:19, Colossians 3:12, John 3:16)! You are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). You are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). You are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). You are God’s handiwork (Ephesians 2:10). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)*.
You are worthy of love because God has chosen to love you—just as you are!
Freedom in Love
Perhaps giving people the freedom to say “no” scares you. After all, being turned down and rejected feels uncomfortable. Even when this happens, though, we have a good, loving Father who will meet us in our hurt and discomfort.
It’s also important to note that, just because someone says “no”, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. If I don’t give candy to my toddler, that doesn’t mean I have stopped loving her. If I’m too tired to cook dinner, I haven’t stopped loving my family.
This experience of hearing “no” also encourages us to turn to others to meet our needs instead of always relying on the same person. There have been times in my marriage when I was going through something difficult and, because Josh was maxed out, I turned to trustworthy friends who could empathize and validate my emotions.
When I know I have a need to be heard, understood, or validated, I can usually turn to my husband, but, even then, I don’t force him to meet my need. I either communicate my need directly (which has taken years to get to the point of understanding what I actually need): “I’m very stressed out and I need you to listen and empathize. Are you able to do that?”
Other times, I have already begun my stressed-out rant and I see my husband’s eyes widen like a deer in the headlights. I take that as a cue that he’s not at a place where he can give. At this point, I take my need off of him and either turn to God or another trustworthy friend. Other believers are, after all, the body of Christ. (For more information on understanding our deeper needs, read The Seven Desires of Every Heart by Mark and Debbie Laaser).
Don’t take it personally when someone says “no” or reacts in a way which is understood that they are unable to give you what you need. If you keep trying to get it from them, they will continue to push back more and more strongly.
Simply back away and find someone who can shoulder your burden. Sometimes no one is available, so that is our opportunity to run to God and give Him our needs. He is more than able to listen and meet our deepest needs.
In the end, communicating our feelings, needs, and desires just takes practice. The main thing is that we’re taking responsibility for what we need and not placing that burden on others for getting our needs met.
By using these sentences to communicate your feelings, needs, and desires to others, you effectively open your heart to receive love. You are allowing others to see the real you and giving them to freedom to love you well.
1 John 3:1: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
Romans 8:14: because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Romans 8:16: The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Galatians 3:26: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 4:7: So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
1 John 4:19: We love because he first loved us.
Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
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.
Romans 8:17: Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Romans 8:37: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
1 Corinthians 3:16: Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Psalm 139:14: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
For more information, I recommend these books:
Seven Desires of Every Heart by Mark and Debra Laaser
How People Grow by Henry Cloud
Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk
The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero
The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero