Giving Your Life Away Through Love
A Conversation With Dr. Gary Chapman
August 4, 2008 - Dr. Gary Chapman has written more than 25 books, including the international success The Five Love Languages, which has helped millions of couples learn how to live out their love for each other in meaningful ways.
interview by Ann Marie Chilton
This weekend, Dr. Chapman's seminar at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, called "What to Do When You Disagree" will empower hundreds of people to show God's own love in their relationships, especially when dealing with anger.
Dr. Chapman took some time to answer our questions about relationships:
Q/ Because your seminar at The Cove, “What to Do When You Disagree,” addresses the subject of anger, can you tell us some ways that people often misunderstand anger?
A/ I think many Christians don’t understand the origin of anger. Some think that anger is from the Devil.
Others think that it grows out of our 'old nature.' In reality, we get angry because we are made in God’s image. We are moral creatures, and when our sense of ‘right’ is violated, we experience anger.
God’s purpose for our anger is that it will motivate us to take constructive action to ‘right’ the ‘wrongs.’ However, because we are fallen creatures, we have not only good or righteous anger, but we have what I call distorted anger. That is, we get angry when things don’t go our way. This anger is self-centered and never accomplishes the purposes of God.
#PULLQUOTE1#We must learn to distinguish between good and bad anger and learn how to respond to each in a constructive way.
Q/ Is the seminar about all kinds of relationships, or is it specifically for marriage relationships?
A/ As you know, I have invested the past 35 years of my life helping people with marriage and family problems. However, the principles that I will share at the seminar will apply to all relationships.
Disagreements and anger are experienced universally. How to handle them in a positive manner is what all of us need to learn.
Q/ How can people let go of feelings of anger, especially if the anger is justified?
A/ The Bible is clear on what we are to do if we are angry because someone has genuinely wronged us. It begins with loving confrontation with a view to reconciliation.
If the person repents, then we freely forgive. If the person denies wrongdoing or continues in sinful behavior, then we must release them to God along with our anger. We must let God be the judge and realize that He will always see that justice is done. If the person repents, God will forgive. If not, then God will judge.
#PULLQUOTE2#Anger was meant to be a visitor, never a resident. To hold anger inside is to foster bitterness and hatred.
Q/ In your new book, Love as a Way of Life, you address relationships of all kinds. Tell us briefly about the book.
A/ All of us know that God’s plan for us is that we become loving people. We are His representatives, sharing His love. However, for many Christians the idea of love is very ethereal. I’m seeking to make love practical and daily.
We all do loving things from time to time, but what if love became our theme?
Love is not a single trait, but a cluster of traits. In this book I discuss seven traits of love, which if developed, will make us agents of love. When these traits are present, an encounter with us will be an encounter with love.
I believe that if the church is going to again attract the non-Christian world, we must re-discover the power of love. This is not a book on ‘how to get the love you need.’ It is a book on how to give love. The most satisfied people in the world are those who have learned to give their lives away.
Q/ In the book you mention the danger of the “little white lie.” Tell us why white lies are so unhealthy.
A/ Little lies are usually designed to make life easier for ourselves.
“I have another appointment and I must leave.”
Why did you say that when in fact you do not have another appointment? You are trying to get yourself out of a stressful situation.
You assume that everyone else is just like you, so you no longer trust anyone. There can be no authentic relationships without truth and trust.
Q/ Can you offer some general tips for good communication in our everyday relationships (with co-workers, family, children, friends, etc.)?
A/ The most fundamental principle of communication is to focus on listening. The average person will listen only 17 seconds before he interrupts and give his own ideas.
Listening shows respect for people. You may not agree with what they are saying, but you give them the freedom to be human. When we learn to listen with a view to understanding the thoughts and feelings of someone, we can then make an appropriate response.
A second tip is to always share your ideas as your own. “I think, feel, or believe…”
Q/ Tell us what it’s like to speak at The Cove.
A/ The Cove is a beautiful setting in which to speak. There is something about the beauty of the mountains that reminds me of the creativity of God.
Of course, the most important element is the people who attend the conferences. They come from all walks of life and from all over the country. I always enjoy my conversations with those who attend. And, the food is wonderful. Speaking at The Cove always enriches my own life.
See the schedule at The Cove, and sign up for something wonderful! »
Q/ At BGEA we have volunteer chaplains who travel to disaster situations nationwide and have a ministry of prayer and presence for those experiencing tragedy; it’s called the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. What advice do you have for anyone who is trying to show God’s love to someone who is grieving?
A/ The most helpful thing you can do for a person who is grieving is to listen. Ask them questions and let them talk. That is, if they are ready to talk.
If not, then simply being there and seeking to help meet their needs and make them comfortable speaks of your love. You cannot remove the tragedy, but you can walk with them as they process their emotions. Prayer and Presence are powerful.
Along with writing books and speaking at seminars, Dr. Chapman serves as a senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston Salem, N.C.. He has been married to his wife Karolyn for 45 years.