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December 13, 2015

Inner Fire

With candy canes and plastic reindeer hitting store shelves earlier and earlier each year, it is easy to get distracted by the materialism of the holidays. There is nothing wrong with giving and receiving presents; according to Gary Chapman, author of
The Five Love Languages  book series, “ for some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift. ” However, Chapman explains that others do not understand or express love by receiving or giving material things ; they would take a word of praise, a warm hug, or family storytime in front of the fireplace over all the gifts in the world. A strong focus on gifts during the holidays can leave these people feeling drained and unfulfilled. Alongside any material gift-giving traditions that are important to your family, here are some non-physical gifts that will nourish your loved ones’ souls.


  1. Journeying feet . Or, at least dialing fingers . Spend quality time  ( one of Chapman’s five love languages ) with those dearest to you in a way that is meaningful to them, be it chatting on FaceTime, playing Scrabble, or drinking beer and watching sports.

  2. Hungry belly . Humans bond over food , and this is truer than ever over the holidays. If your diet differs from your loved ones’, consider ways to participate in meals without compromising on your needs . Maybe make a hearty quinoa and beet salad to share, and pair it with parts of the group meal that are within your diet. Maybe throw your ideals out the window for a day and dig in. Make a choice that works for your situation.

  3. Listening ears . Listening attentively to someone is one of the most powerful gifts you can give them. Humans have a basic desire to be heard and understood . Psychologist Karl Menniger credited for this beautiful summary: "Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand." Ask questions, wait for answers without interrupting, and encourage topics that spark passion in your loved ones.

  4. Seeing eyes . You have so much history with family and old friends that you may lose sight of who they have grown into ,  which closes the door on maintaining an authentic relationship. Step back and take some time to consciously observe those with whom you are most familiar . Notice how experience, wisdom, and age have changed your loved one’s appearance, the way they move, and how they interact with others. Watch how they give love and how they receive it . Be open to who they are today rather than clinging to an outdated image of them.

  5. Praising lips . Another love language Chapman identifies is words of affirmation . Listen to their stories about achieving and overcoming (#3) and observe what makes them light up (#4), then acknowledge them . Affirm friends’ resilience, fortitude, courage, compassion, and inner beauty. Thank  a busy family member for making time for you. Compliment the chef. All this explicit recognition may seem silly and over-the-top, but these expressions could mean the world to some of your loved ones.

  6. Embracing arms . Chapman considers physical touch  a love language as well. Avid huggers, kisser, and cuddlers are giving you a hint about how they the express and understand love. Run to wrap your arms around them  when you first see them. Kiss them  on both cheeks, the forehead, and then both cheeks again. Snuggle  up on the couch as you watch the Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer claymation. For some people, touch speaks louder than a million words or actions.

  7. Helping hands . The final love language that Chapman describes is acts of service . Show love to those you care about by making coffee for them in the morning, doing the dishes without being asked, quickly volunteering to make a last-minute grocery run, or offering to babysit your niece and nephew to give their parents a night off. To some people, these small acts of service represent an enormous token of affection .

  8. Full heart : You are every bit as worthy of your loved ones to receive love and affection during the holidays. Ask for what you want and need. Surround yourself with people who will do all of the above for you . As much as we intend to be selfless and generous, reality is that we cannot give from empty pockets . Set yourself up to be nourished so that you may, in turn, nourish others.


Written by Barbie Levasseur , Bay Area writer, yoga teacher, and mom.
Barbie Levasseur

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