My earthly father was a man of few words. I never remember him saying to one of his children, “I love you.” I do not even remember hearing him say it to my mother, although when he held out his arms to her and she sat on his lap, I did not doubt it. And when he touched my head gently with his big toil-worn hand, I did not doubt his love for me. Most of the men who lived on farms near us would tell of their wives getting up on cold mornings and building fires in the stove or fireplace and fixing breakfast. My father always got up in the cold and fixed all the fires and did many of the things that all the other men expected their wives to do. He did not have to say, “I love you” verbally, because so many of his nonverbal expressions said it more strongly.

When we find in 1 John 3:18, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth,” he did not mean we should not say, “I love you.” He meant that we should not only say, “I love you,” but demonstrate it by action.

If I had to choose between one like my father who seldom if ever said, “I love you,” but constantly showed it and one who frequently said it, but never showed it, I would choose my father. However, each of us needs to know that words are also very important. There are many that would rather quote Edgar Guest, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day” and try to excuse themselves for not doing personal evangelism. One cannot preach the gospel message merely by living a Christian life. There is no substitute for proper words at the proper time.

This article was started, however, to emphasize the value of nonverbal expressions. One reason they are so valuable is that others believe them more than they believe our words. That is proper, for they are more accurate. It takes far more skill to consistently distort our nonverbal communication than it does to lie with our words. In the parable of the wayward son in Luke 15, the father revealed more clearly how he felt by his searching look, his running feet and his outstretched arms than he could have merely by saying, “Son, I’m glad you are back.”

Every husband and wife need to tell their spouse frequently, “I love you.” Your children need to hear it in words. Even more importantly, when they hear it in words and then see it in action, it becomes the most powerful force in the universe. If you habitually say the words, check your regular actions and see if they reinforce or detract from the words. If you regularly show your love by actions, do not assume that you have thereby done all that needs to be done. You also need to say the words, and repeat them frequently.

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