Our cat Artie is a licker; he shows how much he loves you by licking you, a lot. My husband has had raw cheeks because Artie licks him too much. When he is sitting with you he starts by licking you, then moves on to licking and grooming himself. It is a great sign of affection when a cat grooms you, even if their rough tongue can rub you raw.
As he gave me a good night face cleaning, I thought about how much it hurt. To him it was a big deal, so somewhere between what he thought and how my cheek felt it got confusing. He was doing what he knew to show how much he cared for me. I tried to enjoy it because I knew what it meant.
It made me think about the people I know that show affection in different ways. I may not always interpret their actions as affection, yet that is exactly what they are meant to be. The author Gary Chapman wrote a great book, The Five Love Languages. In his practice of marriage counseling he realized there are five ways people show love, it is their love language. The challenge comes in when we want love to be expressed in one way and the person who is showing it uses a different language; sort of like a cat licking you clean with their rough tongue. Because they are not expressing their affection in the language we want or understand, we do not always interpret it as affection or love…and their message gets lost. (It’s a great book, one well worth reading…I won’t give away anymore.)
I have friends that hug and friends that don’t. I have friends that kiss you on the cheek, once or twice or even three times. I have friends who don’t even like to touch. It doesn’t make them any less of a friend, I simply have had to learn who expresses themselves in what way, and how do I interpret that?
So how do you express affection? How do people know you care? Do the people around you know you well enough to understand when you are being affectionate, kind, or loving? Or do you assume they know, and if they don’t then it is their problem? Emotions are a funny thing, they jump on us at the strangest times, or leave us cold at the oddest of moments. The danger is assuming people understand your language, and that you are interpreting their actions accurately. Too many words are spoken or expressions missed because we don’t get it.
Today try not to be a cat’s tongue to someone you really want to understand how you feel. Or if you are that cat’s tongue be sure they understand what you are trying to express. Otherwise they end up with a raw cheek and your message didn’t translate.