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Harnessing the Power of Word Pictures

Harnessing the Power of Word Pictures

Greg Smalley and John Trent explain how spouses and parents can avoid miscommunication and conflict by using "word pictures," which are simple metaphors to help clarify thoughts and feelings. The discussion is based on a book by John and Greg's father, Gary Smalley, titled The Language of Love: The Secret to Being Instantly Understood.
Original Air Date: May 4, 2018

Excerpt:

Dr. John Trent: When you use a word picture, what it does is people get caught up in the story. And it goes right over their defenses and right into their heart.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: That’s Dr. John Trent. And he joins us along with Dr. Greg Smalley today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: You know, uh, communication is such an important part of every relationship. You want to be heard and clearly understood, especially when expressing your feelings and those innermost thoughts, um, maybe even some tough things. Uh, here at Focus on the Family, we want to help your relationship, your marriage, thrive in Christ. That’s what we’re about. Uh, Paul tells us in Colossians 4: 6. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

So today, we’re going to teach you how to season your words with some salt. And I gotta confess, I’m not always good at this. If you’re an expert, uh, that’s great. But we have two people today who are gonna help us better understand.

John F.: Yeah. And these gentlemen are so good at using words effectively and powerfully. And, uh, years ago, Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent wrote a superb book called The Language Of Love. And that’s been ready by and has helped so many people. And it’s sold well over a half-million copies, in fact. And Dr. Greg Smalley is stepping into kind of share more about his late father’s work on this book.

Jim: 500,000 copies – that is huge. And, uh, there is so much great content in here. And for those that don’t remember The Language Of Love book, uh, you’re gonna be acquainted with some great ideas on how to bring some color to your relationship. Uh, John and Greg, welcome to the program.

Dr. Greg Smalley: Thanks.

John T.: Hey thanks great to be here.

Jim: Now, John, I gotta ask you, you worked all those years with Greg’s dad, Gary Smalley.

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: Now, to work with Greg. I mean, this is kind of fun. Greg, to carry your dad’s legacy forward here at Focus. You’re our marriage expert, you and Erin, your wife, working together here. This is kind of awesome to see the two of you together.

Greg: It is fun. I mean, I remember the very first job I really ever did was working, John, in my dad’s book table…

(LAUGHTER)

Greg: …’Cause I’ve been taking money.

Jim: How ’bout that, John? How’s that making you feel?

John F.: That’s – that’s the – you’re the only reason it made a half-million, probably.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: (Laughter).

John T.: That’s fine. Yeah.

Greg: Where’s my cut of that again? Where’s my…

Jim: But John, such great, uh, legacy there.

John T.: Well, it is. And – and, uh, so it’s kinda like a reunion tour, you know?

Jim: (Laughter).

John T.: The Grateful Dead are still going. We’re still going, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

John T.: And, uh…

Greg: (Laughter) We are grateful.

(LAUGHTER)

John T.: Yeah, we are grateful.

Greg: And we’re alive.

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: Well, that’s good. As we dive into this, the – the crux of the book, John, that you and Gary did – and, Greg, your forward in the book and, you know, working together, collaborating – is that idea of word pictures.

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: And I – I don’t – you’re obviously, uh, good at that. I don’t know that everybody is. But you’re gonna equip us, uh, today to think about how to do that.

John T.: Yeah. Well, um, and let me give you an example. You started off by saying communication’s tough. Now, Greg, you’d agree with that for most people, right? I – I mean…

Greg: Absolutely.

John T.: Uh, and, you know, John Fuller never has trouble with communication.

Jim: (Laughter).

John T.: And you don’t, Jim. But – but, um, I remember when I was first married – um, I have a wonderful, awesome wife. I was, uh, in – I was working full-time in a church. I was in my doctoral program. And I was in three softball leagues – because I needed an outlet, right? I mean, you know, you have to…

Jim: Three softball leagues?

John T.: Um, yeah, travel teams and – so Cindy was saying, “Well, we’re not talking anymore.” And – and I go, “Well, come to my games. We can talk on the way of my games and…”

Jim: (Laughter).

John T.: That wasn’t flying really well, you know. And we just kept gettin’ more distance and angry. And then guess what happened? Is, uh – now, you know, Gary Smalley did word pictures back with Corrie ten Boom, who really taught him how important pictures were.

Jim: Huh.

John T.: But where I learned about were pictures the first time was from my wife, who – now, we’re really strained out. This is our first year of marriage. I’m working at a church. But, I mean, we are in horrible shape. And I – I, uh – her dad was a builder, and she had to get up early and help feed her dad. And she would get up early and cook me breakfast, you know? So, I show up one morning. Guess what’s on the table?

Jim: Eggs?

John T.: Well, no. It was a book.

Jim: (Laughter).

John T.: It’s a big, thick psychopathology, which is really bad textbook. OK? So how – how sick can you be? So, there’s no – no – no eggs, no bacon. It’s a book. And so, I went – and I go, “Well, OK, what’s this?” And she goes, “Well, um, you know, this is breakfast today.” I go, “I don’t understand.” She goes, “Well, actually, this is our relationship.” And I go, “Uh, help me with this.” And she goes, “Well, ‘member how you took this last semester, and you couldn’t wait to just read every page? And, you know, you had tests, and you just spent all this time with it. But where is it now? Well, you know where it was? I was using it as a doorstop in my study.” And she goes, “Now I feel like you’ve graduated, you know – or, I mean, you’ve – you’ve finished that course. You’re on to the next course. But that book doesn’t really mean anything. And I feel like, uh, in our marriage, uh – and, you know, I’m” – that’s – that’s who she was, was that I used to explore her. I used to talk to her, or…

Jim: Read every page.

John T.: Yeah. And now it’s like you’re on the shelf, and I’m doin’ the important things now that we’re married. And I’m tellin’ you, I – my head dropped. And, you know, I wrestled in college. I – I – it was like getting beat up.

But what it was really was a word picture went over my defenses ’cause she had said the same thing a dozen times at different volume levels. Do you know what I’m talking about? But, boy, that one word picture – and I thank God – this is the best part of the story, is, you know, I finally lifted up my head. I just said two thing. I said, “Number one is I ask your forgiveness. I am really sorry.” And I said, “What’s – so what’s one thing I could do to open up the book?” And that started our discussions. Do you see what I’m getting at?

Jim: Absolutely.

John T.: So today we want to help people who are havin’ – not just having trouble with relationships. I mean, we’ll talk about how to praise people and – and encourage ’em ’cause – ’cause, you know, Greg, you can use a word picture to clarify things, right?

Greg: Yeah.

John T.: I mean, you do that with Erin, I think. Isn’t that right?

Greg: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, that – what’s fun about doing this show is that, John, when I was in college dating my wife of now 26 years, Erin, she asked me, “How do you – where is this going? How do you feel about me?” And I just was, “Uh, well, I like you. What?”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: You’re fun to hang out with.

(LAUGHTER)

Greg: She told me I had a good personality.

Jim: (Laughter).

Greg: …Not sure what that means.

Jim: The death blow.

Greg: I actually went to John and said, “OK, Erin’s asking this. You know, I’m not sure quite how to express – I – I want – I want her to really get it.” He helped me come up with a word picture. And it was around this story of this kind of fictional account of this young Pacific Islander guy who wanted to ask for the girl’s hand in marriage. But the tradition was you had to give so many cows – like, one cow, very plain, two cows, better, three cows, you know, awesome, four, never happened.

Well, he gives, like, eight cows for this very plain, ordinary girl. And it’s a great story, that – that she actually became, you know, this beautiful woman just based on his value and the way that he saw her.

Jim: (Laughter) So how did Erin relate to this story?

Greg: So, I go to her…

(Laughter)

John F.: So, our relationship’s like, “You’re a cow.”

(Unintelligible chatter)

Greg: So, we’re at Marie Callender’s, you know, havin’ some pie.

(LAUGHTER)

Greg: And – and – and I said, “Hey, I want to get back to – we were talkin’ about this.” And I said, “Erin, to me you are, like, a 10-cow woman.”

(LAUGHTER)

Greg: I know where I wanted to go. And she went, “What?” You know, like, “You think I’m fat? What – what?”

Jim: Right. Right.

Greg: So, as I explained this story of the eight cows, I said, “I wouldn’t just give eight cows for you. I’d give 10 cows for you hand.” I said, “I think that much of you. You are so valuable to me.” And it was within months that we were actually engaged. So, John helped me come up with this great word picture that – that took our – that moved our relationship forward. So, thank you.

Jim: Well, let me ask you. Why do word pictures work so effectively? Um, you know, what’s the secret power behind them?

John T.: Well, um, you know, it’s interesting. But, you know, you look at the Lord. Now, here’s something amazing. Until I dove into this – um, guess what? Forty-six times in the New Testament, Jesus uses what? Parables. Forty-six times. I mean, you know, he talks about, you know, new cloth in an old coat.

Jim: Yeah.

John T.: ‘Member that? Or new wine, uh…

Jim: New wine skin.

John T.: In wine skins. You know, don’t take that lamp and put it under a – a, uh, basket. You know, the different kinds of soils when… But who is he talking to primarily? People that really didn’t want to hear a word he was saying, a lot of times the Pharisees and Sadducees. So, when you use a word picture, what it does is people get caught up in the story. And it goes right over their defenses and right into their heart.

Jim: Well, and I think that paints the picture perfectly, that Jesus was going for the heart..

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, to have head knowledge is good, but it’s not as good as heart knowledge.

John T.: No, absolutely.

Jim: And that’s your point. And that’s why word pictures are so effective. You had a client early on, if I remember correctly, in the book.

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: Alyssa, I’m thinking of. The little girl who really illuminated this for you. Tell us that.

John T.: Well, think about this. And – and, Greg, you know, we do counseling. And – and you guys do a lot of coffee-cup counseling, you know. But when you’re dealing with kids in particular – um, so I was working with this young lady who was – uh, had been through some traumatic things. And so, you know, try sayin’ to a 10-year-old, “OK, honey, how are you feeling?” (Laughter) You know. And then go…

Jim: Try that with a 17-year-old.

John T.: Try that with a 17-year-old – “Oh, yeah, I don’t know.”

Greg: Fine. Gosh, leave me alone.

Jim: Why are you askin’ me?

John T.: Well, um, so she comes in. And of course, you know, I know this has happened. That’s why the mom’s there and that little 10-year-old. But what I did is I cut out a whole of bunch. – so, I do this with all these kids, but I do with it adults too sometimes – is I cut out a bunch of pictures, and I laid ’em on the table. And one of ’em was a submarine coming up. It was a – it was from one of those Navy, you know, recruiter, uh, kinda ads.

Jim: Brochures, yeah.

John T.: And the submarine’s coming up out of the water. And – but – but I just laid out all of ’em, and I go, “Well, honey, do me a favor. Which one of those describes where you’re at today?” And she reaches over instantly and picks up the submarine. I go, “How come?” She goes, “Well, I – ever since this happened” – never said what it was – “ever since this happened” – she goes, “I feel like I’m underwater and I got a periscope and I can see everybody, but nobody can see me anymore.” And so, guess what the next six sessions were? Were, “Is there anybody down there with you? Are there lights on? Is Jesus in there? What would it take to – hey, how do we build a dock so you can pull the submarine in? And what would it take to come out of this submarine?” And they’re – they’re called therapeutic metaphors in counseling, you know. But they’re emotional word pictures. It’s being able to help somebody, you know, move an issue away from us enough where all of a sudden we get the picture.

Jim: Well, it helps – yeah, it helps someone who may struggle to articulate what they’re feeling, uh, describe it in pictures, right? And I love it.

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: Have you used that, Greg?

Greg: I do. I love how word pictures really help you experience someone’s word versus just hearing it. And I think this is especially true for guys. You know, as we talk, I’m listening for the point. What’s the purpose of this conversation?

Jim: (Laughter).

Greg: Do I need to fix something, decide something, solve something? And so that’s all very logical. And – and that’s how we’re – we’re wired. It’s a good thing. God created us that way. But within a relationship, that strength doesn’t always work, or it’s not as effective as we hope it could be. With my son – we have an adopted daughter from – from China. We’ve had her in our home for now seven years. And – and my son and my daughter, they fight like cats and dogs. It’s so frustrating.

Jim: Like normal (laughter).

Greg: Like normal. But there – there’s ways in which – I mean, he’s – he’s – he’s about, you know, six years older than she is. And I keep trying to say, “you’ve got to be more of a mentor with her and quit doin’ this bickering stuff.” But – but he’s not – nothing hit until the other day. I said, “Gerson, um, what would it be like if” – he’s a basketball player. So, he loves basketball. That’s his interest. I said, “Imagine that you’ve had this amazing season, all-star here in Colorado Springs, and you won the title. And then all of a sudden, you were moved from Colorado Springs. You don’t know anybody. You’re a stranger. The sights, the sounds, the smells, everything’s very different. You’re placed on this basketball team. You don’t know anybody. And what would that be like?” He goes, “That’d be – I’d hate that. Be confusing, be lonely.” I said, “But then what if, like, one of the star players on this new team really befriends you, and kinda takes you under his wing, and introduces you to people and – and just comes alongside of you? What would that be like?” “That’d be great. I mean, I – I would need that.” I said, “Gerson, Annie is like you, that basketball player that’s been moved away to a very new team. She doesn’t know anybody. It’s all different, and…”

Jim: I mean, even hearing it, Greg, it – it goes deeper. Again, you can have that kinda intellectual connection, be told what to do. You could say, “Hey, straighten up. Treat your sister like she’s part of this family. Give her direction. You’re the older brother. Act like that.” Doesn’t have the same…

Greg: But she gets it up there in his brain. He hears that.

Jim: Yeah. Doesn’t have the same connection. And I appreciate that vulnerability. But that’s a great, uh, illustration.

Greg: But he got it. I mean, instantly…

Jim: Yeah. He got it.

Greg: …He just went, “Ooh, all right.”

Jim: Uh, John, um, let’s talk about equipping people to do this. But first I want people to know how to get this resource. (Laughter) That’s the key.

John F.: Yeah. John Trent and Gary Smalley are our guests today. And we’re talking about the book that Dr. Trent and Gary Smalley, Greg’s dad, wrote called, The Language Of Love. And we have a recently revised edition of that available at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: All right, John, so how can we create…

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: …Word pictures in our own lives, especially if – if we’re not creative in our nature?

John T.: Yeah, well, I mean, people – we hear that all the time. Oh, I’m just not creative. But we do use word pictures all the…

Jim: I’m a left-brain guy.

John T.: Yeah. OK, but – um, well, we set up a whole website. And one of the things you can download is 101…

Jim: (Laughter).

John T.: …Word pictures.

Jim: Exhaustive.

John T.: And it’s word pictures that Gary and I came up with and used with people and have shared. And so, it’s a great way to realize, as you read them, oh, OK, I get it, you know.

But I think, again, there’s so many places we can find word pictures. You can use an object, you can use a story, kind of like, uh, earlier that Greg shared. Um, can I give you a quick example?

Jim: Sure.

John T.: So, there’s this dad and, um, one of his sons is really struggling, and that’s the one that I know – is the son, you know. This is a while ago. And, uh, they’re from, uh, Baltimore. And, do you remember Cal Ripken Jr?

Jim: Oh, yeah.

John T.: Now, Cal Ripken Jr., if people don’t know, his dad was a baseball player, Cal Ripken Sr – great player. Cal Ripken Jr. set the record for the most consecutive games ever by a baseball player. And when he broke the record, uh, this guy is from Baltimore, and his dad was watching the game. And he sent an email to both of his sons, and it was a word picture, OK. So, he sends this email. And he goes, hey, I just want you to know – I don’t know if you guys watched the game last night. But last night, when Cal Jr. broke the consecutive game record, the camera panned over, and there was Cal Sr. And Cal Sr’s in the stands watching his son break the record, and Cal Sr began to cry. And he goes, when I saw that, I began to cry. And he goes, but I want you to know something – I didn’t cry because I was a Cal Ripken Jr. fan, because I am, but that’s not why I cried. I cried because I feel like God has given me two hall-of-fame sons that are gonna do more for God’s kingdom than any broken record ever could.

Jim: Wow.

John T.: And this buddy of mine, he said – he’s sitting – he’s, you know, uh, at Mississippi State. He’s sitting in the – in the computer lab. And he goes, I’m reading that email in the computer lab crying like a baby because my dad thinks I’m cooler than Cal Ripken Jr.

(LAUGHTER)

John T.: You know, and I just felt like he said for the first time I can – it unleashes you. So, look, you can be… Word pictures can come from, you know, an event. It can come from – you know, we – there’re so many great places you can… But it’s looking at a – a – what is it you want to accomplish? Do you want to praise them? Do you want to correct them? Do you want to, uh, clarify?

Well, uh, I remember when I was going on a trip with your dad, uh, Greg, and I was gonna be gone for a few days. And our kids were young. Now, let me tell you, the hardest job on the planet, I think, is what? Raising small kids. It’s not flying around. And, sure, we get planes delayed. But we’re going out to dinner with people. You know, we get to sleep without being interrupted. Well, here’s Cindy, my precious, awesome wife, and the two girls she’s got to take care of now for three days. And, um, I was…

Jim: With no break.

John T.: Yeah, with no break and no help. And I’m thinking, “How can I really thank her for that?” And we’re playing in the backyard. And you guys are old enough – Greg isn’t – but you guys are old enough.

Jim: (Laughter).

John T.: Do you remember clotheslines?

Jim: Oh, yeah.

John T.: Okay. Well, we’re playing out in the back. Cindy’s getting dinner ready. And, um, I’m getting ready to go onto the trip. And I’m thinking about how can I praise her and encourage her? And one of the girls comes running up to me and hands me a clothespin. And it was like, what – and what’s this, Dad? And I go – I explain it. And as we’re walking in, I realize… So, we walk in, and I tap Cindy – she’s cooking dinner – you know, I tap her on the shoulder. And I go, I want you to know something. You know, I’m leaving tomorrow, but I want you to know that this is you. And I hand her this clothespin. And it’s old, and it’s wooden. It’s…

Greg: Not quite as bad as telling her she’s a cow.

John T.: …She’s a cow, but pretty close.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

John T.: It’s rusty. It’s rusty. You know, she goes, “oh, great, I’m falling apart.” I go, “No, no, no, wait a minute.” I go, “Pretend this is a solid gold clothespin.” I go, “You do such a great job of holding everything together. I wouldn’t be surprised – you know, when I have to go on a trip, man, you just hold everything together. And I am so grateful that God has given me you, and you’re like a solid gold clothespin.”

Jim: That’s good.

John T.: Well, here’s the deal. I come back three days later. What – she’s painted it white. She’s drawn a little red heart on it. It’s got a magnet on the back. And where is it? Even today, where…

John F.: Right on the refrigerator.

John T.: It’s on the refrigerator.

Jim: Refrigerator.

John T.: Because what’s really important goes right on the refrigerator. And it’s like, I’m a clothespin, you know. Or I’m a 10 cow wife, or…

Jim: Did she say, now, John, here’s my word picture for you – you’re the wind…

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: …That blows chaos every day. I would have been thinking that.

(CROSSTALK)

Greg: You are the stormy gale.

Jim: I think that would’ve been a good one, no?

(CROSSTALK)

Jim: Hey, Greg, I do want to honor your dad.

Greg: Yeah.

Jim: And, John, you worked with Gary for so many years. And I think most of the Christian community knows the two of you as this dynamic duo…

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: …That wrote books like The Language Of Love and so much more. Uh, did your dad use a poignant, uh, word picture for you…

Greg: All the time.

Jim: …When you were naughty particularly?

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: I want the bad stories.

(LAUGHTER)

Greg: He did. He would say things to my brother and I. Like, if we were getting in trouble, we were misbehaving, he’d say, “Hey, boys, you stop that,” or “I’m gonna blast your bottom off.”

Jim: (Laughter).

John F.: Is that a word picture or a threat?

Greg: Well, because we would imagine little sticks of dynamite being strapped to our…

(LAUGHTER)

Greg: …To our back-ends. And he did that funny, but we knew that, OK, we’d better…

Jim: That’s beyond the pale.

Greg: …We’d better change course here.

Jim: Don’t do that.

Greg: He – I remember one time when – when John and my dad would go and speak. Uh, and when he would come home, there was a way in which – and I didn’t even really know this was going on – but he would feel rejected by me. Like, he would come home – loved my dad, loved being with him. So, when he would leave, I guess I would punish him in a sense when he’d come home. I’d ignore him…

John T.: Yeah.

Greg: Again, I don’t remember doing this. And so instead of just telling me, “You know what? Hey, stop ignoring me. I’m your father, and you need to respect me, and that’s not very kind.” He came – and, again, I was into basketball, like my son. So, he used this analogy of, you know, we’re – we’re on a team together and, you know, you’ve got the star player who’s just doing amazing but then gets injured. Hurts his neck. He’s out for a while. And whereas before, as the star player, everybody was talking to him and hanging around him, now he’s been injured for a while, everybody kind of has left him alone, has kind of ignored him. He feels real alone. He goes, “What would that be like?” And I could instantly feel what that would be like. Yeah, that would be so frustrating because you want to be with everybody, but you can’t help it. You’re injured, and everybody’s ignoring this player. And he goes, “I feel like that we’re on a team. And I feel like that I was that star player who, when I leave to do a seminar, it’s kind of like I’m injured, I’m away. And then when I come back, expecting to reunite and connect, you’re just – you’re gone. You ignore me.” And it instantly helped me to feel that. I could feel…

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: …And went, “Dad, I’m so – I – you know, I don’t know why. And I’m so sorry if that’s how you felt.” But as John was saying, I think the beauty of a word picture is that you get into the story, you feel it. These words come alive. They intensify. So instantly, I was moved to a place of going, “Man, that’s the last thing I want you to feel, and I am – I am so sorry.” And that changed sort of that – that dynamic.

Jim: Yeah.

Greg: But he used these all the time.

John T.: Oh, yeah.

Greg: His favorite one – remember when we’d be out, and he was frustrated with someone, he’d say, “That guy is like one taco shy of a combination plate.”

John T.: Yeah.

(CROSSTALK)

Greg: Yeah.

John T.: But it sure communicates.

Jim: He was thinking in those words.

John T.: That was his choice. It was just funny how he was…

Jim: Hey, you know, let me – let me paint a little word picture here. Um, there’s a wife who is hurting. She’s frustrated because she – you know, she doesn’t feel like her husband is listening to her anymore. Their marriage is cold. The romance has fallen away. Uh, maybe they’re living more like roommates – that’s one we hear often…

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: …Here at Focus. “My husband and I, we’re more like roommates.” How can she use a word picture to crack open that situation, to say “I need to be fed, I need nourishment”?

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: What would that word picture look like?

John T.: Well, you know, we started off with me talking about Cindy serving me a book, you know. And that’s how I got the picture. But I think it’s so helpful for somebody to, you know, uh, help that other person by – again, what is it in their life that is a word picture that really communicates? I remember teaching this – remember the pro athlete conferences?

Greg: Yeah.

John T.: I’d do those with your dad. And I know you came to some of those. And there was a pro bass fisherman there. And I remember he – you know, one time I was saying, “Well, hey how do you  – what’s a word picture you could share?” And he goes, “Well, my wife is like a rubber worm dipped in crawdad juice.”

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: Maybe not that one.

John T.: Well, not that one. But, I mean, he’s a bass fisherman. So, it had made total sense to him, you know. But what I’m getting is, you know, his wife is like, “I’m a worm.” But if that person that’s really hurting, you know, can use that word picture, that object… Just a – just a quick example. Let’s say that the husband, who she really wants to connect with, is kind of like – right now, today, everybody uses their phone for everything, right?

Jim: Yes.

John T.: And so, she’d say, “Hey, let me ask you a question. I don’t know why, but your phone’s gone. And, I don’t know what happened, but, you know, it’s gone.” “Well, what do you mean my phone’s gone?” Because the average person has this panic… (unintelligible)…

Jim: Sure. Right.

John T.: …Say, “Well, no, it really isn’t, uh, gone. But you know what – would you feel like if that phone was gone, and you couldn’t just run to the store and get another one?”

Jim: Got run over by a truck.

John T.: Yeah. “Well, I – you know what I feel like, um, what’s happened is – is we’ve just kind of lost that connection point. And, boy, what would it be like if we could sit down and talk?” And so that’s just one word picture. And, uh, I think that’ll be fun.

Jim: Well, that’s it. Greg and John, man, thank you for helping us better understand it. This is good for marriage and parenting, I think…

John T.: Yeah.

Jim: …For illustrations for both. And it’s really good for human communication.

We started the program talking about how Jesus used word pictures, and it’s so true. So, the Lord is doing that to connect us, not just intellectually, but emotionally, at the heart level. And maybe we should become great students and great teachers of this methodology.

Um, you know, Focus is here to do just this. To help equip you to thrive in your marriage. And Greg, you and Erin do such a great job walking in the door everyday here, on behalf of couples that are listening now, to put a tool in their hands. And this is one of the great tools that John and your dad created – The Language Of Love. And, uh, we want you to have that tool so your marriage can thrive in Christ.

Let me share a letter from one of our listeners. She wrote:

“You’ve impacted our household for over two decades through your radio broadcast – Adventures in Odyssey, the counseling you make available, and the numerous books and resources you offer. The ministry of Focus has strengthened our family emotionally and spiritually in ways that we trust will positively influence future generations. Thank you.”

I couldn’t say it any better. I mean, she caught it. And I’m so grateful that she’s been able to use those tools, probably, John, going back to the original The Language Of Love. Who knows?

And I want to invite you to become a monthly pledge giver to Focus. And if you can do that today, we’ll send you a copy of Gary Smalley – the late Gary Smalley – and John Trent’s book, The Language Of Love, redone and rereleased. And, uh, previously sold half a million copies. There’s a reason it did, and that’s because there’s great content in there to help you in your communication. So, join us today, be part of the solution. Be part of God’s answer to people who are hurting.

John F.: Yeah. Help us and donate, and we’ll send a copy of the book to you.

Now, our offices are closed today. It’s a holiday, as our staff celebrates the new year with some family time. But online, 24/7, you can donate and get Dr. Trent’s great book. Just stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: John and Greg, thanks again for being with us. This is really good stuff.

Greg: This was fun.

John T.: Thanks.

Greg: Thanks.

John T.: It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks, Greg, for jumping in.

John F.: What a great way to kick of the new year. And tomorrow we’re gonna be speaking with Mary Beth Lagerborg about some super ideas that you can employ this coming year to eat better more often, together.

Teaser:

Mary Beth Lagerborg: Food is so often associated with people gathering together, whether it’s a family meal or you want to get together with a friend so you go out to coffee, you go out for dinner, you have them into your home. It’s just a real connecting place as well as something we have to do regularly.

Today's Guests

The Language of Love

Receive the book The Language of Love for your donation of any amount! 

Recent Episodes

Promotional image for Focus on the Family broadcast "Embracing Your Role as a Spouse"

Embracing Your Role as a Spouse

Pastor Kevin Thompson explores three primary roles in marriage – friend, partner, and lover – and explains how spouses can live out those roles optimally by investing in their relationship mentally, emotionally, and physically.

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Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff Cropped

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Dr. Tim Muehlhoff is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California where he teaches classes in family communication, interpersonal communication, apologetics, gender, and conflict resolution.  Tim and his wife, Noreen, are both on staff with Biola’s Center for Marriage and Relationships  where he is a co-host of The Art of Relationship podcast. 

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Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

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Headshot photo of author Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder

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Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

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Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

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Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

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Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

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Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

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Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

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Headshot of Kevin Thompson

Pastor Kevin Thompson

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Cover image of Kevin Thompson's book "Friends, Partners & Lovers"

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin Thompson shows how to live out three distinct roles in marraige. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.

Sharing Your Faith with Grace and Purpose

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Mr. Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a writer, public speaker and talk show host who’s spent 30 years advocating for and defending the Christian worldview. Greg has written or contributed to 15 books, including The Story of RealityTactics, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published nearly 230 articles and has spoken on 80 college and university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

Tactics front cover

Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. In Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition, Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to artfully regain control of conversations, keeping them moving forward in constructive ways through thoughtful diplomacy. You’ll learn how to stop challengers in their tracks and how to turn the tables on questions or provocative statements. Most important, you’ll learn how to get people thinking about Jesus.

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Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!