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Love, Gifts, and Parts

May 27, 2024

Dear Souls and Hearts Members,

Today, we continue with the fourth “love language” described in Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell’s 1997 book  The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively, which is gifts.  This reflection is the sixth in our series of love languages, children, and child-like parts.  As a brief recap, here’s what we have covered so far:

  1. April 3, 2024:  Healing Our Parts … So We Can Love Better
  2. April 10, 2024:  How Children Need Love from You
  3. April 17, 2024:  A Touch of Love
  4. May 1, 2024:  Words of Affirmation and Parts
  5. May 15, 2024 Quality Time and Your Parts

Chapman and Campbell open the chapter by describing how there is no substitute for a daughter’s sense that Mom and Dad are genuinely interested and invested in her.   There is no replacement for a son’s felt impression that Mom and Dad care for him and want what is best for him.  Children will see through gifts that are given as a substitute for the real relational work of connection and intimacy and recognize them as counterfeits.

In other words, parents can’t just give gifts to children and expect that the gift-giving means love; the relational context of the giving is critical.  A gift can be the expression of love, but the gift is not the love itself.

The bottom line is that parents must genuinely care for their children for their gifts to express love.  Thus, Chapman and Campbell argue, the other four love languages must be employed (touch, words of affirmation, quality time, and acts of service).

When giving is abused

Chapman and Campbell write that, “For many reasons, parents sometimes resort to presents rather than being truly present to their children. For some who grew up in unhealthy families, a gift seems easier to give than emotional involvement. Others may not have the time, patience, or knowledge to know how to give their children what they genuinely need.” [p. 81-82]

Our authors go on to describe how gift-giving can be misused in high-conflict divorces to mitigate the pain of separation, assuage feelings of guilt about the splitting up of the family.  In such situations, gifts can also be weaponized in a power struggle between the parents for their children’s approval or even to alienate children from the other parent.  They counsel that we must be honest with ourselves; they insist, along with Confucius, that “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names.

Chapman and Campbell tell us that “Gifts should be genuine expressions of love. If they are payment for services rendered, or bribery, you should not call them gifts but should acknowledge them for what they are.” [pp. 83-84]

Amen to that.  If we just called things by their proper names, there would be so much less confusion for children.

Gifts are not payments; gifts are not bribes

On the theme of proper names, if you have read my reflections or listened to my podcast, you know how much I appreciate clear definitions.  And Chapman and Campbell provide useful distinctions between gifts and payments when they write, “…if a gift is deserved, then it is a payment. A true gift is not payment for services rendered; rather, it is an expression of love for the individual and is freely given by the donor.” [p. 79].

A gift is not something that the recipient is owed or “deserves” in a strict sense.  An employer is not giving a gift to an employee in paying the agreed-upon wages.

And gifts differ from bribes is that that the giver is not trying to influence the recipient’s decisions or behaviors with a gift – with a bribe, there is an expectation of a quid pro quo, a “something for something,” an exchange.  As psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein wrote in his Psychology Today article titled When Is a Child’s Reward Actually a Bribe?:

a bribe is a persuasion attempt offered to a child in advance—or during a child’s negative behavior—to influence their behavior or get them to do something they might not want to do. Bribes are usually offered on the spot and are not pre-established. For example, a parent may offer their child candy to stop throwing a tantrum in the grocery store.

Rather, real gifts flow from love that motivates the giving, in contrast to the self-focused desires that usually motivate bribes or the justice that drives payments.  Chapman and Campbell make the point when they write that “The grace of giving has little to do with the size and cost of the gift. It has everything to do with love.”  [p. 80]

So we again see that the gift itself is not the love and bigger more expensive gifts do not mean more love.  Rather, authentic gifts express the underlying love that motivates them.  This is why gifts are a “love language.”

In the Gospel of Luke 21:1-4, we see this laid down for us:  [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins.  And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had.

Jesus did not focus on the size of the gift – the actual monetary value – but rather the love and the trust that motivated the widow’s gift.  The widow gave completely.  She gave “all the living that she had.”

In giving we find ourselves

In his 1992 apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope John Paul II writes,  “Human maturity, and in particular affective maturity, requires a clear and strong training in freedom, which expresses itself in convinced and heartfelt obedience to the “truth of one’s own being, to the “meaning” of one’s own existence, that is to the “sincere gift of self” as the way and fundamental content of the authentic realization of self.” [§ 44].

At Souls and Hearts, we focus on resiliency and flourishing in human formation.  We focus on overcoming the difficulties we have in the natural realm that limit our freedom to give of ourselves, that impede our capacity to love fully, with all our being.  The bishops of the USCCB in the Program for Priestly Formation, 6th Ed. wrote that The growth of human formation happens generally in a threefold process of self-knowledge, moving to self-possession, and finally to self-gift, and all this in a context of faith. [§100]. For our bishops, self-gift is the culmination of human formation.

In his dense passage quoted above, I believe Pope John Paul II, in referring to the “truth of one’s own being,” is reminding us of our primary identity – that of being a little son or daughter of God whom God has loved into existence – self-knowledge.  My dear colleague and friend Andrew Sodergren from Ruah Woods Psychological Services picks up this theme in his excellent article from June 20, 2023 titled Gift, Self-gift, and the Meaning of Life — Part 1 when he writes in a beautiful passage that:

This connection between love and existence is incredibly profound.  It means that all things that exist — rocks, plants, animals, humans, angels — only exist because God loves them into being at every moment.  One implication of this is that there is NEVER a moment in which God is not thinking about you specifically and loving you into existence.  Every beat of your heart, every breath of your lungs, every second that goes by is a gift of love given to you by our God who is Love.  Indeed, the very ground of our being is the infinite love of God.  Our first and most fundamental calling, then, is simply to receive God’s gift of life with gratitude, awe, and wonder.

So first, you are to receive – to take in the life and the love God has given you as a free gift, unmerited and undeserved, in His Providence in self-knowledge and claim possession of that identity as a beloved little son or daughter of the Most High.  God has given you your being, and he sustains your being in love.  Dr. Sodergren is clarifying the invitation from God for you to receive yourself – to fully embrace and possess your being.  Why?

Because receiving yourself the starting point, receiving yourself from God is the launch pad.  Receiving yourself is a good in itself.  But there’s more.  You receive yourself so that you can make a gift of who you have received – yourself – back to God and to your neighbor in love.  As French dramatist and screenwriter Jean Anouilh put it so succinctly: “Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.

But receiving yourself as a gift from God and possessing yourself is not easy for many of us.  I discussed this at length in Interior Integration for Catholics podcast episode 96, titled I Am a Rock: How Trauma Hardens Us Against Being Love.

In his passage quoted above, John Paul II invites us to understand that we come to the fullness of not just by giving what we have, but by giving who we are – “the sincere gift of self.”  In this invitation to the fullness of being, John Paul II echoes the Vatican II document Guadium et Spes [§ 24] which reads “…man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.

Gifts as expression of love 

When Dad comes home from time away with thoughtful little gifts for his children, it’s a way of communicating to them “I remembered you when I was away.  You remain in my heart.”  It’s a way of communicating in the moment of the giving, “I see you” and “I am with you.”  The authentic gift come from the being of the father, not from his wallet, in a way that addresses the child’s attachment needs and integrity needs.

The mission and vision of Souls and Hearts

The vision of Souls and Hearts is to help us embrace and embody love in all our being – for us to become love – so that we can reflect that love back to God, our neighbors, and ourselves wholeheartedly.

The mission of Souls and Hearts is:

  1. to shore up our natural, human foundations for love together in community;
  2. to grow in our human formation by discovering and embracing our identities as beloved little sons and daughters of God our Father and Mary our Mother, our spiritual parents, our primary parents;
  3. by overcoming our natural impediments to embracing love and to flourishing and resilience in loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves fully, in an integrated and ordered way;
  4. Through an understanding of the multiplicity and unity of ourselves in our parts and systems using the best of religious and secular human formation resources and
  5. In complete fidelity with the teachings and the wisdom of the Catholic Church and a Catholic understanding of the human person.

Giving gifts to your parts

Point 4 of our mission brings in how we have parts in our multiplicity.  And many of those parts feel phenomenologically very young.  If we are to receive the life and the love God has given us as a free gift, that means receiving it across all of our being – all of our parts, no part left out, no part left behind.

Can we learn to speak this love language of gifts not just to others, but to our own parts?  Can we bring charity home, to our own selves, as John Wyclif wrote in 1382, saying “Charite schuld bigyne at hem-self.”  Are you willing to work on your own inner unity, your own interior integration with me?

Let’s do it together.  I’m offering you this 29-minute experiential exercise to help you find better ways to give good things to yourself in an ordered way – not so you can become self-indulgent, but so that your parts can receive what they need to be able to join your innermost self in making a more complete gift of yourself, including your parts, back to God and others. 

And if that experiential exercise was beneficial to you, I invite you to check out these other ones from my podcast Interior Integration for Catholics:


The Interior Integration for Catholics podcast

Episode 138, titled Personal Formation with Jake Khym – Restore the Glory and Life Restoration, released last week in video on YouTube and in audio. Catholic thought leader, human formation specialist, and podcaster Jake Khym has more than 20 years of experience in a wide variety of ministry settings. He joins me in this episode to discuss integrated personal formation.  We focus on these major themes:

  1. Your heart
  2. Your identity as a beloved little son or daughter of God
  3. The integration of formation within the heart
  4. Love as the gift of oneself
  5. Change vs. growth vs. flourishing
  6. The importance of emotions
  7. How good formation requires relationship
  8. Getting into the messy business of your own personal formation, and
  9. Jake’s top resources for personal formation

Next week, on Monday, June 3, I will release episode 139 titled Integrated Personal Formation with Dr. Bob Schuchts.  To be notified when it comes out, subscribe to our IIC podcast channel on YouTube or to the audio wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Join Dr. Peter live for Episode 140 of the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast titled Your Personal Formation:  Experiential Exercise and Q&A live on Monday, June 10 from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM Eastern Time.  We will start with a 25-minute experiential exercise to help you identify your parts who need one or more of the St. John Paul II’s dimensions of formation – human, spiritual, intellectual, and/or pastoral formation.  Then we will have an opportunity to debrief from the exercise, share experiences, ask and answer questions, and discuss formation options.  Registration is required but at no cost to you, but please be reasonably sure you can attend and be on time, as space is limited to 100 participants – if you take a seat and don’t participate, that means someone else didn’t get the opportunity.  We will release the video and audio versions of this podcast on Monday, June 17, 2024.

And please like us, leave comments and reviews, and share the IIC podcast episodes with those you think might benefit.  Thank you for helping us get the word out.

Join Dr. Peter and Dr. Gerry before the 2024 Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis

As many of you know, we are just 51 days away from the historic 2024 Eucharistic Congress, held July 17-21 here in Indianapolis.  And before the Eucharistic Congress kicks off with the 7:00 PM Eucharistic Procession, Dr. Gerry and I are hosting a Souls and Hearts gathering for pilgrims who arrive early and for those who are local on Wednesday afternoon, ending with a taco bar supper.

Find all the details and register on our Souls and Hearts’ landing page – it would be great if you can join us in Indy on July 17 from 1:30 to 6:00 PM for the half-day experience titled Recollecting Your Parts in Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Our physical space limits us to 80 participants and allocated on a first-come – first serve basis.  I will be presenting on the Sacrament of Penance and Dr. Gerry on the Eucharist.  And as a special treat, Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB will also be present.

Dr. Gerry and I are also planning on attending the Eucharistic Congress, so perhaps we will see you there.

Dr. Gerry on the air…

If you are single and dating (or even if you’re not), check out Dr. Gerry and Catholic coach Rose Sweet on this 45-minute video episode of CatholicMatch Live as they discuss healing yourself before you enter a serious romantic relationship as well as Dr. Gerry’s book Litanies of the Heart.

Bishop Conley’s Pastoral Letter A Future with Hope

Our world is experiencing a mental health crisis. Anxiety and depression weigh heavily on the lives of many people – often those people are youth and young adults.  There is hope, though. I speak from experience. I have been on my own mental health journey that has taken me to the depths of darkness and then back to a life in which I once again experience joy and an even deeper love for our Lord.

Bishop James D’ Conley’s Coat of Arms, by Wikimedia Commons, used with permission by CC BY-SA 2.5 Deed

Thus opens Bishop James Conley’s Pastoral Letter, A Future with Hope.  It is so worth the read (or the listen).  He recounts his personal story of what led up to his 11-month leave of absence from his diocese for mental health issues.  He emphasizes the importance of ordered self-love (according to St. Thomas Aquinas). negative God images, and the importance of a Catholic understanding of the human person, which are all important themes for us at Souls and Hearts.

And, notably for us, Bishop Conley lists our Resilient Catholic Community and the prayers Litanies of the Heart from Souls and Hearts, as well as Dr. Gerry’s book Litanies of the Heart as resources.

For more information, check out this YouTube video of Bishop Conley with Diocese of Lincoln Director of Communications Dennis Kellogg for a conversation about the pastoral letter, with more background information and context.

The Resilient Catholics Community opens in five days (or three if you’re on the interest list)

You’ve heard about the Resilient Catholics Community.  Maybe you’ve consider joining us.

Maybe it’s time.

We are seeking Catholics who believe all that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, who are seeking to flourish in love and for love, who are working to overcome their deficits in their human formation and shore up their natural foundations for loving God, their neighbors, and themselves.  We are seeking Catholics who resonate with working at depth, with all their parts, informed by parts approaches, in a way that is firmly grounded in a Catholic understanding of the human person, come find out more about the RCC!

More than 300 have signed up already on the interest list for the St. Gertrude the Great cohort, the seventh class to enter the Resilient Catholics Community.  General registration opens on June 1, but those on the waitlist will receive an email on May 30 at noon Eastern time allowing them to register as soon as noon Eastern time on May 30.

Remember that application to the RCC is not the same as joining – there’s a mutual discernment process that takes time.  If you are on the fence about applying, work through this 19-minute experiential exercise with your parts to help you discern whether or not this is a good time for you to apply to the RCC.

Find out so much more, see new RCC member testimonials and get on the interest list at our RCC landing page.  Check out RCC Lead Navigator and me giving a presentation about the RCC and answering all kinds of questions from our May 21 Zoom meeting in this 67-minute video or take in the audio here.

If you’re considering the RCC and have questions for me, consider calling me on my cell at 317.567.9594 any Tuesday or Thursday from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM Eastern Time during my conversation hours for a private one-on-one talk about whether the RCC might be a good fit for you.

Pray for us

Prayer fuels everything we do in our apostolic mission at Souls and Hearts.  I am reminded of Trappist Abbot Jean-Baptiste Chautard’s book The Soul of the Apostolate, where he writes in the prologue:

Spirit of Light, imprint upon their minds, in characters that can never be erased, this truth: that their apostolate will be successful only in the measure that they themselves live that supernatural inner life of which Thou art the sovereign PRINCIPLE and Jesus Christ the SOURCE.” [p. 4, emphasis in original].

So please pray that for us at Souls and Hearts, our active works arise from our interior life with Christ, and that as Abbot Chautard insists, our “life of action [flows] from the contemplative life, to interpret and extend it, outside [ourselves], though at the same time being detached from it as little as possible.”  [p. 53].

In Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

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