Think about Christmas morning, what gift would you rather receive? When I was 14 at Christmas I was hoping for a shotgun for Christmas and instead got tickets to the Opera with my mother. I was Huckleberry Finn reincarnated and had no interest in spending quality time with my mother at the Opera. The tickets were expensive and my mother thought that I’d be delighted. But she obviously didn’t know the hillbilly son she raised and was gifting me a present based on what she wanted, rather than what I wanted.
It seems so silly to talk about love to a reading audience which consists mostly of farmers. Believe me, ten years ago I would be reluctant to have a conversation with any of my readers about this topic. It’s a topic real men simply don’t discuss. However, the issue of love is one of the root cause of why we do what we do. Sometimes it can be a good thing, but many times it’s creates dysfunctional behavior and is often why I get called in as a mediator. It is the root issue which causes many family empires to fall!
There is a book by Gary Chapmin called “The 5 Love Languages” that every farmer should read.
It outlines five ways to express and experience love that Chapman calls "love languages": gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Chapman argues that, emotionally, people need to receive love. He also writes that people should not use the love languages that they like the most but rather the love languages that their loved ones can receive.
The problem I often see with farmers is that they demonstrate their love to their family members in one way, but the person that receives this gift isn’t at the same “love level”.
It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
For instance for one son, his father continually wrote checks giving his son everything because the father had grown up with absolutely nothing. The form of love that the father favored was giving. Yet the son didn’t want money or things from his dad. He was about to reject his $10,000,000 inheritance of a poultry farm and get a job in town. He had grown up with his Dad always working and essentially his dad had been a stranger in the house. The son wanted to spend time with his Dad that didn’t involve making money (farming together). The son wanted to go fishing with his dad or go to a hockey game. The son wanted his Dad to give him more quality time. The father thought that time not spent making money (working on the farm vs. fishing) was time wasted.
The two men had different forms of love that they desired.
Farm Succession is the time where the languages of love become most predominant. For a lot of patriarchs they feel writing a check or gifting a farm is the ultimate form of love. However, for their son or daughter, they often expect a different form of love often a word of praise or time spent not farming.
I often see fathers gifting a farm asset to a son and not getting the gifts fully appreciated in the way that they should be. However, the son wants to be gifted “words of affirmation or praise” for the hard work the son has done. The father keeps gifting more and more equity of the farm corporation, figuring that would solve the son’s grievances. Often the accountants are of the same personality type as the fathers and figure gifting equity or the farm asset entirely is the solution. However, it isn’t and it leads to very bitter family disputes, ending in an unhappy family.
For some farm families, saying “I love you son and am proud of what you’ve accomplished” is simply taboo. However, it is exactly the form of love that some men needs to hear in order to be functional.
Often this lack of understood love, will drive men to work harder. However, after a time of not receiving love in a format that they can recognize will feel completely rejected and hatred will develop. They will start to become negative and bitter. According to my granddaddy, a good dog needs to be pet, but sometimes needs a boot in the ass to correct bad behavior. However, if the dog only gets booted and never pet, then it becomes bitter. This creates a good guard dog, but not a good family dog.
The same scenerios is with men. Without a man experiencing love, it creates a vicious fighter but not a good business partner or family member. Love makes the world go round…
Alcoholism is an obvious form of a dysfunctional vice and there are a lot of factors that contribute to it. However, often one of the root causes is an emotional need that isn’t being met by a key family member that the person needs love from. A good example would be a son who worked hard for his father’s praise but never received it, drawing to drinking excessively to escape the frustration and stress of working with a man who is always critical of every move the son made. Too often I’ve seen father’s blame the alcohol or the foolish behavior, but never realize that a few kind words would fix all problems. The father blames the effects but not the root causes. The root cause isn’t the alcohol, it’s the man’s poor self-esteem caused by a lack of praise which is one format of love some folks need worse than air itself. The alcoholic has to spend his life in and out of rehab when a few kind words from Dad would fix the issue.
Father’s often misunderstand how a few kind words of praise could turn around the life of their son or daughter. They think that providing a kind word or other form of a gift is foolish and outside their business culture. That is because their form of love gift is different than their kids or wife’s. Like the tower of Babel everyone is speaking different languages to one another and not understanding why no one understands one another. This is what leads to frustration, confusion and hatred on a family farm!
We often think about what form of gifts we expect. The question is, have we ever thought about the gifts others in our lives need? How would you classify your family members? What form of love language do they need? What drives them and why? How do you interrelate to them and how can you better relate to them by giving them a gift they’d actually enjoy, not what you’d enjoy?
So the question reader is this, are you going to rethink about how you relate with your family members? Are you going to spend five minutes thinking about your family member’s personality types and how they are different than yours? Are you going to start giving what they need, instead of giving them fluff they won’t appreciate like gifting opera tickets at Christmas to a 14 year Huck Finn?