“Tough Love is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run.” Definition from Wikipedia
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” Luke 6:32-33
The more I study God’s word, the more I oppose the doctrine of Tough Love that is sold in society today. I have come to the conclusion that tough love isn’t true love. When we limit our love, we limit the power of Jesus to work through us.
When we pray to be used by God, to be His vessel, we can’t put a boundary around our lives that we don’t let anyone past. “If you cross this arbitrary line that I have in my head then I will need to distance myself from you during this time.” What?! That message is so contrary to God’s love.
I remember when my friends held me at arm’s length because I was too despicable to be near. I was an abhorrent thing that wasn’t worth the time. At least, that was how I felt even if that wasn’t their intention. I had done something wrong during my night of drunken debauchery, but I had no recollection of the event. Obviously, I was to blame. Did the knowledge that I was in the wrong make their abrupt departure from my life any easier? No, it didn’t. I had come to the end of what I was and felt tossed aside like a piece of garbage. One friend saved me. One moment of human interaction and my family was spared from years of wondering why I choose to leave them.
My feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness have left me and have been replaced with true joy and a sense of purpose, but how close was I to a permanent solution to a temporary problem? How many people out there on tottering on that same brink?
I can’t let someone’s last sight in this world be my back as I turn and walk back into my comfort zone, back into my easy, back into my safe place; all in the name of tough love. The end of my ability to love is where true love starts. Its where reliance on Jesus begins. I’m only human, but He is more. I must rely on His More to love when I’m less.
I know that it is messy where the hurting live. There is anger and denial and lots of tears. There are sharp edged people with sharp words on sharp tongues that would be so easy to turn away from and choose to leave. But Jesus sought out the hurting, the hopeless, the hungry; the people like me. He didn’t say ”I only love you to here, but no further. What you did requires me to separate myself from you for a time until I can handle you again.” He didn’t just accept us at our worst, he paid the price for us when we were completely undeserving.
It would be wonderful if everyone who wronged us apologized and atoned for their mistreatment of us, but that doesn’t happen. We are called to forgive because he first forgave us.
If we have a friend that has fallen, or offended us, or has chosen a wrong path, we have a choice to make. We can lovingly welcome them back even in the midst of our hurt and despite our wounded egos, or we can walk away in the name of tough love. We can decide to help with the healing process or exacerbate the wound by throwing the salt of our “righteous” judgement all over them. Our actions and words can be curative or cutting. We can help or hinder those that are hurting. Tough love is a travesty. Loving when it is tough reveals the Truth of God.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a part-time basket case who wants to be a full time writer.