I recently overheard a conversation between a mother and her teenage daughter in the mall the other day. The mother said, “It is never enough with you. We are constantly at this mall buying you more things you don’t need. The daughter responded, “Why else come to a mall if we can’t buy something?” All I wanted to do was turn around and cheer that mother on and tell her, “Go ahead be tough, just say no!” Now I have no idea why this mother and daughter had this exchange. I can only imagine that the mother was trying, in her own way, to convey a message to her daughter but as a bystander it didn’t seem to be working. I started to think about the act of tough love and how difficult it can be to love someone enough to get tough with them.
I never really understood tough love until I became a parent. It is that act of will between you and your child and you know that you have two choices. The one choice to give in is so much easier but that second choice of taking a stand is difficult for the both of you. I can remember several times having to be that tough love parent and hating every minute of it. Tough love is not easy and in some ways it is harder for the parent than the child. However, tough love always produces results. Sometime the results don’t happen right away but there really is no time limit on teaching a lesson through love.
I think about all the times in my own life when God had to give me a dose of tough love. It usually always had to do with some sort of stubborn pride. Life wasn’t going my way and I refused to listen to what I knew in my heart was the right thing to do. It is amazing how God’s love can be incredibly tough and yet on the other side of that it produces such incredible tenderness when we finally submit to His ways. That’s what getting tough with the ones we love is. It’s delayed tenderness.
Standing firm with those we love is one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes it creates a wedge and a sense of loneliness. However, I am always encouraged by the fact that when done right tough love produces confidence and healing. It’s the act of showing someone that you know they are capable of more than the status quo. You are showing the person you believe in them, even though at times it feels you are turning your back on them.
I am thankful for the times that I was a recipient of tough love. Every time someone loved me enough to stand firm, I grew and learned a valuable life lesson. Tough love is a selfless act. It really is the kind of healthy discipline we all need from time to time. It’s saying no not because we are in that parental role but because we love the person God put in our care.