IS TOUGH LOVE TOO TOUGH?

Any time people face real problems someone is going to come up with “THE SOLUTION”.  If you are told by a doctor you have cancer, usually before the week is out you will begin to receive calls, e-mails and material in the regular mail about vitamins or minerals you can take and it will cure the cancer.  It seems like every one of the calls and letters will say that doctors know the cure for the problem but if they told it they would stop making so much money so they keep the cure a secret.

It’s the same if you have heart problems.  The flood of people and materials you receive telling you how the drugs given to lower cholesterol aren’t really what is needed but if you take this pill taken from the bark of some tree in India you will be cured of the heart problems.  Again the message is that the doctors know the answer but refuse to tell you because they wouldn’t make all the money they now make from the drug companies.

I think one of the things that is so frustrating to me about those calls is how they slam the doctors who have devoted their lives to helping those with the problems.  Many of those doctors are people I’ve come to know quite well as a patient and to make such charges against them is ludicrous.

It is exactly the same thing that has happened with regard to the hurting and frustrated parents who love their children but often feel lost in trying to figure out how to handle a child who is near adulthood and is out of control.  It is in that time of despair when you are praying to God for guidance and reading the Bible regularly looking for answers on what the right thing is to do, that such calls tend to come.  You wonder if this could be the answer that you’ve been praying for and if God is behind you getting this call or letter.  You may even be invited to a meeting with a “tough love” group who will help you know the right way to handle things.

At first the answers sound good.  It is refreshing just to hear someone who is confident they have an answer.  You listen intently as they describe what it means to have tough love.  If you are like me you get a funny feeling that something isn’t right about this whole thing.

I don’t have any doubt that sometimes as a parent we become enablers of our children so that they can continue in their way of life.  I know there is a fine line between being compassionate, caring and available for a child and in enabling them to do wrong.  To enable one in the wrong is to help them live a lie, to give them money when you know it will be used to buy drugs or alcohol or to hide things from your mate to help the child keep their life secret.  Real love and compassion will never be dishonest for any reason.  Integrity is so important that to slack off in my honesty is to send the wrong signals to the child and to everyone else.  More than that it breaks God’s will and will leave me feeling like a hypocrite for claiming commitment to God while lying to those I love.

It can start is such small ways, with someone calling from school to see if your son or daughter was sick.  You know they weren’t really sick but you don’t want them to get into trouble so you say they were sick after all.  Once the lies start it is hard to find a stopping place.  Satan has taken control of the whole thing now and he won’t stop until you stop the whole thing and come clean with everyone that you have lied to.

If you want to call being honesty tough love then we need to have tough love.  Being honest seems to me to be just a matter of being real in your life for God.  He said to “Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” and to “speak truth to our neighbor.”  This same honesty will lead to being truthful to people we know and people at church about the struggles we are going through as a family.

The thing that makes me question the idea of tough love is that some of the things I’ve heard of people doing in the name of tough love have been tough but not very loving.  I’ve heard of parent cutting off all relationship with a child and even declaring they are no longer part of the family.  That doesn’t fit the pattern given by Jesus of the Loving Father in Luke 15.  His son went far astray but when he started home he was watching and ready to run and meet him in the way.

The right kind of love is tough in that it tells the truth and acts with integrity while always maintaining love both in our words and actions toward the child.

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
This entry was posted in THE HURTING PARENT, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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