The Weekly Dream: Tough Love

Love as Correction

“This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”

As children, I am sure we have heard this phrase in one context or another from our parents in response to some wayward act on our parts. If you were like me, you could not help but scoff at this statement. However, as I began to get older, I understood that discipline/correction is an unpleasant but necessary part of a true love relationship.

I think back to the days when I could not wait to be free from the control and direction of my parents, when they could no longer punish me and I could do whatever I wanted. I have since learned that “grown folks” whippings is far worse than anything that my family could ever do. Life can inflict a pain all its own. Looking back, my parents did my siblings and I a tremendous service by correcting us out of love, rather than letting us learn everything the hard way.

I may not have always agreed with my parents or where they were coming from, but I always respected having that external point of view. And I knew that they only wanted the best for me.

“Open Rebuke is better than secret love”

This tough love is not easy to give nor is it easy to receive. Most of us would rather hear our praises than our faults. We would love to shower or be showered with tendering loving care. But that is not real. No one is all good and no one is all bad. Love is about truth and to not speak out when our loved one is wrong is to commit an egregious error.

So why can strangers, who may not have our best interest at heart, criticize us and not those who are closer?

At school or work, we learn how to take criticism because it is suppose to concern an external, objective product. Normally, your teacher or boss doesn’t have access to the real you. But your family, significant other and friends, they know you. When they say things, it hits a little closer to home. Their words put us on the defensive. They know how to hurt you, they know your weaknesses. However, is this reaction love? Love is predicated on a voluntary openness and vulnerability. Also, love takes a trust that those who you are in relationship with will not do anything to take advantage of that. If they would, then you may need to move some people around (but that is another article).

We discount what these individuals say because we did not like the delivery. But most of the time, it is something our conscience is already dealing with us about. We might say things like, “I don’t want to hear that” or “Mama doesn’t know what she is talking about.” But if you react, it must be worth a little consideration.

“If you correct a wise man, he will love you.”

In truth, our loved ones only want us to flourish. It truly is a sign of maturity to let someone from the outside looking in tell us about ourselves. However, when on the receiving end, we need to take a step back and see it from their viewpoint, and understand that whether right or wrong, they mean well. Check in with your “committee” of trusted personal advisors.

When we are giving the tough love, we need to be empathetic to the other person and speak to them in a way that will foster a productive exchange. The ultimate goal is communication and understanding.

This is not to say that there are not times when you just have to come out with it, rough and raw. You may have to cut them off for a time or take extreme measures to shield yourself from the repercussions. However, you want the other person to realize the effect their actions are having on you and on them. But understand, it is their decision to make. God gave us freewill for a reason. Let them take it for what it is worth and protect yourself from any unfortunate repercussions.

It is hard at first

We are going to lose our way from time to time. That is why it is invaluable to have people around you who remember who you are at your best and care enough to let you know when you are not reflecting that. This type of honesty and openness is rare and should be preserved at all costs. The party receiving it may not appreciate it at the time, but with a little patience, they will eventually get the message (resist the urge to say I told you so). If you find yourself getting that wake up call, step back and look at the motives of the person and if they have a valid assessment. If not, instead of shutting down, help them to understand you better. But it is imperative to listen to your conscience and remain true to your internal compass for better or worse. If your life is inconsistent with that, it will shine through sooner than later.

We only have so many people who truly love us in life, let’s not let situations alienate us from them.

Speak the truth in love, as hard as it may be.

Thanks to everyone who has ever done it for me. You know who you are.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: Can you recall an instance where you experienced some tough love?

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2 responses to “The Weekly Dream: Tough Love”

  1. Anonymous says :

    Steve,
    This was a wonderful piece. Very timely too. I was just having this convo with my sig. other and realized how defensive I am with any sort of personal criticism. I thought about it for a minute and I know its terribly true. Like you said, hard love at work or school never affects me. But, its in my personal life where I cannot handle it. Its been like this forever. As a child I was the same way and any criticism from my parents, I challenged. Its taken this long to recognize it, but its been a good realization.
    Self-check, Thanks,

  2. Brandon Q. says :

    Great post Steve, I think that it is akward how criticism on the job (i.e. yearly reviews) is expected but personal criticism is feared. I have found that when I try to brace for personal criticism it is never as effective when I say/do something I think is fine and I get caught off guard. And like you said in a previous post, it is important to have that committee of folks who you know will keep it real with you.

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