I used to think that “tough love” was a person’s excuse to say hurtful things without having to take any accountability for them. I remember being on the receiving end of talks that would end in me feeling small and unsettled.
It would make me feel defensive, like I was being put under a microscope and I had nowhere to hide. And, it can feel that way because sometimes that’s exactly what it is. Tough love is all about the delivery and the intention. There will be some people that will use the phrase as a cloak to envelop you in hateful or critical comments. But, when given with good intentions, tough love is something entirely different.
Tough love isn’t meant to harden your heart. It is meant to open your eyes to the fact that you’re standing in your own way. It’s meant to help you pull away from the brush strokes of the painful decisions you are creating so that you can see the beauty of the entire picture from a few steps back.
Sometimes, we have to give tough love and sometimes we have to receive it. Sometimes, we even have to give ourselves the reality check we’ve been searching for. It can be a messy process. It can be extremely uncomfortable. Because the truth is, it forces us to truly look at ourselves and our decisions and decide if we are happy with what we see.
Maybe you’ve gotten lost in a toxic relationship. Maybe you’ve been searching for the answers but you’re too immersed in the problem to even know where to look. Or maybe you just feel incredibly alone and insecure. Maybe you’re just looking for any solution, even if it’s temporary, to make things feel okay.
Sometimes, we need to bump around in the dark. We need to get lost, discouraged, and frenzied. We need to hit dead ends, lose perspective, get turned around. But, we need someone to teach us that when our worlds are nothing but darkness, it’s time to set our souls on fire. And, that fire is going to need a spark that serves as a catalyst for change.
Maybe the tough love you need will be the very thing that makes you feel capable of kindness and compassion again. Maybe the tough love you need will be a wake-up call and a renewal. Maybe it’s a long overdue conversation you’ve been meaning to have with yourself.
Maybe the tough love your friend needs is the very thing that everyone else has been too scared to tell them. Maybe it’s a truth that they have been too anxious to face, and you are giving them courage to confront their fears.
Maybe starting the uncomfortable conversation will lead you to better understand the world from their eyes.
Tough love doesn’t have to mean insensitive or overly blunt. It is tough in the subject matter, but it can be the most compassionate thing that we do for one another.
It shows that we are paying attention. It shows that we are looking for relationships that have depth. It shows that we are willing to tackle the difficult topics, weather the most tumultuous storms, and brave the ever-changing seasons of our lives together.
So, I guess it’s not really tough after all when you think about it…it’s just love.