The church is really good at using the phrase “tough love.”
By tough we mean a love that is willing to get down and dirty. A love that goes places that are not pleasant.
It is a friend that is willing to confront your addictions, whether they are alcohol, sex, gambling, or religion.
It is a wife who is honest about how your shortcomings as a husband and father.
It is a preacher who reminds you that God’s love demands everything, not just lip service.
It is a love that is not easy, either for the recipient or the giver.
But unfortunately, there is a type of “tough love” that may look like true love, but is not really loving at all. Instead it is a selfish way of letting others know that they do not live up to your standards.
Such an act is not motivated out of the good of the other person, but out of sense of being offended. It arises from self-righteousness.
Or to use a phrase that the church might use to justify itself, out of a desire for holiness.
This type of love leaves out grace. It leaves out patience and kindness. It is intolerant of giving a second chance.
True, beneficial “tough love” can only be done within a context of true love. A love that has already been proven. Proven through relationship. Proven through endurance. Proven through patience and kindness.
Otherwise, you may be right, but you are being anything but loving.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)
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