“For all that I do, whether on my own or assisted by another, should be directed to this single end, the common benefit and harmony.” - Marcus Aurelius
You care. And, of course, you've done your best. You've been understanding and kind. You've loaned advice and offered help. But none of it has worked. So now, all that's left, is to play your trump card...,
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor Frankl
Whoa! Before you get all self-righteous, draw your line in the sand, and launch the "good" fight, maybe take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself a few tough questions.
Did you do your best, or only what was expedient? Was it understanding and kindness on offer or perhaps just enabling? Was it advice and help on loan, or simply lip service? Was it their well-being and welfare you were promoting, or merely a result that would make your life easier?
And please, tell me there was no shaming.
Real Love Vs. Tough Love
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Real love is a healthy commitment to another person. If you love someone you do what you can to promote their welfare and well-being. Real love is selfless and never coercive.
Tough love, properly understood and applied, is simply real love applied to someone behaving badly or doing themselves and others harm. When you apply real love to a misbehaving child, or an addict, or a criminal, you help them take responsibility for and correct their actions or behavior. You keep them on the hook for their ultimate benefit.
What is often passed off as 'tough love" doesn't involve any love at all. It's a cop-out for those unwilling to invest the emotional labor real love requires. In this instance, "getting tough" means turning off your capacity for loving and caring in order to get a result you want.
Real love is not based on reciprocity. There's no quid pro quo associated with real love. Too often, tough love is transactional. "Until you provide the 'quo' I demand, I withhold my 'quid."
Can I See Your Qualifications, Please?
Sure, you may earnest in your desire to assist, but are you invested? You may be empathetic, but empathy is not enough. If you truly love someone in distress, you must be compassionate. That means seeking a healthy end to someone else's suffering. Compassion requires caring and commitment.
Real love also requires the self-awareness to recognize when you're out of your depth. Are you sure you know what's best? Are you the best choice as advisor or therapist? Or is it time for an objective and qualified opinion or intervention?
Let's Get Real
Real love is never stingy, manipulative, or tough. Real love is always generous, sincere, and vulnerable. Real love is never selfish or self-serving, it's selfless service. It's time to get real about what "tough love" is and is not. When "tough love" is properly understood and healthily applied it's simply real love. Why call it anything else?
What do you fear most in the work you do? Failure, inadequacy, irrelevance, obscurity, poverty? Or maybe it's "all the above."
The creative life is filled with challenges, uncertainty, and obstacles that are beyond your control. But you do control the most important asset required to thrive in any situation or circumstance. What is it?
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