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In which it’s time to choose tough love

I’ve been thinking about the tough love, the tough nut to crack.

(“Time for some tough love,” they tell the new mama, usually to mean it’s time to put your baby in the crib and just let them scream themselves to sleep, to spank them obedient, to stand your ground, to dig down deep and withstand their pleas, their tears, to be tougher than them and win your way at all costs.)  (I hear the same language for teenagers, for different-thinkers, for prisoners, for the laid-off redundancies, for sinners, for the one that needs to be right in their eyes before they are allowed any love. A shrug of the shoulders and all is absolved because it’s tough love.)


I believe in tough love.

But it’s not that. Punishment for everyone from tinies to teenagers to tense adults. The tough love means going down deep, to battle my own selfishness, my own anger,  my own frustrations, my temptations to choose being right over being gracious, to be the last word, to convince by arguing and harsh invectives, pinches and pricks, to win.

When the going gets tough, the tough choose love.

Tough love means Christ will win in me at all costs.


Time for some tough love: it’s time to choose love over anything else and sometimes that is tough.

I will choose to love tough. To love harder, to draw closest right when I’m most tempted to walk away, to lavish love when I am most yearning to withhold it.

Is my love a privilege for my husband or my tinies or my friends or the world to earn from me, dispensed like a non-renewable resource with cautiousness and tally marks and tit-for-tat? Never.

Time for some tough love? Absolutely. It is always time for the tough love, the love that is tough, the love that is chosen despite the toughness of the choice.

Tough love won’t be easily chewed up and spat out. Tough love will endure strain and hardship. Tough love is determined to love at all costs.

The greatest irony of tough love I’ve found is that it’s only found in relaxing. It’s only found in releasing control. Love is the relationship you relax into living.  It’s only found in surrender, in living in the moment, in contentment with being and knowing the truth of enough – that He is enough and Love is enough and what I can do/offer/be is enough, too. Tough love is not found in trying harder to be more kind, more gentle, more disciplined.

Tough love says, you do not need to be right or perfect or without flaw to be loved.

It says that love is better than all of it, more than all of it, and I will choose it. 

That is tough to do.

Image source via Pinterest.

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discipline, faith, journey, love, parenting
  • mkrabill

    I LOVE this post. ;)

  • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

    Yes, this.

    We spend way too much time trying to complicate love. It isn’t always easy to love, but it’s not complicated. We need to get over ourselves and recognize that most of what we call “tough love” is just judgment. 

    Great, great post.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Most of what we call “tough love” is just judgemnet – that’ll preach, sister. 

  • http://arthomas.blogspot.com annaliseree

    Once again…  you have hit me straight in the heart where I needed to hear it most.  I am having such a hard time “loving” my toddler at all times.  He is so full of energy and passion and stubbornness…  sometimes I just don’t know what to do anymore.  But I need to love him always.  Outwardly with every action and word and thought.  “Tough” love, literally.  Because it’s so easy to start treating him like he needs to “earn” my love, which is SO not the truth!!  :o/

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Amen. Half the time (okay, more htan half) I’m just preaching to myself, Anna. Thank you for coming alongside me.

  • http://aislingdream.wordpress.com/ Melanie

    AMEN!!!!! *does a little dance* AMEEENNNNN!

  • http://realchilddevelopment.com Leslie

    Love this new definition of tough love!

  • http://sacredeveryday.ca/ Jenn

    I love this Sarah….you’ve redeemed the expression “tough love” for me…and love is tough, but your right it’s not in the withholding, but the letting go…it is often easier to withhold.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I know – I’ve needed to redeem it for myself. It’s been rolling around in my heart for a while so glad to know it works for more than me.

  • http://www.dietcokeontherocks.com robin

    I love this post, too. To Love “tough” when it’s really hard or I’m feeling selfish. Wow, I’m going to have to pray over this for awhile and really let it sink in. This whole post. Thank you for writing it. 

  • Leah Cadieux

    Beautiful as always.  I hope this new definition takes over. It is tough to do.  (*Ahem and you call this writer’s block.)

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Hee, hee. I love ya.

  • tuliprow.blogspot.com

    So true! I love it! ;)

  • http://corvidarium.blogspot.com/ wendy

    I have teenagers. Sigh. I needed to hear this today.
    Thank you.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      You and me, both, sister. (Well, except the teenagers bit. But I have toddlers…)

      • http://corvidarium.blogspot.com/ wendy

        Sometimes I think they’re almost the same thing!

  • http://www.pinkdaisyjane.com Heatherly Lane Sylvia

    Oh how I wish I had had this three years ago. Thank you. This is a gift to me today.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Thank you, luv.

  • http://perichoreticlife.blogspot.com/ Michael Thompson

    Well written! A corrolary is that in loving, I can only choose for me. Others may choose to curse, abuse or attempt to manipulate me. Others may choose to ignore, leave, or neglect me. I still make my own daily choice to love. I have also told people that all management is self-management whether engaging children, pets, coworkers, time, money…whatever.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Amen.

  • Brittaney

    One of your best!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Oh, I just love you, friend.

  • rayhollenbach

    You’ve given words to something our hearts intuitively desire: that love would win first in us, before we take actions toward others.

    I’m saddened when I hear a parent say to their child, “I’ve had *enough* of your attitude!” As if the limit of our patience is the measure of child-rearing.

    So, too with others. In a church I used to pastor, I encountered a board member who drove me crazy–her methods were brutal and her heart was not right–but that didn’t matter, because *my* heart was not fixed on what was best for her. She was only “a thorn in my side.” It took three years for me to turn my heart toward her, and finally (!) I was able to address her attitudes and actions. But what a deep work those three years did in me!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      That is gorgeous, Ray. Thank you.

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    Great post. The toughest part of tough love for me I think is that tenuous balance between healing and sanctification. With so much focus in the church over the last couple of decades on right living and holiness, it feels so natural to swing completely the other way and focus exclusively on healing and complete acceptance. And that’s definitely part of it. But we need BOTH for wholeness. Love means doing both in a way that is selfless, real, faithful, never-ceasing. I don’t know what that looks like. But I want to.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Both/and instead of either/or. Amen.

  • Rebeccanmast

    I shared this with my husband. Today he emailed me his reaction: “I don’t like this article.  It makes too much sense and sounds entirely too hard!” I love him for his honesty. And reading this today brought tears to my eyes. I will keep coming back to this one. Your words are filled with the Spirit. Thank you!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I love him – and you – for your honesty, too! Amen. I feel it too.

  • http://neuenkim.blogspot.com Kimberly

    soooo very good!!

  • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

    I need to hear this Sarah.  Parenting has been really tough for me lately.  the patience is thin.  Meaning, I’m not getting tough enough on myself & I need to amp up the love.  And cling to the Vine tighter.

    May I also say that there is another part of tough love, though?  that is not being judgey & harsh.  Sometimes when people talk about tough love it means that they are putting up boundaries or not enabling destruction.  Have you read Boundries by Cloud?  Examples would be not supporting an addiction, not bowing your neck to explosive anger…  You know, sometimes it is right & it is loving to say no.  And it is tough.  Because you may be upsetting one whom you love.  that is a tough love, too.