There are times that love calls on us to act tough towards another to jolt the person to reality or to the truth. God will sometimes while disciplining us make us go through situations that would make one believe that they are not loved. However the purpose is always to take us back to the path of truth and to grow us.
In the book of proverbs the bible says “my son do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord discipline’s those He loves, like a father the sons he delights in” Proverbs 3:11-12. Discipline simply means to “teach and train”. God’s discipline teaches us the difference between right and wrong and helps us to be morally strong.
Tough love is tough even on the giver because it involves you allowing a loved one to go through a situation that would be easier to get them out of. Love at such time is best served by permitting the upsetting thing to happen for the good of the one going through it. This kind of love makes one face the consequences of their actions and go through situations that build up their character.
God exemplifies this kind of love in the case of Jacob. Jacob deceived his brother Esau of his inheritance by pretending to be his brother to their dying father and therefore getting the elder sons blessing, Genesis 27: 14-29. God allowed Jacob to go through the same treatment that he meted on his brother Esau by allowing Laban to deceive Jacob in the same way that Jacob had deceived Esau.
Jacob had agreed to work for Laban for seven years as a price for marriage to Rachel, Laban’s daughter, whom Jacob had fallen in love with. Instead of getting Rachel whom he had bargained for, Leah was instead deceptively given to Jacob, Genesis 29:18-25. Both actions of deception were done in darkness; Isaac, Jacobs’s father was blind and it was darkness that Leah was presented to Jacob.
God also showed King David some tough love by allowing him to face the consequences of his actions. After his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, the child conceived as a result of the adultery died. Later his own son Amnon raped David’s daughter Tamar. Absalom as an act of revenge for his sister Tamar murdered Amnon, 2 Samuel 12: 16-19, 2 Samuel 13:1- 28.
Consider also the time that Aaron and his sister Miriam opposed Moses based on their jealous for his position. God showed Miriam some tough love by making her leprous. When Moses tried to intercede for her, God answered,” if her father had spat in her face would she not have been disgraced for seven days? Confine her for outside the camp for seven days after that she can be brought back” Numbers 12: 1-16.
The book of Proverbs admonishes us not to withhold tough love from on our children for it could be what saves them from distraction in the future. The writer teaches, that “do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with a rod, he will not die, punish him with the rod and save his soul from death” Proverbs 23:13-14.
A child is commanded to honor his father and mother so that it may go well with him/her. This is because God has assigned His disciplinary power over the parents and expects the parents to carry it forth with love. If a parent does not discipline his child, the world will and the parent will pay for this omission as he watches the child suffer through the harsh punishment the world offers.
What we teach our children is what they take with them to the world. Indeed “he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” Proverbs 13:24. The Bible associates lack of discipline with death because eventually this is what it leads to. This writer believes that the thing lacking in most children today is a balance between tough love and tender love.
Many parents are reluctant to discipline their children because they fear they will forfeit their relationship. They fear that their children will hate them or that they will damage their children. Such parents must heed the wisdom of the Proverbs which teaches, that ‘whoever rewards evil for good, evil will not depart from his house” Proverbs 17: 13. Tough loves teaches responsibility and makes one accept the consequences of their actions.
We must however be careful that we are not too tough and never show any compassion and tenderness which can result in an angry and closed spirit on the part of the child. We must define wrong behavior and let children suffer the consequences of their action when need be and also show them compassion and forgiveness when the offensive action would be better served by tender counseling.
This kind of love is not only applicable between children and parent but in all human relationships. We must exercise tough love with our friends when the situation warrants it even if we face the risk of losing them as friends. If you stand by and watch a friend destroy themselves by wrong choices and say nothing you cannot truly be a friend. If the truth will save a friend from bad consequences and you know it, remaining silent when you know better amounts to your acquiescence to the offensive act.
Our relationship with others should mirror our relationship with God. God does not allow us to continue in a destructive path in silence. He will warn us, rebuke us and eventually allow us to experience the effect of our actions if we do not listen. Indeed scriptures teach that “whoever loves instructions loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” Proverbs 12:1.
Tough love should however not be confused with criticism. Criticism is accusatory and can be condemning while tough love points one to the error while directing one to the truth in love. A good example of this is Nathan’s approach when he confronted David after his adultery and later murder. Nathan gave an example of the thing that David had done using metaphors so that David was able to see the evil first which led him to acknowledging his own guilt, 2 Samuel 12: 1-13.
This kind of approach leads one to the truth without being defensive or feeling accused. David’s own conscience convicted him and he was therefore able to act in repentance while accepting the consequences of his actions. Jesus also says that “those I love I rebuke and discipline” Revelations 3:19.