Tough Love

Steve Farrell


Missing the Mark With Religion, Part 9

A close friend of mine suffers from a common human malady – the inability to give tough love.

Tough love, as most of us understand it, is having wisdom enough to withhold expected or demanded help from a friend or family member not because you fail to love them, but because you do love them.

That is to say, ‘My permitting your suffering for serious sin, your lumps for sore misjudgment, your fiscal prison for placing wants before needs, is the far more intelligent and compassionate help I choose to give.

It is to refuse to rob a loved one of the benefits of a lesson learned in the school of hard knocks. Tough love does a few other things too.

It affirms to those who are its recipients that natural law exists, that actions have consequences, and that it is in the theater of thought, toil and prayer, not in mindless pampering and protectionism where children become men. It is to believe that through the struggle comes the glory.

Tough love is a godly attribute. Some will discount that, but they shouldn’t.

The first account we have of God’s tough love was in his handling of Adam and Eve. To the two of them he set down some general rules that gave them a considerable amount of freedom (they could for instance partake of all of the fruits in the garden), but disobedience to one “thou shalt not” would circumvent their comfort and cause spiritual and physical death to enter into the world.

When Adam and Eve chose to transgress – law and order prevailed, and tough love began.

They were cast out of the garden and from God’s presence – which was spiritual death. Next, a change occurred in their bodies – which would eventually cause physical death. And, finally, they were introduced to a rough existence – which required labor for survival.

Adam was told, “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat thy bread, till thou return unto the ground” (1). And Eve was informed, “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (2).

That was certainly tough love! But time and experience has taught us that it was wise love. It was the casting of man into a world full of opposites and challenges, not a world full of safety nets and guarantees, that opened the door to man’s personal progress.

Warmth without cold, peace without war, freedom without slavery, life without death, or forgiveness without the painful wrath of sin, gives way to a lack of appreciation for these goods. Adversity is important. How shortsighted then are we to believe that we must prevent or alleviate all suffering.

Not that charity is wrong. Benjamin Franklin remarked, “To relieve the misfortunes of our fellow creatures is concurring with the deity; it is godlike. [But, he added,] if we provide encouragement for laziness, and support for folly, may we not be found fighting against the order of God and Nature, which perhaps has appointed want and misery as the proper punishments for, and cautions against, as well as necessary consequences of, idleness and extravagance?”

It is a good question.

He goes on to warn us, “Whenever we attempt to amend the scheme of Providence, and to interfere with the government of the world, we had need be very circumspect, lest we do more harm than good” (3).

More harm than good is precisely right.

I began by stating that a friend of mine suffers from the inability to give tough love. This friend’s daughter is a drug addict, but for these many years he has paid for her drugs, paid for her lawyers, and bailed her out of jail repeatedly.

Moreover, failed to warn others of the danger she poses, hired top defenders to keep a child under her stewardship (who was, as a result, nearly killed in a car wreck), compromised his usual honesty to defend her against other family members and litigants, thus dividing the family, undercutting his personal integrity, and fighting an endless and expensive war for naught.

His intentions are sincere; the results are devastating. And this is why: He allowed himself to be inspired by a misguided compassion that subsidizes failure and shields individuals from the brunt of their errors.

His daughter has never made an effort to change because the father eliminated all incentive to do so. If he continues on his course, it is not just she, but he who will be left penniless and naked against the unfeeling harshness of nature (4).

Many parents with the best of intentions have made the same error, but the fortunate ones have discovered – before it was too late – that love is not just gifts and protection, but at the right time, the withholding of both.

While parents sometimes do learn, rarely, if ever, do governments. They rather institutionalize their mistakes and, at best, reform irredeemable ideas in order to secure votes from the weaker elements of society, all the while knowing that they are only making matters worse.

If only individuals and nations could apply a little bit of common sense, and a little bit of faith. Holy Writ declares, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (5). And again, the Bible tutors that it is “in the furnace of affliction” where we are refined and become chosen (6).

Learning how to truly love a person or a people requires that we abandon socialistic, compassionate conservative, or effeminate schemes which miss the mark about religion by shielding loved ones and collective society from every bruise, bump, storm or roadblock along the road of life.

For complete love is not blind, and not stupid, but accepts people as they are, and administers to their needs with wisdom, a wisdom that dictates that sometimes the most compassionate answer to a plea for help is a firm and unflinching, “No!”

(Read Part 1. Modern Liberalism;   2. Libertarianism: the Oxymoronic Faith; 3. Not So Compassionate, Not So Conservative, Compassionate Conservatism); 4. Marx and the Worship of Man 5. Self-Worship: The God of Democracy 6. Moral License: Friend or Foe of Liberty? 7.  Red Eye On Marriage 8. Men or Cattle?

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Copyright © 2012 Steve Farrell.

Steve Farrell is the Founder and Editor In Chief of The Moral Liberal, one of the original and most popular pundits at (1999-2008), and the author of the highly praised inspirational novel Dark Rose.

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1.Holy Bible. Genesis 3:19

2.Ibid., Genesis 3:16

3.Smyth, “Writings of Benjamin Franklin,” 3:135.

4.Since this article was first written, death by drug overdose was the last act of this person’s miserable earthly existence.

Had she been checked at any point in her journey, and kept in a lockdown facility, medical or penal – which seemed to be the only practical and legitimate option – instead of constantly being bailed out, this early death, and all the years of carnage, regret, and family division that preceded her death, could have been avoided, or at least limited. But such an attempt was never made.

The subsidy and protectionism continued till the day of her death, with warrants out for her arrest and bounty hunters on her tail, and more plots to misuse family funds stewing in her head. A tragic life unwittingly encouraged. A lesson for us all. When we get to the other side, I have no doubt, family members will one day hear, from a sobered up soul, the prying question, “Why didn’t you care enough to stop me?”

5.Holy Bible. Galatians 6:7.

6.Ibid., Isaiah 48:10.

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