Tough Love

Dustin Turner
February 9, 2022

Despite my best efforts, I found it difficult to write this post. It is difficult for me because I felt a great deal of shame and repentance for the events of this story. One of my friends, Jayden, asked to meet up for a cup of coffee. He said he was curious about some things and he wanted to run some things past me. We just had a conversation about resources and growing as counselors, so this was not an unusual request. A couple of days later, we met up. The first thing he talked about when we met was some new roles and responsibilities he had in his life. Arrogantly, I assumed that he was asking “How do you do it all? Or “How do you find balance in responsibilities and self-care? That was not where he intended on going.

He then began to say that he has been deeply hurt by our relationship interactions. At that moment, my heart shattered. He mentioned how for some time now, my words have been hurtful and hostile toward him. But from my perspective, I thought I was being funny. I had the internal narrative that when you’re close with someone, you can pick on each other and that is proof that you are really close. But at that moment, the best thing to do was not to defend my behavior or even justify it. I was not in the position to be defensive. My friend was hurt, and he was coming to me to clear the air and make things right. He was living out Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother.” To be the brother he could gain, I took responsibility for my actions and sincerely apologized. We made amends and I made a commitment to do better. 

After that conversation, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I felt guilty and deeply repentant. How many other friends in my life had been hurt by my behavior, but unlike Jayden, did not have the courage to address it? It prompted me to ask my other friends if they have, at times, felt the same way. They had. So similar conversations like the one with Jayden continued. I continued to take responsibility for my behavior, sincerely apologize, and repent for my actions.

If you were to ask me before, I would have said that my actions were examples of tough love. Showing up and using brash words were an indicator of how close we were. But that’s not tough love. I would propose to say that the way Jayden came to me was tough love. Tough love leans into confrontation and addresses wrongdoing.

What about you? How are your relationship dynamics? What has gone unsaid for some time now? If you feel empowered to address a friend’s behavior, the formula of: “When you ____, it makes me think/feel ___” is a great start. In addition, Brené Brown provides what she calls “Rumble Language” that you can adopt to begin those conversations.

Here are some examples:

  • The story I make up is…
  • I’m curious about…
  • Help me understand…
  • What’s your passion around this…
  • Walk me through that…

But for some, you may need to lean into these conversations regarding your own behavior. 

Romans 12:16-18 says:

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

  • Do you feel like you have permission to be brutally honest and challenge me?
  • What behaviors or patterns of mine do you find the most difficult to be around?
  • In what ways have I made it hard to love me?
  • How can I improve to look more like Christ and love you well?

Will these conversations be easy? Probably not, but I encourage you to have them. Jesus said that if we have love for one another, this will be the way that the world will know that we are his disciples (John 13:35). As you humbly prepare to hear them out, pray that you can apply what they suggest so that you might look and act more like Jesus.

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