There are two ways to learn and there are two ways to love: the easy way and the hard way. The hard way to love is common ‘tough love,’ a love the world hates, but a love very effective and most necessary all the same.
Tough love chooses its victims by virtue of their own attitudes and behaviour; it deals with those suffering inordinate pride, slow learners, youth, and those also found not to be intrinsically motivated. It, by default, chooses every one of us—to the determinant of the situation.
Tough love (in relationships) could be defined as:
“[A] love that is willing to do whatever is necessary to bring about the best results.”
This is an Agape styled love, deep and entrenched and totally committed to the relationship; a love completely prepared to go the entire distance of life in sacrilegious caring—a world beyond mere humanity, the likes of which only Jesus truly attained. It’s a love entering pain.
Paul writes to the Corinthians in stern fashion—indeed his method to their incorrect ways based in sinful pride was tough love:
“I am not writing to embarrass you. I want to help you, just as parents help their own dear children.”
—1 Corinthians 4:14 (CEV).
We can picture Paul here almost on his hands and knees begging the arrogant Corinthians to start complying with the Word, Spirit and will of God—that which they were testified to do.
Tough love is for our own good. It’s a cruel-to-be-kind approach. It’s designed to bring us to decide on the right path in alignment with the truth, as illustrated below:
“If you live right,
you will have plenty to eat;
if you don’t live right,
you will go away empty.”
—Proverbs 13:25 (CEV).
Spoilt children flagrantly dishonour their parents but that’s only the start of the problem. The rest of society is at their whim... until, that is, they meet their matches—a fact most certain to happen. If our parents won’t love us appropriately in our disobedience, society will do it. The trouble, however, is society is being overrun with people who’ve never known love, tough or other, as defined here.
For our own now, there is nothing like tough love. It applies to us all. It’s a salve for every poor reaction, for all times of self-pity, annoyance, every bad and unnecessary thing. It’s a discipline for when we need it. It’s more necessary to the notion of respect than we had perhaps initially realised.
Praise God for tough love.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.
 James D. Berkley, Called into Crisis: The Nine Greatest Challenges of Pastoral Care (Carol Stream, Ill. / Dallas: Christianity Today; Distributed by Word Books, 1989 [The Leadership Library 18]), S. 191.
 Wesley J. Perschbacher (Ed.), The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1990), p. 2. Greek Agape love can be defined in many ways, but it’s a deeper love than Philo love. Agape love is “devotedness,” “be faithful towards,” and to “feel or manifest generous concern for.” Interestingly, Agape love covers a whole gamut of intense love, part of which is ‘tough love.’