Love Hurts. It can hurt like hell. The more we love and the more we care, the more it stings, burns, and drives and wedges right into the core of us. This is tough love.
My stepmother taught me about tough love. Unlike my father who was the philosophical scientist who reasoned everything in his wise written words and calming deep voice in a gentle and methodical way, my stepmother was the complete opposite. She was blunt. She could be a verbal frying pan. You would never guess this about her as she stood at just about my height and had the most soft-spoken voice with words that could cut sharper than any sword. My stepmother was a top notch listener and had the patience of a saint. After digesting everything, she would say it like she saw it. Time and time again, she shocked me when her words just about always played out into truth of what she predicted. It was like she was psychic. I could always count on my stepmom to tell me what I needed to hear rather than what I wanted to hear. Do you have someone like this in your life?
My stepmother was not like this when I first met her. Or, maybe she was always like this, but did not feel comfortable enough with me to reveal her razor sharp ways. I always find that people’s true colors and real ways eventually emerge; It just takes time. All I know was when I was an angsty teenager that was deprived of a mother for nearly five years until she came into my life that I was unaccustomed to her type of love and care. She was fearless to discipline me with giving clear cut “yes” or “no,” rather than my father that was “maybe” and “it depends.” I tolerated her bluntness out of love for my father. However, I remember one distinct experience where I literally blew up at her and snarled angrily, “You’re always slamming me! Why??”
I stormed off in a huff. I did not expect her to follow me. My father was infamous for following and calming me down when I exploded like a firecracker. I was shocked and speechless when my stepmother did follow me and gently said, “I’m hard on you because I care about you. If I did not care about you, I would not say anything. I know there is more to you. It takes courage to stand up to those you love who may be hurting themselves or may have something even better in them. It is tough love to see more and say more of what could hurt in that moment than to say nothing and let it hurt even more in the long run.”
My stepmother’s words and ways have trailed behind me fiercely. I realized recently that I’ve sort of adopted her ways. I’ve seen people I love and care about continue with certain patterns that only hurts them in the end and, because I love them, I say something-- always, always, when asked. Most people do not ask for our advice and just want someone to listen to them. A sounding board, if you will. For those that ask, I give to the best of my ability. I try to refrain from sledgehammer ways and be a combination and the best of my father and stepmother. Love is never without efforts. Love never comes easy.
As difficult as it is for us to stand up to our opponents, it is even harder to stand up to the people we love and the people we care about the most when we see what they are doing may be hurting or harming themselves. We cannot be anyone’s savior and we certainly cannot ever change anyone, but we can certainly be there for people and provide support and insight when needed and asked. Have you ever had someone love you so much that the person told you what you needed to hear rather than what you wanted to hear? Have you ever experienced someone you love hurting and harming themselves or on the brink of doing something that could possibly be catastrophic? Will you say something even when you are not asked? Would you risk your relationship with someone you love or care about them to ‘hurt’ them in the moment with words of truth than what could or would hurt them in the long run by not saying anything at all?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,