When I was young my mom bought a book entitled Tough Love. She was looking for guidance on how to love and help a family member that was struggling. The premise of the book, from what I remember, was that love is not always easy but may require some very tough stances and positions in order to help and support a loved one. What my mom didn’t realize at the time was that she and my father were already employing many of these methods with their own children on a daily basis. I can tell you firsthand that my parents were experts at setting boundaries and following through with them.
It was a beautiful sunny day when a dog darted out in front of the car. I was in college, on the way to class at the University of Maryland. The man in the brand new Lincoln town car slammed on his brakes to avoid plowing into the dog and I, in turn, slammed into him. We both pulled over to the side of the road and he proceeded to walk house-to-house to find a phone. To my surprise he called the ambulance and the fire department. He asked if my parents paid my insurance and proceeded to complain about neck pain. The police officer that came to the scene asked me to write down what had happened and also noted that the gentleman was quite limber until the ambulances arrived. I got a ticket and the officer told me to challenge the ticket in court. It was clear that he did not plan to show up to my court appearance.
The day of my court appearance came and my father asked me if I had the money that was needed to pay the ticket and the fine. I was always a precocious child and an even more difficult teenager. I confidently told my father that I didn’t need money because the police officer was not going to show up. I could see the annoyed look on my father’s face by my lack of responsibility and preparation. After a few seconds I then told him to give me the money in case I needed it.
And he laughed at me and refused my demand. My visiting uncle who was a New York city cop also laughed and told me that they would wind up throwing my ass in jail if I didn’t pay then and there. Defiantly I sashayed out of the house in the most annoying manner. I went to the courthouse without a penny and contested the ticket.
The police officer did not show and the ticket was thrown out. Perhaps you think I felt vindicated but I did not. I was reeling from the fact that my father did not give me the money and the realization that I was lucky that I did not have to pay the fine. I love my father for that lesson and I will never forget it. This lesson was also the main reason I didn’t take badly needed money from my parents during my divorce. I found a lawyer that allowed me to make installments. This lesson was the reason why I didn’t take money for a down payment on my very own townhouse. That townhouse was a proud accomplishment and it was my very own.
My parents made me strong. They made me confident. They made me capable. I will forever cherish those gifts that they have given me through their boundaries, through their own version of tough love and through their faith in my ability to handle things and understand that there are consequences to my actions.
Love is patient, love is kind…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Love never fails…and now these three remain: faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love. Corinthians 13: 4 – 8, 13
This is not a gooey scripture passage. Love bears. Believes. Endures. Hopes. To bear, to believe, to hope and endure are all tough depending on your interpretation. Love requires strength.
Love is not always about taking the easy route. Sometimes it is about taking the tough route, the one that feels uncomfortable, the one that is difficult. The gift and the reward is great. Love is ongoing. Each day you have the chance to love again.