Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tough love

He was in first grade when he first met Bob*. During that year, my son came home from school several times shaken in some way by the little boy. Bob would push and bug him in the school yard. He was mean. Even Bob's siblings had a hard time playing with him. After another aggressive and menacing incident, I finally asked my son why he kept playing with Bob. Who else is going to be his friend?, he answered. Oh boy.

This is tough love. 

It has been years since this episode. We have since moved away and my son has made new friends in our new home. He has kept this tough-love quality about him. He chooses his friends without considering peer pressure or unsolicited opinion. As a mom, I am grateful that his friends appreciate him. I also love the fact that my son is not blinded by his friendships. He has a great awareness of who is who, their greatness and limitations. I should be so aware. 

We sometimes fall into the trap of not acknowledging our acquaintances and friends entirely. We blind ourselves to their shadow qualities. We form expectations and then are disappointed or hurt when they can't fulfill our expectations for them. We then sever our strings. We stop actively loving them because it is tough. Some of us refuse to love those who are complicated, difficult and problematic. The problem is that stopping the flow of love stops the love from returning to us. Tough love is not being tough with the ones we love, but loving those who are tough to love.

What if the one who is tough to love is me? What if it's you? Maybe what we find tough to love in another is what is tough to love in ourselves. What if today we extended a little kindness to someone we feel is tough to love? 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the children. 

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