Friday, May 2, 2008

Tough Love

I share this only because I believe that too often when we're vulnerable, insecure, or fearful of what to do next, we quit thinking for ourselves and we begin listening to everyone else's opinion on what to do next. Now there's nothing wrong with getting the opinions of experts or good friends, but we must realize one important truth. They are not you and they are not living your life! They are giving you advise from the outside. They don't feel the pain that you feel. They don't have the fear that you have. They don't know all the circumstances and for them it's easy to give advise and suggestions. Their hearts are in the right place and they genuinely care for you, but they are not you. They do not fully understand what you are going through and for this reason you must think for yourself.

As my son was going through his drug addiction, Brenda and I as his parents were torn on what to do. We knew he was lying to us about his drug use, we knew he was buying drugs and using but we could never get through to him when we talked to him. He'd always lie and he was good at it. He was an expert at making us as parents feel like we were horrible when we would question him about it and he would act so shocked and hurt that we didn't trust him anymore. Drug addicts are very good at playing on your feelings and emotions to get what they want. The experts all said, you're enabling him if you keep baling him out of jail, if you keep allowing him to come back into your home after he's used. You need to set ground rules and if he breaks them, kick him out on the street, and let him suffer the consequences of the lifestyle he has chosen.

We could never do it, and from all accounts, according to the experts we were enablers, helping to fuel his addiction because we didn't practice what they called... "tough love." You know what I think tough love is. It's the love you show your child even when you see they are destroying their life. Its' the love you give your child even when they refuse to obey you and listen to you and still go down that road you know leads to death. It's the love you show to them by never, ever, giving up on them and no matter what... you go through it with them and help them. It wasn't till I said to myself... "I don't care what anyone says, I can't kick my son out of the house and you know what... it's ok." I don't have to feel bad or be labeled an enabler by doing what I feel is right for my son."

Don't get me wrong... the advise is good advise that I was getting, and I'm getting it from people that have been through it and know what's best. They understand that as a parent, were blinded as to what to do, because we do love them so much and I do understand that we may be enabling them. So the advise is good advise. But that's all it is. Advise. If you decide that it's not right for your situation or your circumstances, then don't do it just because someone says you should. Listen to them, soak in what they're saying, realize they know because they've been there... then, THINK FOR YOURSELF.

The hardest thing for me as a Father was hearing all the advise from so many people on what we should do, what we could have done differently or should have done differently. Advise on how we should react or behave and what we should do next. Most of the time the advise was good but often I felt was too harsh and unnecessary. Finally, I said enough. The Lord and my wife and I will work through this together. That's when I had peace. Did everything go well? No. Did we make all the right decisions? No. But they were our decisions and I could live with that. My son is doing well now, the road for him as been long and hard and it will be for many years to come. The road for my wife and I has been long and hard, and it will be for years to come. But it's ok.

The good thing about all of this is that I've learned that my life is not about what I can accomplish in it. It's not about what we gain and collect along the way. It's not about our kids going off to college and having great careers. It's not about living the high life or making millions. It's about our love for each other and when it's been tested and it still shines through with kindness and genuine forgiveness... it's beautiful.

Doesn't God show us tough love? How many times do we disappoint Him in a day? How many times do we disobey or even run in the opposite direction of his advise? Yet he always takes us back and he loves us no less than he did before. It must be tough to love like that? NO... it's not really. What's tough is making up your own mind to do so even when the world says... "let him go." "You have to live your own life, his poor choices are not your problem." "You have you're own health to be concerned about." "It's costing you too much emotionally and financially." "He did this, not you, he needs to suffer this on his own." "Kick him out of the house when he breaks your rules." Do this, do that, say this, say that.....

I'm sorry, but I can't. My love for my son is so tough... that I will endure with him till the end. My strength in this comes from the Lord. I'm not saying it's easy, I just believe this is how it should be. So judge me as you will. I've learned a long time ago that the only important judge in my life is the one that holds my soul. God almighty will be pleased that my wife and I have suffered for my son's sake and I know my son appreciates it as well. I know that one day... if not already, my son will be overwhelmed with the kind of tough love we have shown for him through these years. My hope and prayer is that God's love will flow through him to his children when they don't live as they should, or to his friends when they do the things that disappoint him. My hope is that he will never leave them or forsake them, that no matter how tough it gets, he'll stick it out and stay the course because that's what Jesus did for him on the Cross.

I don't know what you're going through. But I do know you're going through something, we all are! Seek council, seek the Lord's guidance and allow him to guide you, then think this thing through for yourself. Make up your own mind what to do and then DO IT. The Lord will be with you as you go on this journey. You won't be alone... I promise you! Yes, even if you mess up. Yes, even if you make the wrong decision. You won't be alone and knowing that fact is what gets you through it.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

God bless you.



Jayna said...

Steve, I totally understand what you are saying. My daughter has had a rough road the past couple of years, even to the point of physical violence but I have never put her out and given up on her. Prayer is a powerful thing and so many "experts" don't even take it into consideration. Many people fail to realize that God puts many trails and sufferings in our lives to make us stronger and to ensure our love and faithfulness for him is genuine. That trial you went through and your experience with it may be beneficial to somebody else in the near future. That was the case for me. I stood my ground with my daughter and prayed constantly and she is now a totally different person, sold out completely to Jesus Christ. Stay strong and do what your heart tells you to do because that's most assuredly the Lord giving you advice!

Anonymous said...

A blog is a public forum, so by posting your thoughts for the world to see, it is possible that you might have impact on a lot of people's lives - some of whom may have had to deal with addicts in the past or even in the present. While I, for one, appreciate it when a person acts autonomously, thinking for themselves as led by the Holy Spirit, there are some potential risks with your latest post.

First, the overall tone of your thoughts could make someone who chose a different course of action feel less Christ-like, less committed, less loving and even guilty for setting limits and boundaries. I don't think that was your intent, but that still might be an outcome in a reader's heart.

Secondly, unfortunately, the jury is still out - and will be for some time to come - on the effectiveness of your decisions.

Third, you must realize that your chosen pathway may be lonely. Your friends, associates and even family may not choose to go down that road with you. In this area, I do speak from experience. I helped an addict once - far beyond what I was comfortable with - out of loyalty to his family. After significant expense to myself (in terms of time, money and aggravation) I got off the merry-go-round. To this day, I have yet to receive any acknowlegement of my efforts from either the addict or his family.

Finally, we always have to be on guard against taking a personal experience we've had with God and turning it into an eternal principle and then holding it out as a model for others to follow. Only God's love is limitless. Just as God led you to make one decision in the past, He might - even in similar circumstances - lead you to act diferently in the future.

Steve said...

I've recieved two comments each of different perspective. What I like about both is this... Each person acts as the Lord leads them to act. While I appreciate the anonymous comment from the one who feels that my remarks might make someone feel less Christ-like, less loving or less committed. My point I was hoping to make was the opposite. You don't have to feel less Christ-like, less committed or less loving if you make up your mind to go against the advise of others. So many folks want to tell you what to do... I'm simply saying. Think for yourself. It's ok. It would be a huge mistake if the influence I had on you went against what you sence God is leading you to do, yet you did what I said anyway. I'm only a man. A man with weaknesses, a man that has made many mistakes in his life and will again tomorrow. My view point is limited to my limited understanding of God's word, and my life experiences which of course are different from everyone elses. Maybe some of you can connect with what I've been through, while others would see the course I choose as a mistake or possibly a path with much regret. I can appreciate that and that's why I leave it posted so others can see the potential danger of my comments. Please... study your own bible and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you through your own trials. I appreciate the feedback.