Tough Love


Several years ago a sister whispered, “I didn’t get the empathy gene,” in a wistful tone of exposition. The stunning confession is tape-recorded in my memory, a specialty from my profession and a childhood spent in vigilance.It explained a lot of things.

Several years later I broke my wrist. As anticipated, I got nothing from her, not a gesture or word of comfort. Oh well, my husband carried the ball, for me and more, because a steady stream of house guests still visited our home with their expectations and demands, despite my handicapping condition. Empathy in short supply, which seems to be the norm.

Within months, the sister came tumbling after, and she broke her shoulder. The Spirit of God spoke to me: He was trying to teach her empathy, yet again. I made a special creative card to acknowledge our new bond.

As soon as she received it, she shrieked and sicced the Attack Cat on me, with the words, “You don’t need empathy. We are doing ‘tough love’ with you.” Oddly, after all that had been said and done – with more to come – that remark didn’t surprise or hurt me.

That evening’s nightly news led with a feature that the “Tough Love” model of parenting, popular with the parents of addicted young people for years, was being abandoned in psychological practice. Too many of the ‘tough-loved’ youngsters had committed suicide because they had no other options.

Beth Moore’s written words resonated: “You’ve got to be serious about restoration. Do whatever you have to do to cut off the flow of venom. Get all the help you need to make this move and keep this commitment. It is a big ticket to freedom!”

Sister, if you don’t love me, that’s tough. Empathy loves company. I am free and I have new sisters. Amen.