Are you Tough Enough?
What do you think of when you think of being tough?
When I was a kid, toughness meant not crying when you got hurt. The ability to keep your tears in equaled toughness.
Another time, while playing street hockey, I whacked a kid right across his eye, opening up a blood flowing gash. As I tried to convince him that the river running down his face was sweat, I told him to be tough. At this point, toughness meant not running and telling his mom that I was the one responsible for slicing her baby boy’s face.
Professional football players are praised as being tough when they play through injury or broken bones.
Cal Ripken was tough, for never taking a day off over the course of 2,632 baseball games.
I also think about my grandfather a lot when I think about toughness. He worked clandestine missions in WWII, he was a woodworker, and his hands were calloused and worn as a man who had made good use of the time and tools the Good Lord had given him. This is toughness, to me.
Teddy Roosevelt once gave a 90 minute speech, right after being shot in the chest. No joke. I’ve checked multiple sources to make sure it wasn’t just one writer getting creative with the facts. Apparently one of his first remarks to the crowd was,
“The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”
Then he spoke for 90 minutes. By the end of the speech, he was standing in a pool of his own blood.
Then there was Jesus. He carried a cross, estimated at around three hundred pounds, down the winding road of the Via Dolorosa. Prior to this, as he was beaten and mocked, the Romans pulled out his beard, and he was tortured to the point of being disfigured, so much so that people couldn’t stand to look at him.
The cross was placed on his back, which had just been flogged repeatedly, so that his open flesh was rubbing up against the wooden cross as he traveled down the road. When he reached his destination, he allowed himself to be attached to the cross with seven inch nails, which were driven directly through the pressure points in His wrists. He then experienced extreme blood loss and dehydration, all while being mocked and ridiculed by the crowd.
I won’t go into any more detail, though there are many, many more.
Teddy Roosevelt was tough. My grandfather was tough.
People talk about tough love as disciplining our children in ways that are hard, but that we know are necessary. Or coaching our kids with accountability, in ways they may not like, but that we know are in their best interest for the long term. And I think both of those things are true, and important.
Tough love is how Jesus chose to love. It’s how he lived his love.
My encouragement today is that we need to love tough, those that we say we love. Mark Batterson, in his book, Play the Man, says this about tough love:
“Tough love is proactive. It’s not a need-seeking love; it’s a need meeting love. It doesn’t seek validation, because it doesn’t need any! It adds value to the beloved.”
Tough love is proactive. It doesn’t wait. It’s not simply responsive.
Batterson also says this, which I think is really interesting:
“Tough love is a covenantal love.”
Loving tough means that we’ve made a commitment, a covenant, and we are sticking to it, no matter what. We’ve given our word to our love, and that means something to us.
Sometimes when I’m in the gym, or even just out in a public place, that guy walks in the room. You’ve seen him. He wants everybody to know how tough he is (or how tough he thinks he is). You can tell by how he walks, and holds his arms out from his body, and scans the room as if he is looking for a fight.
I have mixed emotions about these guys. Depending on the scenario, they are either incredibly hard, and I don’t want to make eye contact, lest they think I’m challenging their alpha status, or they need to go back home and put on a bigger shirt.
But this is how I imagine tough love, minus the false bravado. It enters the rooms of the people it loves, on a daily basis, and let’s everyone know it’s there. It walks in, squints its’ eyes, takes a look around, surveys the needs of its’ beloved, and it serves, sacrificially. It’s the biggest, baddest love in the room, and everyone who needs to, knows it, without a doubt.
It’s an El Padrino, The Duke, William Wallace, Teddy Roosevelt type of love.
It’s loving like Jesus. It shows up, no matter the circumstances swirling around.
It’s tough as nails. Literally.
Who do you love? How do you love?
Much, Tough Love,
Originally published at efournine.com on September 20, 2017.