My father passed away last year and is daily remembered for having taught me the most valuable lesson in life. A difficult lesson and not one that I recognized till years later, my father taught me the meaning of ‘tough love.’
Now many of you reading this will jump to the conclusion that my father compelled me to suffer some great hardship to learn this lesson. That was certainly a popular idea when I was growing up. Force the kids to endure the harsh realities of life.
Exactly the opposite was true. The love he taught me was tough on him, not on me. Countless times he went to bat for me and supported me despite having to sacrifice some of his own pride, personal conviction, or leisure.
After some time when I had been defiant, argumentative or downright combative and he had responded similarly, he came and apologized. Not for my behavior, I came to realize, but for his own, where he thought he had not achieved some standard he held himself to.
The lesson is simple enough. One I’ve needed with my own children and not easy to live up to. Love is sacrifice. I need to give up my own foolish pride, my selfish ambition, my wants, my time, and my self-serving indignation.
The proving ground for this may be your own family as it has been for dad and myself, but the real test is carrying this sacrifice into the world. Something dad excelled at as well, “Love your neighbor as thyself.”