One of the great cultural shifts happening today is the shift in how we understand the word “love.” We may say, “I love you,” and hear it from others, but what does it really mean to love and be loved?

Tough Love 101

I think most people believe that love means treating others the way they want to be treated moment-by-moment and, many times, this is exactly right. But there are also times when the most loving thing we can do is treat people the way they don’t want to be treated in the moment.

Parents of small children understand this well. There are times when our children are upset and crying after being disciplined and, in the moment, don’t feel very loved. But correction is exactly what they needed and could spare them a lifetime of pain and sorrow. Discipline is momentary pain that keeps us from long-term pain. It’s a great example of a time when love may not always feel very loving.

Dating and preparing for marriage can be another time when loving someone means being willing to say hard things. Here are three times when love means being willing to say and receive hard words.

1. When We Are Wrong And Need Correction

There are times in every relationship when we will make mistakes and need to be corrected. Maybe we unknowingly hurt each other’s feelings or misunderstand each other. Love knows how to correct with grace and kindness. It doesn’t just ignore mistakes. True love is willing to point us toward growth even as we bear with one another’s faults.

2. When We Need Help

When we love someone, it can be hard to admit we need help. This is especially true for us men. We may fear we won’t be loved if we let others see our weaknesses. But love means being willing to own up to our need for help and being willing to ask for and receive it.

3. When We’ve Sinned And Need To Confess And Repent

Sometimes, couples will sin against each other. Love means being willing to confess our sins to each other and turn from our sins. Love is admitting when we’ve done the wrong thing and using the power God provides to not sin again. Additionally, love means forgiving an offense, even when it’s hard and we’d rather get even.

I recently had an exchange with my fiancée. We are getting married in a couple weeks as I write this. I hurt her feelings by not listening to her carefully. She loved me by telling me she was upset and I loved her by apologizing, admitting my mistake and committing to listen better moving forward. I wasn’t just telling her what she wanted to hear, but I really turned away from that error.

She could have bottled up her frustration instead of telling me about it and I could have denied it was my fault or tried to cover my mistake. But by sharing some tough things, we were loving each other, even though it wasn’t a very fun conversation. Afterward, our relationship was stronger and we felt closer.

Love isn’t always easy, but when you’re with the right person, it’s always worth it.

You may also be interested in Learning To Hold Your Tongue For Humility’s Sake

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