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Disbursing Tough Love

Updated on February 25, 2012

Tough Love

Tough love is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run. In most cases, there must be some actual love or feeling of affection behind the harsh or stern treatment to be defined as tough love.

A few days ago, I had to give tough love to one of my dearest friends. I cried for two days after because I felt rotten, as if I had pierced that person in the back with a sharp knife. You see, that person is the nicest, kindest and sweetest friend to have. That person was ‘there’ for me when I hit rock bottom with some discoveries in my personal life a year ago. I love this person very much and that is why I had to do what I did.

What did I do?

My friend is a very smart, intelligent and talented person who has been unhappy with how things are presently, and now has the opportunity to chart a better course in life. My friend was doing well at first despite several challenges. Then the enthusiasm disappeared, and was replaced by what seemed to be complacency. I tried to find out what was happening, but encountered reluctance to discuss and sometimes withdrawal. I feared that my friend was either going to quit or fail, and so I had to do something. I sat and wrote a very long, harsh letter. Sometimes true love must be tough love and that means tough to deliver as well as tough to receive. I wrote the letter without reading it over, for the fear of changing my mind and I sent it via email. When I hit the ‘send’ button, my breath caught in my throat and I asked myself , “what have you done?”

Of course, it was not received well, as I was accused of being ‘insensitive’ as the email was sent early on a Monday morning. The question was asked” how would you feel if I did that to you?’ I would feel angry and hurt. I would be upset at first, but in retrospect, I would be happy to know that someone cared enough for my well-being.

My friend may never speak to me again – I will regret that - but I will never regret what I did or how I did it. I knew the risks, but I took the chance none-the-less, as I could not sit and allow my friend to ‘self destruct’. What I did was with the best intentions. I do hope that it will be seen in that light and be a source of motivation. I hope that my friend will forgive me.

Parents too, sometimes have to disburse tough love to their children in order to empower or help them to find themselves and become responsible adults.

Have you ever been in a situation where you've either given or received tough love — or maybe should have but didn't?

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being

of a person is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared

to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.


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    • Dr.Ope profile imageAUTHOR

      Olive Ellis 

      5 years ago

      True words Express10! If we love our friends, we need to be honest with them even if it hurts. Thanks for the visit and all the best you.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 

      6 years ago from East Coast

      This is a very useful hub with a great quote. This should be taken to heart by more people. Often we spare close friend's feelings when the opposite is best for them.

    • Dr.Ope profile imageAUTHOR

      Olive Ellis 

      6 years ago

      Thank you SusieQ42 for your comments. God bless you too and keep sharing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for the fan mail. I am in awe of your expertise in the counseling field. It's not one you leave at work when going home at the end of the day. I've seen tough love in action and it worked miracles in the life of a teenager who stole his mother's car. After years of stealing bicycles this boy advanced to stealing cars and his mother finally stepped in. She pressed charges against him and he went to prison for a year. He was maybe 18 or 19 years old. Today he is in his late 30's and has never gotten in trouble since his prison stay. The Lord does put this on our hearts at times because He knows it will help. I'm sure your tough love email will bring light to your friends decisions for her life. God bless, Susieq42

    • Dr.Ope profile imageAUTHOR

      Olive Ellis 

      6 years ago

      I thank you so much for your comment. Although deep inside I know that I did the right thing, I cannot help but wonder sometimes If I should have, as my friend is really upset and I miss that camaraderie that we had. Thank you and all the best.

    • neeleshkulkarni profile image


      6 years ago from new delhi

      i did that to a very close friend once.he wrote back to me to say he had sat for hours stunned by the ferociousness of the letter(there were no e mails then) and read and reread it over and over again.

      i do not know how he took it personally but he came back to me and we are still i guess he took it in the spirit it was written.Your friend will come back too if she takes it right but either way you did the right thing.

    • Dr.Ope profile imageAUTHOR

      Olive Ellis 

      6 years ago

      So true Jlava73! I too wish that my friend will come around. Thank you very much for your comments and all the best to you.

    • Jlava73 profile image

      Jennifer Vasconcelos 

      6 years ago from Cyberspace and My Own World

      Sending that letter took incredible courage! Sometimes it is difficult to hear the truth - but only those who truly love you will take that risk. I'm sure your friend will realize this and come around. I would rather have a friend like you then a fair weather friend anyday. A true friend won't let you make a fool of yourself.

    • Dr.Ope profile imageAUTHOR

      Olive Ellis 

      6 years ago

      Thank you Sueswan. Yes, this person is very important to me that is why I care so much. My friend is very upset with me - as expected- and I am giving time for digestion as you said. Thank you for the visit and all the best with your hubs! I will be paying you a visit soon!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Dr. Ope

      This person must be very important to you to take that risk. You will have to give her time to really digest what you said.

      You said that your friend was reluctant to discuss her situation with you. Obviously, you sent the e-mail because you were concerned about your friend but a person

      needs to be open to accept help and I don't think your friend is ready.

      I hope everything works out between you and your friend.

      Take care

    • Dr.Ope profile imageAUTHOR

      Olive Ellis 

      6 years ago

      Oh thank you marcoujor. I can always depend on you for a honest comment. Yes, I thought it through before writing, although I did not read it over before sending, as I know I would either change my mind or 'pretty' it up a bit. Thanks for the visit and I have some catching up to do on your hubs!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dr Ope,

      Sooo nice to have you back, first of all...

      You answered the same question I had (that Dex asked) in your first response. It truly sounds as though you thought this through and took the best course of action.

      To me, a true friend does not sugar coat things. This does not equate to cruelty, and I know you wrote this letter out of love, concern and the best of intentions.

      I would have and actually have had the same types of 'reality check' conversations with both loved ones and clients. I often try to frame it it the form of a question, if possible instead of sounding as if I am giving advice...'I have ALL the answers and this is what you need to do to straighten your rotten life out...' (LOL)! would NOT be something I say (although I may think it)...

      When you truly care, go ahead and go the extra mile. People have the choice of taking or leaving what you have to say. And I will definitely TAKE what you have to say every time!

      Voted UP & UAI. Hugs, mar.

    • Dr.Ope profile imageAUTHOR

      Olive Ellis 

      6 years ago

      Thank you Nell. Yes, tough love is showing that you care and if not given at the appropriate time, then it might be too late. Thanks for the visit and all the best!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi, I have been guilty of not giving tough love, I had a friend who was an alcoholic, and she got into so many situations, even marrying a man who was worse than her, many times I tried to tell her, but I didn't and now its too late, she died a year ago, so yes tough love is definitely a good way to go, cheers nell

    • Dr.Ope profile imageAUTHOR

      Olive Ellis 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the visit Dexter. Yes, discussing it in person would have been the better thing to do, but I know that my friend would not have sat and listen. The tone of the email was harsh, I must admit, but as I mentioned in the email, whatever said was with respect. Thanks again and all the best!

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      6 years ago from United States

      Hi Dr. Ope! I am sure your intentions were good and hopefully your friend will discuss this with you soon.

      In hindsight, do you think your friend would have handled it better had you called or discussed in person? It is very difficult to tell the tone of an email message. Perhaps it would have been better to sit on the message for a few hours or until the next day.

      I'm not trying to second guess your decision, but just offering suggestions for the future. Having a really good friend is a blessing. I hate to see people lose them over good intentions.

      And yes. I have given and received tough love. Thankfully, it helped me and those that I sought to help.

      I hope all works out well, Dr. Ope.


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