judg-ment (noun): a calamity or misfortune viewed as a divine punishment
tough love (noun): promotion of a person’s welfare, esp. that of an addict, child, or criminal by requiring them to take responsibility for their actions.
Lately, I have seen a lot of people in my life, both personal and in my practice, confuse the principles of judgment and “tough love.” The scenario will look like this: One person will be participating in a harmful behavior, such as substance abuse, an abusive relationship, or perpetual unemployment. A loved one of that person will say something like, “I can’t stand by and watch your destructive behavior any longer.” The initial person will become angry, stating that they are being judged by their loved one.
Which do you think is accurate?
Chances are, if you are the person participating in the destructive behavior, then you believe that the person is being judged. If you are watching another person’s destructive behavior, then you think that it is something else. We’ll call it tough love.
Take a look at the initial definition of judgment. Calamity. Divine Punishment. Those are some harsh words. It is understandable that when you are going through some challenging times and cannot find your way out of a messy situation that you are concerned that others are judging you. The reason is because you are probably judging yourself. We are our own worst enemies and will say more brutal comments to ourself than most. But, you know that you are worth more and can do better. You are not happy with your present circumstances and want to move forward. Maybe you feel stuck. Maybe you just aren’t ready. But you know. In the meantime there are the people that love you.
So, maybe you are the loved one. You have watched your daughter, sister, or best friend go through a treacherous time. You have stood by, listened, supported, offered words of encouragement, offered words of frustration. First, your heart breaks for that person. Then your heart breaks because of that person. You love ’em. But you, yourself cannot continue the self-destructive path of being there. So you wish the best for them with hopes that you are promoting their welfare.
It almost sounds like the classic scene from Intervention. “Your destructive behavior has affected my life negatively in the following ways…” Then Jeff or Candi turn to the loved ones and say, “Now, you’re headed to the family program at the Betty Ford clinic.”
When you are going through a tough time and the people closest to you tell you that your behavior is not just destructive to you but destructive to them, this is usually coming from a very deep place of love. I encourage you to see this as a very loud warning sign. In the end, only you can choose your ultimatums. Just like in Intervention, your friends and family have simply made the choice to not to enable you. This does not mean that they are trying to control you or judge you. They just aren’t going to be another person that allows you to be destructive to yourself. And it’s because they love you.