Tough Love is Not Love


I was reading this NPR article today which discusses addiction and, among other things, dismisses the concept of “tough love” when treating addiction.

Tough love is one of those ideas that’s really sunk into our consciousness. “Stop enabling!” we’ll say. “They won’t ever be able to succeed if you keep propping them up!”

While there is some truth to this, I think it can easily get taken way too far. Consider, for example, the prison system. “Don’t coddle the inmates! Make their stay unpleasant, so that they don’t want to come back!” Or with addiction, “Don’t give them needles or methadone! That’ll just make them do more drugs! Take it all away, so they can’t do it anymore!”

These are things that sound kind of ok on the surface, but if you think about it, really aren’t. If you lock a dog in a cage and barely pay attention to it, or even worse, mistreat it, that dog will attack once it gets out. It’s basic animal nature, and it’s human nature, too.

How about we try just “love”, without the modifier? How about we treat addiction like an illness and not a moral failing? How about we treat prisoners humanely? How about, instead of kicking problem people to the curb with a, “Sink or swim!” we treat them decently and give them the tools they need to get along better in life?

All this seems reasonable to me.

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One Response to “Tough Love is Not Love”

  1. *Rae Says:

    Great post! You can empower without enabling. It’s sad we haven’t reached this conclusion in the U.S. yet


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