Jun 102013 14 Responses

Love Doesn’t Always Feel Loving (or Why It’s Okay to Leave Your Child in Jail)

Do what is loving.

Nothing defines which action is right as much as those four words.

Always do what is loving. As a pastor, I would define the opposite of love as sin.

Determining the right action in any situation is as simple as finding the action which is most loving.

Our problem is that love doesn’t always feel loving. And what feels like love can sometimes be the opposite.

It feels loving to bail out the drug addict for the 10th time and to use your connections to ensure they face no legal ramifications. It feels unloving to let your firstborn sit in jail over night. But which action is the most loving?

It feels loving to say nothing even though your spouse has hurt your feelings yet again. It feels unloving to say how you feel and risk a fight. But which action is the most loving?

It feels loving to give money to the person with the sad story. It feels unloving to turn them away. But which action is the most loving?

Right is not determined by what feels the most loving but by what actually is the most loving.

Feelings can deceive. We must determine which action is loving, not which one feels loving.

Here are a few questions to assist us in finding the most loving action.

How to determine what is loving:

Is it within my right? Just because something is right doesn’t mean we have the right to do it. Many times we are wrong to say something to someone not because what we say is wrong, but because we do not have the right (or relationship) to say it. No matter how right the parenting advice you give a stranger in Wal-Mart, it is probably not a loving action to give such advice because you have not been asked your opinion. If something isn’t your business and you don’t have the relationship to say something, no matter what you say it is likely wrong.

Is it in the other person’s long-term interest? Probably the greatest distinction between what is loving and what feels loving is the long-term effect of the action. Many things which feel loving do not stand the test of time as a loving act. Many things which feel unloving in the moment are actually in the person’s best interest over a long period of time.

Is it within God’s boundaries? Love will never violate God’s commands. One of the easiest ways to deem an action as unloving is to determine that it violates what God has commanded.

Is it more for them than us? Things which feel loving, but aren’t loving, often feel so because they make us feel good. Love is in the best interest of another, whereas the feeling of love is often in our best interest. Many things disguise themselves as loving because they make us feel good for doing them. It’s the ultimate deceit—we feel good for doing what we think is loving even though it is the opposite of love.

Every action—in parenting, leadership, marriage, and life—should be born from love. Love is right, yet knowing what is actually loving isn’t as easy as we think. Many things feel loving even though they aren’t. Distinguishing between what feels loving and what actually is loving is the first step toward acting wisely.

Name something that is loving despite not feeling like love.

14 Responses to Love Doesn’t Always Feel Loving (or Why It’s Okay to Leave Your Child in Jail)
  1. [...] Love them. No matter what choice a child makes, they are always your child. Clearly communicate to your ... kevinathompson.com/how-to-parent-an-adult-child-who-is-making-bad-decisions
  2. […] Just because someone is mean doesn’t give you the freedom to stop loving them. Remember, Love... kevinathompson.com/how-to-respond-to-mean-people
  3. […] But sometimes we can’t. (See: Love Doesn’t Always Feel Loving) […]... kevinathompson.com/one-hat
  4. Dan Reply

    You hit the nail on the head Kevin. My definition of True Love for years has been this; True love is doing what is in the other persons best interest….whether that be your spouse, your child, friend, relative, co-worker etc. When someone needs understanding and sympathy and it is in their best interest, then give that to them, but when you know they need Tough Love, you should truly love them and not let them escape painful consequences that they need to experience in order to learn from their foolish (or sinful) choice they made. When my spouse was divorcing me without grounds, some of her “Christian friends” would not confront her because they did not want to lose relationship with her. They did not truly love her, they loved more what they got out of their friendship. I call that self interest, not love.

    • Ashley Reply

      I wonder if your paternalistic tone was carreid throughout the marraige and your idea of “loving” had any tenderness, closeness compassion or intimacy. If not then perhaps “no grounds” is not correct. I am not your judge, but the tone of your note suggests that you may be a self cetered dictatorial person with whom it would be very difficult to have a satisfying relationship – especially if you think you know what is right for others and place your thinking above their feelings – for instance your wife. how long did she suffer in silence before the “no-grounds” divorce? How many times did she try to tell you how she felt and beg you for emotional connection before giving up? I hope I am, but there is something not quite right in the spirit of your remarks and they feel dark and controlling to me. are you? That would, in fact, be grounds for divorce – as that spirit of control, if adhered to with stubborness and pride IS an impediment to a godly marriage or fatherhood.

      • Vicki Reply

        You Ashley sound very bitter and judgmental yourself. Are you projecting? You are basically saying his wife had grounds for divorce where you really don’t know any more than what you read in 5 seconds. You cannot hear his “tone”. Maybe you need to step back a bit and not judge him so harshly (possibly venting about your own anger). Maybe it is you that has the dark judgmental tone. Re read what you wrote.

  5. Kathy DeGiulio Reply

    Hi, I googled this topic and have enjoyed reading some of your blogs. As the parent of 4 twenty somethings the reality of not supporting your adult child’s choices yet seeking ways to support your adult child has been a challenging situation with lots of examples of showing love in ways that don’t feel loving.

    Not approving of our 23 year old daughter’s relationship with a boyfriend that began with sex, drugs and lots of alcohol and who doesn’t show respect for our daughter and us. Because we love our daughter we can’t embrace a relationship that is detrimental to her even though it has hurt the bond that we once shared. We pray that she gains enough self respect to get out. She feels we are unloving. We know our stance is based on love.

    Another example would be not supporting our 26 year old son’s decision to shack up with his girlfriend. Our wisdom knows that it is not the best path for their relationship and again it would be easy to accept and ignore the facts but our wisdom and statistics tells us otherwise.

    Do you have any tips on how to show support to loved ones while not approving of their choices.

    Thank you.

  6. Monica Daniel Reply

    Kevin,
    As I was once again trying to decide to help my 28 year old son out of yet another financial bad decision, I googled to find out if there is such a thing as parental curse? I can see my son making some of the same bad decisions I made (some he knows nothing about) and find myself praying that God will lead him another way. In the end after reading your blog about Adult Children, I have to do what the Holy Spirit has been telling me to do Love him when it does not feel loving. Step away, let him fall or fail. Keep reminding him that when he gave his life back to Jesus this past Easter, he took the first step in getting his life back on track and he just has to listen for God’s direction and stay faithful. I cannot save him only the Savior can….

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Praying for you Monica. I can only imagine how difficult it is to do something that feels unloving even as you know it is the most loving action.

  7. Karen Reply

    Any suggestions for me? I have a wonderful son, one of three. He made the decision the leave society and be a servant in a Buddhist monastery for no pay one and a half years ago. He is now 25. I am struggling with this daily. Granted, they have provided food, shelter and community. But something in my gut tells me it is a terrible thing that he is doing and a poor decision. Of course our relationship has suffered, is suffering. I have trouble keeping my mouth shut. He sends occasional e mail,
    But other than that nothing. I did go there for three days. It is not for me.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Not sure what you can do other than to respect his ability to make his own decisions.

  8. Guen Reply

    I’m in mental anguish crying what do you do when your child has a warrant and is self destructing on meth I’m bawling asking? Someone please talk to me..

    • Vicki Reply

      Hi Guen. My heart goes out to you. I know how this feels.

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