Is "tough love" Catholic?

Is “tough love” Catholic-based? Let me explain. My stepson is currently in jail for the fourth time. My wife in particular has been an “enabler.” Finally, she has said “enough is enough,” and we have adopted the “tough love” concept. This includes no communication. My stepson is hesitant to accept responsibilty and still blames others for his wrong choices. I ask myself, “What would Jesus do?”

Jesus asked those who needed healing, “Do you want to be healed?” (e.g., John 5:2-8). In the story cited here, the paralytic wanted healing and so was told, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” The implication though is that Jesus would have respected a desire not to be healed and left such a person to carry on as best he could.

I don’t think it’s a good thing to cut off all contact with a person who is struggling since it can prevent that person from receiving help when he or she truly is ready to reform his life. But, if you and your wife are not emotionally strong enough to deal with your stepson’s behavior (particularly when he is still uncommitted to reform and has yet to demonstrate any readiness to reform), you could try to arrange for an intermediary between you and your stepson.

Perhaps your pastor or the local Catholic prison chaplain would be willing to keep you informed of your stepson’s progress and let you know if there is anything constructive you can do to assist him. If so, then give your stepson the pastor or chaplain’s contact information and leave the rest up to him.

Recommended reading:

God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts by Gregory K. Popcak
When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People by Leonard Felder

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