Teaching Tough Love

It is very difficult to maintain the integration of positive opposites.  I once did an exercise with two hundred bank executives.  I explained the concept of tough love in detail and then asked them to write a paragraph about how they could increase their own level of tough love.  When they were done we had ten people read what they had written.  In every case, the paragraph contained a plan to become more demanding, tougher.  In no case was there any indication of becoming more supportive, more loving.

Why was the “instruction” inadequate?  I had informed them about the idea of tough love.  Yet when it came to implementing the concept, they could conceive only of being tougher.  They had fallen back on the natural tendency to split oppositions instead of creatively holding them.

I had made a mistake.  I had tried to change them by altering their minds.  Teaching them the concept was not the key.  The key was to challenge them and support them in choosing to enter the fundamental state of leadership.  I cannot inform people into tough love.  I must be the change I want to see.  Only then can I invite others into that creative state.

(Building the Bridge as You Walk on It, p. 191)




One thought on “Teaching Tough Love

  1. Bob, this post is wonderful. It contains elements of the wonderful passage form Richard Rohr’s “Eager to Love” which I have shared with you: “Paradox held and overcome is the beginning of training in non-dual thinking or contemplation, as opposed to paradox denied, which forces us to choose only one part of any mysterious truth. Such a choice will be false because we usually choose the one that serves our small purposes.”

    Ricardo Levy


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