Love Looks like Love

People usually punish with the best of intentions. As children, we receive most of our punishments from those who love us.
Of course, it’s those who love you that are interested in correcting you, who want you to grow up as a happy, healthy, productive member of society, and so when you misbehave, they try to steer you on the right path. Unfortunately, most peoples’ choice of tools for such work is rather limited, and all too often, the tool that gets used is punishment; in fact, for some, that’s the only tool in the box. No-one thinks this,’ that it’s the only tool I’ve got, so I guess I’ll use it.’ They believe in it, it’s the only tool they think they need, a kind of wonderful, all-in-one tool that is all you might ever need to correct anyone, anywhere, anytime. The fact that they are trying to correct you, trying to set you up for a happy, productive life, this is believed to make you feel, well, loved. If they didn’t love you, they wouldn’t bother, right? They love you and they’re trying. That’s what parents tell themselves; it breaks my heart to tell them all.
I’m sorry, but it’s not true. Love looks like love.
Don’t be fooled by imitations. Love looks like love. Punishment looks like . . . well, it looks like what it would look like if you couldn’t talk about it, if you couldn’t explain it away. It looks like the opposite of love.
Love looks like patience, like thoughtfulness. Love looks like communication, difficult, cautious, slow communication. Communication with a lot of checking, a lot of error correction, a lot of testing, to make sure the communication is getting through, that the last thing got through before the next thing begins. Whereas punishment is a cheap, shoddy shortcut, whose results are highly dubious. An act of punishment marks the end of communication. I’ve said earlier, punishment is when attempts at communication are abandoned and the teacher, the parent simply resorts to the use of force, of negative incentives.
Love looks like love. It will be a sad realization if we have to face the truth of this. Unfortunately, many of us may really not know this, and it means, well, maybe we just haven’t seen enough loving correction to recognize it. Maybe we’ve been told how the punishment was good for us for so long we believed it, and started to think that was a sign of love, and perhaps the only sign of love we ever got.
Ouch. That hurt me, and I’m the one who said it! I’ll let that be it for today.

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