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Tough to love

Thursday, January 5, 2006

1 John 3:11-14
This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.

And why did he murder his brother? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous.

Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.

What does it mean to love Cain? He was the irresponsible blamer who knew nothing but his own way, the one with the character disorder, the murderer. How does God love him? How am I supposed to love him?

First I guess I have to recognize that he might kill me too. My "love" will not change him. He can destroy me and not bat an eye, because he will really think it's my fault that he does what he does.

Men and women are drawn to their opposites, even in the realm of responsibility. The over-responsible pleaser falls in love with the under-responsible partier. Or two party lovers marry and one becomes responsible, while the other does not. They've got a problem. Even love is part of the problem.

Scott Peck calls Cain's lack of personal responsibility a "character disorder." Here is a partial list (not Peck's) of traits of people with character disorders:

1. Emotional immaturity. Behavior is not age appropriate.
2. Self-centeredness. He comes first and foremost. Is insincere about real interest in other people.
3. Little if any remorse for mistakes.
4. Poor judgment.
5. Unreliability, undependability, irresponsibility.
6. Inability to profit from experience - does not learn a lesson from making mistakes.
7. Inability to postpose immediate gratification - what he wants, he wants now. Impulsive and demanding.
8. Conflict with, or defiance of, authority.
9. Lack of appreciation for the consequences of his actions.
10. Tendency to project his own shortcomings on to the world about him - frequent blaming. Never at fault.
11. Little if any conscience.
12. Behavior develops little sense of direction - often uninfluenced by concepts of right and wrong.
13. Gives lip service to professed values and beliefs.

You can see the rest of this list at

Cain was not amenable to discipline, neither God's nor man's. People with character disorders are poor candidates for change via psychotherapy, which involves examining oneself and finding ways to change. They only want to change those around them.

It takes awhile for a husband, a wife, a friend, a father or mother to realize what they are dealing with. When they do, and if they're right, they must learn how to be tough. Tough love is heartbreakingly difficult for a compassionate, servant-hearted, probably co-dependent person, but it is the right thing to do. Because it is the only way to love Cain. Anything else sends him even more quickly to his own personal hell.

Knowing this changes our prayers, our actions and our expectations. Sometimes it changes the results. Always, it's God way, to love one another.

Lord, free me from false pity and from fear. Let me love like you do.

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