Do you give your loved one what he wants? Or what he needs?

This was actually sparked by yet another go-round with Amy Chua’s parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. A disclaimer up front: I haven’t read the book myself; only read reviews of it. And the mixed nature of those reviews suggest it’s probably wonderfully written and thought-provoking. Heck, it’s thought provoking just reading the reviews and torrent of responses from everyone who agrees or disagrees with the parenting style discussed.

But what really turns my crank is the greater issue of controlling someone out of love. When a child or a husband/boyfriend/significant other cries on your shoulder, do you give them comfort or demand they buck up and jump back into the fight to deal with whatever’s upset them? Do you just listen and affirm or do you problem solve? Do you tell them you love them and you’ll do whatever you can to help them through, or do you actually do something to help them through?

Fact is, I bet we’ve all done all these things at one time or another, because when you love someone, you want what’s best for them. It’s just so often hard to 1) know what that thing is, and 2) know how best to help them get it.

And then there are our own needs. If our loved one is truly hurting and we can’t help, it’s awfully hard to listen and affirm. Maybe instead we crawl away into our own feelings of inadequacy. Maybe we lash out, ironically hurting the thing we treasure most.

Lord, if there was one kind of wisdom I wish I had, it would be to know the best way to respond when your loved one needs help. Until that wisdom (or delusion) settles on me like a great gift from above, I guess I’ll just muddle along, loving the best I can, using what knowledge I have, and always learning – about my love ones, about myself, about psychology and values, about ways to help and love better.

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