whitney houston*In light of our beloved Whitney Houston’s untimely death, I was moved to examine the complexity of “Unconditional Love” versus “tough Love.”

Many of us who believe in a higher power understand unconditional love.  In His view, we are whole and perfect beings despite our many imperfections. What can we possibly do to lose His love? This rhetorical question leaves us wondering if we deserve such abundant love. Lord knows we fall short.

But even God, in His infinite wisdom, understands the importance of “Tough Love.”  When love is tough it sets a standard. It doesn’t play possum, it doesn’t coward, hide or submit to unacceptable conditions. Tough love gets tough when the going gets rough.  Tough love says “I will always love you, but I don’t like who you’re being.”  Tough love will turn its back, yet keep an open heart.

I wonder how “tough” each one of us would have been in the face of Whitney’s struggles.  Through the television and movie screen, it was easy to love her no matter.   No matter her troubles, we loved her. No matter her faults, we loved her. No matter her imperfections, we loved her.  As long as she lulled us with her impeccable vocals and wowed us with her God given talent, grace and beauty, we loved Whitney.

If we were as close to Whitney as her family and friends, could we have gotten tough when the going got rough? Before you answer, take a look around you. How many Whitneys do you know? Not just those ravished by drug use and abuse, but those that are headed toward self-destruction in other ways?  Are you holding them accountable for their lives or playing possum?

Many of us play possum; maybe out of the fear of being cursed out, hated, disowned, or our biggest fear of all, losing someone we love.  “ We’re not God,” we tell ourselves and settle on “What can I do?”  But we must ask ourselves what more can be done? Simply praying and having faith sometimes isn’t always enough.  Whitney had the masses praying for her life to no avail.

Let us learn from this.  If someone you know and love personally is on a path of self-destruction, make a decision NOW to take a powerful stand for their lives.  Tell yourself: “I can do more! I will! I will get tough. I will get angry.”  Tell that person: “You are valuable, worthy and I love you too much to watch you destroy yourself.  I will help you heal, but I won’t help you die.”

Sheryl Mallory-Johnson is a contemporary fiction author and literary coach.  An emerging voice on love and relationships in the realm of fiction and reality, her latest novel “Love & Regrets” is available now through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com. For more information, you can visit Sheryl at http://www.sherylmallory-johnson.com.