"a harsh and dreadful thing"

After losing patience with a woman this morning and making my frustration with her obvious, I remembered this line (from Dorothy Day's journal) that I read yesterday: "It was cruel to be harsh to anyone so absolutely dependent, as they are, humanly, on my kindness."

I wondered myself if I had been too harsh, and she complained that I was being mean to her. But I don't know. She's been hanging around for almost a week now, saying she doesn't want to stay here, but then showing up later with nowhere else to go. She acts like she has things under control, but her "plans" are just one random idea after another, leading nowhere. I'd like to help. But not help her just continue this pattern, pretending everything will work out. That led her to go home with a known rapist yesterday evening (despite Heather's attempts to warn her). She needs to stop and admit that she needs to make some serious changes, and she needs to be willing to put in the sacrifice and effort herself to make her life better, not just hope someone else will do it for her. Maybe a harsh (or at least very firm) response is what is needed to get a person to face such realities. Can't that be love, too?

As long as it's followed by forgiveness and support. Heather was good about listening to her this morning. And I'm going to try to find another place for her to stay in a nearby town (after some thinking, she seems willing to try it). Please God, make a way.

I guess I don't think it's primarily a question of dependence, as Dorothy said. I've gathered from Jesus' example that he was often harsh to the strong-willed and prideful, while always gentle with the humble and repentant. Often those who are dependent are also humble, and so should be treated kindly and gently. But sometimes there are those in need who will not admit their problems and insist on pressing on, and only want someone to help them keep pursuing their own self-destructive illusion. Then love needs to be more confrontational, I think. Not forceful or coercive, but challenging the wilfulness that is at the heart of the problem.

This situation reminds me of another Dorothy Day line (quoting Dostoyesky):

Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.