I’ve been thinking a lot about unconditional love today. What does it mean? How does one show it? Why does one show it? What are the benefits to having it? I think about the people in my own life and I see their struggles and triumphs. I see what they would like me to do personally. I can even see for me what I think I would like other people to do. It’s from that angle that I’d like to talk about unconditional love.
Definition of Unconditional Love
First, the definition from my point of view: Unconditional love means you love someone without any conditions. Seems pretty simple right? You love someone without any conditions or expectations of outcomes from them. This means that if you have unconditional love for someone, you will honor their requests to you even if it hurts you to your very soul.
As a parent to two little girls, a 7 and 4 year old, I’m witnessing first hand the actions of people quite often going against what I think they should do. For instance, as it is 8:30 PM some nights my daughters like to stay up and make a ruckus. I personally think it’s fun to make a ruckus with them, however, as it gets later in the night, I realize that they need to get their sleep as they are young and growing. Sometimes they don’t go to bed in the most expedient way possible.
So what do I do then, do I take out a belt and snap it loudly to get them to comply? Certainly I could, but that makes me more of an authoritative dictator rather than someone who loves them. What if instead, I recognized that they are two, young, energetic human beings who are full of life and curiosity. What if I decide to focus on their curiosity and how young they are – and how new life is still for them. What if I then take everything they are doing and recognize that it is them deciding to do it and I am but a teacher and guardian, but not a controller of my children?
I think it’s possible to do this, though it takes discipline and forethought. The easy reaction for me concerning my children is to just get angry when they are making a mess, yelling, screaming, or not going to bed on time, or any other number of things that I might think are disrupting the balance of the universe. In this regard, my children have taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I haven’t been very good at unconditional love. I’ve been more like an overseer who is trying to control situations and bend reality to my will.
Certainly, it’s important to focus on what we each want in life for ourselves. But when it comes to other people, trying to get them to do what you want all the time is not really love – it’s more of a selfish thing that bypasses their own ability to craft the life they want for their own individual self.
In Our Relationships
In relationships, whether it is a committed relationship, marriage, or close friendship, chances are, there will come a point in time where unconditional love will be put to the test. What happens when unexpected choices or desires from one person are made to the other? What if one person wants their space or to be distant from you, but you have not even thought about that at all?
It’s easy to quickly fall into a needy and possessive mode when one person has been thinking something for a while and brings it up as something they’d like. It’s part of relationships in life. If constant and honest communication is not constantly occurring, then surprises can happen. I know this all too well as I have been the giver and receiver of things that have both surprised others and surprised me.
In this regard, I consider myself lucky as I understand a complex relationship dynamic now. Constant and honest communication prevents surprises, but if any surprises should come, unconditional love will be put to the test! I look at myself this year and realize that I have not had the unconditional love for those family and friends close to me in the way that I am tuned in to their desires and wishes. Really listening to others is a start to to the path of unconditional love.
Taking the time to HONOR the desires and wishes of others is one of the best ways to show unconditional love. There is no truer test of this than if someone wishes something completely opposite from what you do. Imagine something utterly and soulfully gut-wrenching that someone wants and everything inside of you says that goes against every feeling you have. It really shows unconditional love when you can honor intense and opposite view points to yours from someone because you love them so much that even if it hurts – even if it kills you – you will honor their request.
What’s To Gain?
It’s good to ask the question, “What am I to gain from unconditional love?” The gain is in the detachment from outcomes, which in turn detaches from stress. Stress typically comes from wanting something to be a certain way in your life or with someone else. I am the first to admit, it’s not easy to get to this point, especially if you’ve invested a lot of time in something or someone.
If you’re finding it hard to love unconditionally, think of looking at the North Star in the sky. As you live each and every minute of every day, look toward unconditional love as your North Star. When you find any type of stress, anxiety, or neediness creeping in to your life, remember that unconditional love is the way to a happier life – through less stress and putting less pressure on other people.
Remember, unconditional love does not mean you decide to abandon everyone in your life and leave them to their own devices. It simply means you pay attention to their demeanor and words and honor their requests and listen to the way they say things so that you can be a better partner, friend, mentor, etc…
Lastly, if your life is difficult or strained because of stress, anxiety, or anything you feel isn’t going your way, it probably means you REALLY care about something or someone. This is a good thing – it shows that you are a caring human being and there is nothing wrong with that. There comes a point where you must blend your caring with reality if others are not buying into what you are saying. It’s the art of letting go that then becomes the challenge.
Whoever you are reading this, unconditional love is a lifelong practice. It becomes hardest when it involves those you care about deeply. And the deeper the caring and relationship, the more difficult it becomes. It will test you to your very core sometimes, but I believe with daily practice and focusing on it, that in the end, that love will win out over neediness and control. As the old saying goes – love conquers all.
Stay strong and curious my friends and don’t give up, even if it hurts :)
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