Take a look at this Wikipedia™ definition for unconditional love: Unconditional love is a term that means to love someone regardless of one's actions or beliefs. It is a concept comparable to true love, a term which is more frequently used to describe love between lovers. By contrast, unconditional love is frequently used to describe love between family members, comrades in arms and between others in highly committed relationships. It has also been used in religious context to describe God's love for humankind (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_love).
Unconditional love is that love that has absolutely no ‘end game’. It has no last straw, end of road, or final curtain. It has no strike outs. It has a selective memory and easily forgets wrongs. It holds no grudges. It has no tipping point, no boundaries to cross, no place it cannot go. This type of love has no expiration, no ‘honeymoon is over’ and does not vanish. It does not kill nor can it be put to death. As the song goes, there is no mountain to high and no river to wide. It has no sense of ‘too much’ and does not give up when “at the end of the rope”. In fact, it is the type of love that doesn’t have any end whatsoever.
Author Earle Josiah says that “our actions possess moral worth when they are based on goodness and love” (EXPAND YOUR CAPACITY TO LOVE; BookSurge Publishing, June 14, 2007). He goes on to say that if we would just educate and “cultivate our minds so that every wish of our hearts is inspired by love”, that we would be less likely to withhold love. No more of this, “I can only love certain people” or “I just can’t love this person”.
In the Greek there are four words that are often translated, “love”. They refer to love as sexual attraction (Eros), a feeling based on blood relationship (Storge), warm friendship founded on mutual esteem (Philia) and love based on principle (Agape).
Agape is that type of love which is hardest to live out. It demands that we surrender emotions and nature. We put aside our ‘gut feelings’ and ‘intuitions’ and love no matter what. It is the same type of love Christ implores us to participate in when he said we should love our enemies. It is the love that we should probably be aspiring to embrace but our human experiences, our hurts, our short comings, our ideologies, and our spirituality all serve to limit our capacity to love.
When we put our love for someone in a box with conditions, when we keep a score card of the relationship in order to justify love, we fail ourselves and those whom we are trying to love.
I believe that in order to love another person with as few conditions as possible (I’m not saying that as an excuse to get out of loving them with zero conditions but merely pointing out a shortcoming of humanity) we must first have the capacity to love ourselves.
We fail to love ourselves because we are, indeed, caught up in our misdemeanors, our offenses, our sins, our errors, and our short-comings. We know the true self and when placed in the light we are embarrassed, ashamed, and sometimes down-right horrified. Perhaps if we tried really hard to love everyone around us as deep as possible then we won’t have to love ourselves. But that type of love gets tiring for both the giver and receiver so it is easier to not love ourselves and to limit who we love and how we love them. We get little back in return and when it does get returned to us it is distorted, misinterpreted, and expects even more from us.
Is it possible to love UNconditionally? Is there room in the human heart and mind and spirit to love in such a way where there is absolutely no way that love would fail, drift, lessen, or die? Or do we refuse to do that because we are afraid of, or believe that we will be, hurt in return? Our experiences tell us this will happen – our love won’t always be returned in kind.
Christ did not mention that loving our enemies would reap a great harvest of sunshine and satin pillows of happiness. Mohammed, Shakespeare, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II all urged us to love one another with great passion, energy, forgiveness, kindness and with no limitations but none of them mentioned what we would get in return. They simply said we should strive to do that. Our reward comes around later BUT that is not characteristic of humanity and we want something for our investment.
Look – all I’m trying to say here is that when we love someone hard, fast, furious, passionately, and unconditionally – when it HURTS to love them so much – we are setting ourselves up for disappointment IF we are expecting something in return. Being loved and showing love are two completely opposite experiences. We can hope to be loved unconditionally and therefore be allowed to have shortcomings but first we must love ourselves that way. We must make the right choices for ourselves. We must agree to learn from our mistakes and not continually beat ourselves up for them. We must ignore negative behaviors of others that tend to bring us down. We must strive to be a better person in all aspects of our lives and we must be able to hold ourselves accountable for our actions while allowing ourselves to be loved. Then we can love our fellow humans with few, if any, conditions.
You have probably heard or read I Corinthians 13:4. It is commonly referred to as the ‘love chapter’ and is read at pretty much every wedding I have ever attended. I offer it up here for you with some editing. I challenge you to do what I have done and in verses 4-7 and substitute the word ‘love’ for your first name. If you believe you truly love Unconditionally than this will be a clear and truthful reflection of you. But if it causes your heart to shout, “Doh!” or your spirit to feel shame, then give yourself permission to change and embrace it.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Kurt is patient, Kurt is kind. I do not envy, I do not boast, I am not proud. 5 Kurt does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and Kurt keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Kurt does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 Kurt always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. ……13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Hold yourself to these ideals and see what happens in return. Loving unconditionally – by definition – may be something we never fully achieve because of our human shortcomings. Love is a state of being that we should all continually strive to achieve. It is in the trying and practicing that we will experience agape.
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“Intense love does not measure, it just gives”…Mother Teresa
"The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well"...Elisebeth Kubler-Ross
"You don't have to go looking for love when it's where you come from"...Werner Erhard
“…There’s nothing wrong with tough love, as long as the love is unconditional”…George W Bush
“To give and not expect a return, that is what lies at the heart of love”…Oscar Wilde
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them”…Thomas Merton