Decide to love unconditionally and watch your life improve
Well into my eighth decade of life, I’ve learned some lessons and gained some insights I hope will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. None is more important to living a good life than learning to love unconditionally.
What is Unconditional Love?
Though the words are self explanatory, unconditional love needs some clarification as normal human interaction usually doesn’t represent unconditional love. What does? The best representation familiar to most of us is a pet dog. Think puppy.
Come home in any mood—angry, depressed, bitchy, frightened, joyful, or just blah—your pet dog is thrilled to see you. He or she may even provide some extra love when sensing you’re troubled, but it’s always based on love. Your dog loves you no matter what.
Snap at it because you’re still mad about the way your boss treated you. It still loves you. Ignore it because you can’t believe the IRS is challenging your last return and it still welcomes your attention when you finally give it. That’s unconditional love.
Most of us use the fairness guide: If you’re good to me then I’ll be good to you. Take care of my needs and I’ll take care of yours. I’ve found that doesn’t contribute to a satisfying life.
Most religions describe God as loving, even those focused on a punishing God. Unconditional love is God-like, which may make it seem unattainable for a mere human, but I’ve found it’s actually very easy—just decide. Just decide to love without conditions.
Here’s the part that stymies most people who assume that other people have to take the initiative. That’s fairness again, if she loves me unconditionally I (probably) can return it. That’s backwards.
Unconditional love is a decision. A decision reflected by how a person thinks about and treats other people. It’s not a result of how someone treats me or has treated me in the past. It’s simply a decision I make to treat other people with kindness, compassion, respect, optimism, consideration, and appreciation for all their human traits—the wonderful as well as the terrible traits.
Having this discussion generally brings up the “what ifs.” What if he abuses me, physically or emotionally? Love him anyway, but stay away from him.
What if she is sloppy and I’m neat, always picking up after her? That’s not fair. Love her anyway, but stay away if you can’t accept her as she is.
Unconditional love is a way of being, a way that focuses on the best in other people while protecting one’s important boundaries.
What about his annoying behaviors? If he’d just….
We all have annoying behaviors. We’re human. Acknowledge the behaviors, ignore them if you can. Leave if they’re too troubling. Just remember, we all have annoying behaviors. No one is perfect.
Once I realized that loving unconditionally was totally within my power, I felt this tremendous strength accompanied by a lifting of weight of responsibility from my shoulders.
I declared: “I love you. There is nothing you will ever do that can make me stop loving you. I love you.”
Giving this assurance gave my spouse and children the gift of not needing to earn my love—they already have it and always will. Might I still take issue with behaviors? Sure, but always from a foundation of love.
Here’s a neat by-product. I am free of the responsibility of keeping score. I don’t have to keep track of who’s ahead in a competition of love. I once heard a saying, “To win at the game of love don’t keep score.” Wise advice.
It’s hard at times. I can be just as judgmental as the next person, just as easily angered, and just as likely to feel superior. But I find when I check my feelings I realize that withholding loving feelings from someone, even the stranger who treats me rudely, doesn’t do a thing to the other person. But harms me in ways I probably don’t even realize.
I simply feel better, happier, more at peace, more in tune with God and the Universe when I come from a position of unconditional love.
I’d love to hear your viewpoint. Am I sticking my head in the sand? Am I being a weak patsy? Am I unrealistic given human nature? What do you think?
Feature image (Wisdom) courtesy Flikr user Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon, CC Attr. Lic.
Love image courtesy Flikr user MyImage, CC Attr. Lic.