What does it mean to love someone unconditionally? I have often been asked if it is possible to really love someone without any conditions upon which that loving is dependent. I think it is, although it is not always easy.
Most people have had the experience of loving unconditionally. Perhaps there is a special aunt or grandparent, and despite their quirky ways, they are simply loved for who they are. Often pets are loved this way. Even if they make a mess or chew up a slipper, we do not withdraw our love. We accept that some things just come with the territory when we have an animal.
It may be more challenging to maintain such unconditional loving acceptance of a child, parent, or partner. In the examples cited above, we do not carry expectations of those individuals or pets. However, in our closer relationships, expectations have a way of sneaking in and contaminating the purity of the love we hold for another. Although often unconscious, we may have a little unwritten contract with ourselves: so long as the person acts in accordance with our expectations, we are loving towards them. If they disappoint us, then we withdraw our love.
We may not intend to operate this way, but ego sometimes takes over, essentially acting like the little child who says: “If you won’t play my way, I’m going home.” Clearly this is manipulative and unilateral. When we withdraw love because someone has displeased us, this often generates anger and resentment in the other. This response can result in a further withdrawal of love, and a downward spiral has begun.
The way out of this pattern is to keep the love flowing especially when we are upset with another. Taking the time to understand our upset, and to see the role that our untamed ego is playing is crucial. Mature relating requires that we do this thoroughly, before reacting or venting at another. It also requires that we honestly look at where we may be standing in judgment of another. There are other ways to communicate our issues without being judgmental.
Unconditional loving is a standard worth striving for. It has nothing to do with anyone else: it is a challenge we can set for ourselves. The closer and more often we can approach the mark, the happier we, and those around us, will be.
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