We all want it, but unconditional love can be hard to define. Here, our experts share heartwarming examples and opinions on what this beautiful gift is really all about. Remember these anecdotes, tips and ideas whenever you're feeling low, and know that the best love of all — unconditional love — can sustain you:
Love is about desire. We fail to experience unconditional love (either giving or receiving) because we all have desires that compete with unconditional love. When the competition wins, we lose. But if or when real love overcomes, we all win. If the heart is pure (singular in desire), unconditional love will flow. So it really depends on the source — not only the localized source of our own hearts but we need to consider the more global or even universal source — God! The source of this love must be a heart that is absolutely, incorruptibly pure. We must acknowledge that we are not that source. We must abide in that source.
How can we define unconditional love? I can get hurt and still do the loving thing. I can even die in the process but not be an agent of hatred and retribution. I'm not talking about tolerating abuse but rather, managing pain with wisdom and humility. It's feeling the injury and not running in shame and fear or going wacko and acting out of hostility and violence. To love unconditionally is not letting fear, shame, anger, resentment, disappointment, dissatisfaction, loneliness, conflict, etc. get in the way of us being patient, kind, unselfish, forgiving, hopeful, honest, and respectful. Above all, it never gives up in the battle to do what is truly right. Loving unconditionally is incredibly awesome and worthy of all our aspirations and efforts. It is the goal of true freedom. Love that is so complete and mature involves the multifaceted struggles for feeling strong, secure, and significant. The fight to believe we ourselves are worthy of love and acceptance, even in the midst of pain and hurt, should direct us towards the larger transcendent story for human redemption, freedom, and wholeness.
As for the ongoing effort of purifying our hearts, it's about daily choices driven by unconditional love over things (many of them good) that vie for our desire, time, efforts, and allegiance. I've heard it said that, "Education of the will is the object of our existence." It really does boil down to having a singular desire, a pure heart... and it's a lifelong learning process.
To talk about unconditional love, it's important to talk about what it isn't. Too often in relationships, people put up with partner abuse because they love them, no matter what. The prevalence of this can make the concept of unconditional love seem like a naive joke. But unconditional love is possible, even in abusive relationships. It's okay to go on loving someone who doesn't treat you with love and respect. The trick is what you do about it.
Love is not a feeling, but a state of being. It is that part of us that sees another and knows that we want the best for them, and that to the best of our ability and strength, we will always be there for them. Paradoxically, though, sometimes being there for them means not being there.
If someone you love hits you, coerces sex, lies to you, belittles you or gaslights you, it can be extremely difficult to get out. But if you truly love them, that's exactly what you have to do — for yourself, but also for them.
It’s easy for your friends to say, "Get rid of that jerk." It may be easier for you to say that to yourself, too. But it's okay to admit that you still love that person and want what's best for them. Holding space in your heart for someone who hurts you is harder than treating them with hatred. But it's also more honest, and you can know, in the end, that while abusers may break your heart, they can never break your unconditionally loving spirit. Keep reading...
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