We all know the expression – but do we all mean the same thing when we use the words?
I am going to examine “unconditional love” from the perspective of what mischievous distractions obscure the original meaning of the expression. Then I will look at how relating to unconditional love in its pure form can empower an individual human being.
“Love” is a problematic term on its own. We use it to refer to everything from preferences (“I love chili hot dogs”) to appreciation (“I love the way you arranged those flowers”) to emotion (“I love my dog”) to commitment (“I will always love you”). We use the simple expression “I love you” to mean an apology (I know I upset you but I didn’t mean to, please forgive me), a demand (do this because I love you so you owe me), a promise (I will take care of you for the rest of your life), or a way of avoiding a promise (I love you, isn’t that enough?).
When we add “unconditional” to qualify love, we narrow the possible range of meanings considerably. If you really comprehend what constitutes a “condition”, you will find that the type of love which is truly unconditional is one with which we are not terribly familiar in our culture.
What does “conditional” mean?
Conditional – relating to conditions.
Conditions – circumstances, requirements.
So, if the presence of love relates to any particular condition (circumstance or requirement), it is not, by definition, unconditional.
The love of parents for their children and vice versa is not unconditional. It depends on the circumstance of being related by birth or adoption. Parents and children can move from conditional to unconditional love at any time (once the children reach the age of reason), but most never do.
Sexual love is not unconditional. It depends on the sexual attraction between the participants. It is possible that two people who have a sexual loving relationship may also love one another unconditionally – the test of this is whether the love would be present if the sexual relationship ended and both parties started sexual relationships with others. If this circumstance would interrupt the love, then the love is not unconditional.
The love of one’s friends is not unconditional. It depends on shared interests, mutual support, communication, and all the other things that make our friends our friends. People who share friendly love may also love one another unconditionally. If the love is unconditional, it remains present through betrayal, lies, long periods of no communication, and severe divergence of lifestyles and interests. If any of these circumstances threaten the love, then it is conditional.
Unconditional love is not personal. If you love someone for their sense of humour, personality, the way they make you feel, or any other aspect of their identity, your love is conditional. It depends on the presence of that characteristic. If the person ceased to be or have all the things that you enjoy, would the love still be present?
Here’s the real kicker – unconditional love does not come and go. It just is.
So, there exists unconditional love between all people, and in fact within the entire Universe, at all times.
So how can we say that, for example, love between parents and children is conditional? If there is always unconditional love present, wouldn’t “love” always be unconditional then?
While unconditional love always exists, we are often unaware of it. And other forms of love, conditional forms, are one of the things that can get in the way of truly experiencing it.
What gets in the way of experiencing unconditional love (as a presence) is all the distractions of a human being identity. These distractions include the seven deadly sins (anger, pride, envy, and so on), but those are relatively easy to spot. A more subtle set of distractions is all the things we think are good – like the attached love of sexual partners, friends, and relatives.
There is something daunting in surrendering the attached loves. Somehow, it seems almost unloving to let go the bonds and love those people just the way we love everyone else on the planet. It is as though we feel the attached love is loving “more”. Loving personally and specifically is “stronger” or “better” to us.
I can only offer as encouragement my observation that it is easier to truly hear and understand someone when listening from unconditional love. Attached love clouds the space with your own ego identity and its wants and needs, limiting the room for the other person to express themselves and be heard clearly. Attached love contains expectations, which cause upsets when they are not met. Upsets cause reactions, reactions cause further reactions, and before you know it the experience of unconditional love is completely obscured. You may still be having a good time, even, but it is a small, inside-the-ego-consciousness good time, not an experience of boundless, infinite, unconditional love.
In a way, it is easier to experience unconditional love with a stranger than with someone close to you. There is less pre-existing “stuff” in the space. Although we are pretty good at projecting all kinds of apprehensive thoughts into the space with a stranger, too!
In the end, unconditional love is a reflection of the whole human experience – all around all the time, yet we are attending to anything and everything else, and we just miss it. The brief moments of pure consciousness, of complete connection with the Universe, have their corresponding moments of pure connection with another human being, you-and-I-are-one consciousness.
We resist it.
We avoid it.
We fear it.
We worship it.
We seek it.
We deny its very existence.
But, fundamentally, we are it.
When you take away all circumstances, all identity, all personal characteristics, all individual ego wants and needs and desires, all that remains is that which we all have in common, that which we all are.
And that which we are is – only and always - “unconditional love”.
|2005. 04. 12.