“To give and not expect return.” How many of us know how to love like that? How many of us have been loved like that? We are imperfect beings in an imperfect world. We may think we love unconditionally but anytime we are disappointed by the words or actions of one we love, we may not be loving as unconditionally as we like to think.
I have been reflecting on this because it is almost Mother’s Day and there are so many posts and images that speak of a mother’s unconditional love – as though all mother’s love unconditionally, all the time. If we are lucky, we experience moments of unconditional love from our parents, as parents, as partners in a relationship, with friends we hold dear. Rarely are we loved completely unconditionally all the time; rarely do we love unconditionally all the time.
We are born with unconditional love and complete trust. As babies, we learn very quickly what behaviours and actions get rewarded and what don’t. It is a matter of survival to adapt to the expectations and conditions of people around us.
“We know our soul qualities when we are very young, before we learn concepts of right and wrong, good and evil. We know our soul qualities before we build constructs around ourselves that we fool ourselves into believing are truth and essential to survival. We shape life to fit in and shape ourselves in trying to make other people happy.” Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness (p. 13)
Loving unconditionally is a practice that starts with loving self unconditionally. The more you can be in a place of loving yourself unconditionally, the more you open up the portals to receive love unconditionally. Can you love another person fully, without judgment about who they are, what they say or how they act? Then you offer unconditional love.
I have been learning about unconditional love through recognizing the times I have been “loved” with conditions – conditions that often asked me to be someone I am not, to be there for another person at the expense of myself. These relationships showed me who I was not and where I was not loving or accepting myself.
I have been learning about unconditional love through my children, the hopes and dreams I have for them to be successful in life. When we examine what that means, often we have an idea of what success means and looks like and it carries expectations or conditions we are not always aware that we are carrying. Letting go of the expectations and personal hopes for our children’s lives is an act of love. We also hold hopes and expectations for our parents and our siblings and how we want them to be in life and in relationship with us. Letting our expectations and our judgments go is an act of love that opens the way for unconditional love. And I say this in full awareness that there are some relationships that are so toxic there is no opportunity to heal them inside the relationship – just the opportunity to heal within yourself by loving and trusting yourself unconditionally.
And I have been learning about unconditional love through my relationship with my partner and our love for each other. It is as close to unconditional as any partnership can be, infused with mutual love, honour, integrity and respect. And it is a daily practice.
Unconditional love. We get there through awareness, intentionality and practice. Daily practice.