What is love?
What does it mean for it to be unconditional?
Does “unconditional” love make sense?
As compared to what?
by Kelvin H. Chin
Life After Life Expert, Overcoming the Fear of Death Foundation
Let’s think about this phrase that we often hear — “Unconditional Love.”
As a parent myself, I understand when parents often use this phrase to describe how they feel about their children. They mean, “It doesn’t matter how badly my kids behave, whatever crazy stuff they do, I will feel deep affection for them and I will hold them close to my heart unconditionally regardless, and forever.”
I get that. That’s what parents really mean when they say, “We love our kids unconditionally.”
But, when it comes to relationships with lovers, partners, and others besides our kids, do we really mean that in the same way?
As compared to what?
Let’s look at this through another lens, what I sometimes call my “As Compared to What?" lens —
What does unconditional love mean...as compared to what?
as compared to conditional Love
Can love be “conditional”?
I think that’s the key point. Without even realizing it, subconsciously people make it into being “conditional.”
Conditional love looks something like this: “I will love you as long as you do this, or don’t do this… as long as you are this way, or that way...” Sometimes it is spoken, but more often than not it is unspoken. Sometimes if the person is self-aware, they will know they are thinking it. But many times, we think and feel it subconsciously, without even knowing it is there.
Essentially what we are really saying is:
“I will love you as long as you match my ideal image of…a lover, husband, wife, friend, etc.”
And then, if the other person is aware of your desire, maybe he forces himself to change, and perhaps he (or she) does change to fit your image — temporarily. Then he goes back to who he really is…
Because that is inevitable.
Also inevitable is that he will feel resentment from forcing himself to change, even if it’s supposedly “for a good reason.” And if that resentment is allowed to continue and fester, it then turns into frustration and anger.
Not a good recipe for any relationship.
I think we all have experienced this to some degree at some point in our lives. But, if that anger is allowed to build up over time, to the point where the resentment becomes almost palpable, then the relationship is doomed — divorce or separation is inevitable.
Thus is the fate of conditional love.
Here’s the thing...
We cannot deny who we really are — how we are wired through years, lifetimes perhaps, of experience and practice. If any change is to occur, it must come from inside ourselves, it must be a decision we make unencumbered by the feeling that we are “doing it for the other person.” We must “do it for ourselves.” By choice.
And, while having a vision — a mental idea — an ideal image — of what you may be striving for may be helpful, it can also be risky if you don’t realize that you may be holding out for perfection in your life where it does not exist. Or worse — where you may be demanding perfection, or attainment or possession of something outside of yourself in order to be happy.
Because just like love, our happiness should not be dependent on perfection, or on anything outside of ourselves.
Let’s talk about briefly about this idea of perfection further...
Perfection in Love
Perfection is a lofty goal, but it is not reality.
In my other blogs, I discuss the idea of perfection and how it theoretically results in the reality of a ‘static state’ — a state of no change, which we all know does not exist. We experience change in life all the time, not a static ‘unchanging’ life. So, perfection is not real. It is aspirational at best, and I even question its value as aspirational.
love is already unconditional
So I think, either out of confusion, or maybe an unsuccessful attempt at salvaging love in their lives, people have created this term “unconditional” love.
But does the phrase even make sense?...
It’s like saying “very unique” or the “most biggest”…isn’t it?
Unique and biggest are already “the most.”
Love is already unconditional. Otherwise it is NOT love. It is “liking” maybe, but it is not love. So, if you want to say “unconditional liking,” that would be ok.
Love is love. End of story.
It’s either a love story or not. It’s not an “unconditional love” love story.
And this distinction is important, I think, because using unconditional implies the opposite exists, which is as we discussed is the heart of the problem in the way most people love others, namely, conditionally.
But, I don’t think “it’s” that complicated.
“Love,” that is.
Love is not complicated
Love is not that complicated, at least not in theory. Most discussions about love do not start at the beginning, at the source...they tend to start somewhere down the road, well into the process of loving, liking, or appreciating others. But I think if we are to be at all successful in giving and receiving love, we must start at the source...ourselves. And we must start within ourselves in a different way from what is typically discussed in most circles.
love starts with self-acceptance, true self-love
I think it starts with Self-Acceptance.
That may sound easy, but granted — in practice maybe it’s not so easy for most of us mere humans! But that’s the formula — at least the formula is simple...
Start with oneself, “Turn within” – get to ‘know oneself’ better, develop more self-confidence, accept our flaws and our strengths unconditionally. That is the tough part...accepting our flaws. This is true self-love. Not merely the “Oh, I feel really good about myself right now because I just exercised” (or lost 5 pounds, or got a better job, a new client, or had a new baby...) type of self-love. That is not true self-love...that is merely opportunistic self-love. Because self-love is not bound by time and circumstance.
True self-love happens when we really know ourselves, our personalities, and most importantly when we embrace our “warts” and weaknesses — all the stuff we may not like about ourselves.
And where does the ability and inner strength come from to be able to not engage in overly self-critical thinking, to love oneself unconditionally? It comes from starting on our inside first — by turning within, and relaxing our mind, body, emotions, and expanding our self-knowledge.
And by taking this more understanding, acceptant, and more clear approach toward ourselves and how we view love from within ourselves, we will be more prepared to be loving human beings towards other people — towards our lovers, partners, and friends — towards all of the world outside of ourselves.
We will be more prepared to love...and yes, accept with all its warts and imperfections...the community — the world community that we are a part of.
Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within and coaching others in their self-growth for 45 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.OvercomingTheFearOfDeath.org.