The Active Practice of Unconditional Love
“Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not ‘I love you’ for this or that reason, not ‘I love you if you love me.’ It’s love for no reason, love without an object.” – Ram Dass
This quote by treasured spiritual teacher Ram Dass (a.k.a. Richard Alpert. Ph.D.), who was a Harvard professor in the 1960’s, echoes with the ideal that people hold when speaking of this concept.
We learn from an early age, that approval and affirmation come with a price tag. We are told to be good, follow the rules, be seen and not heard, do for others, and refrain from selfishness and all will be well in each area of our lives. As we mature, we find that it may not always be so.
When people fall short of the image we hold of them, we may close our hearts, ostracize, and walk away. This is not in reference to abusive or toxic relationships, but rather, those whose behaviors feel disappointing.
In my practice, I have several clients whose primary focus is refraining from letting anyone down. The ways in which that manifests are overwork, ultra-stress-filled days, and self- deprecating actions. Not very loving. It is also behavior I recognize all too well since I have long engaged in it.
What would it be like to love without condition? Is that even a possibility? Consider your most intimate relationships which could be with a partner or spouse, a child, parent or dear friend. It also means loving the person in the mirror. That may be the most challenging, since many find it easier to offer love to someone else, rather than turning it inward. Can you feel and show love regardless of circumstances?
Call to mind the image of a newborn baby; a bundle of cuteness and innocence. Would you, in a million years believe that this tiny human is undeserving of love and acceptance, simply for just being? Remember that, despite choices you have made, you are no less worthy of love than this child.
Unconditional love doesn’t mean that the other person is always right. Relationships are not 50/50. They are 100/100 with each partner bringing the totality of who they are to the table. Some of that means childhood trauma, losses, changes, and challenges. It is part and parcel of our human existence. It could include habits and patterns that spill over into interactions. It doesn’t imply that either of you can do whatever you want without consequence. It means having the freedom of being true to yourself and the relationship simultaneously knowing that the two conditions are not mutually exclusive.
Keeping the heart open is a piece of this dynamic. There are times when it feels easier to batten down the hatches, nail board to the windows, and put shields around the heart. It may seem safe to curl up behind the walls and refrain from letting love in behind them. If you could see the other person as vulnerable and hurting as you may be, it could be easier to show love without conditions, such as:
I will love you, even if you leave the toilet seat up, squeeze the toothpaste from the middle, leave a bit of clutter around or forget to pick up items on the grocery list.
I will love you even if you sometimes act in ways that are challenging rather than easy-going. I will love you even when you are not even close to your best; love might even assist you in finding that reset button to have a do-over.
I will love you when you aren’t too keen on yourself. I will love you when you are facing fierce fears. I will love you to shine a light on the darkness you may be experiencing. I will love you, just because. And sometimes that is enough.
Weinstein, E. (2018). The Active Practice of Unconditional Love. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 8, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-active-practice-of-unconditional-love/