“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love” Stephen Kendrick
I grew up with the feeling of being loved. I believed that no matter what I did, I could talk with my parents about it, they would help me, forgive me, and love me. It made me feel so safe and secure…no matter what the world threw at me, if I rallied or if I failed, I could count on my parents. Not that I was always lovable. I am pretty sure that during the teen age years I caused some heart break. I veered from the path of strong love to a religious bent. I became a zealot and while I am sure I presumed to love my parents, I would also fall on my knees in sobbing pleas for God to save their souls-as I felt they were doomed for hell. I am afraid that during those times they didn’t feel love and acceptance from me, but could sense my thoughts of judgement on them. Despite my intolerant distance from them, they loved me.
I grew out of my zealot bent. I had an opportunity to show both of my parents before their death my devotion to them, full acceptance and great love. They didn’t expect an apology…it was all a part of growing up and experimenting with different philosophies, ideas, and directions. But I have apologized. To them, and to myself. It is one of my regrets: if I ever made anyone feel bad about themselves because their beliefs were different than mine.
I have also been the recipient of conditional love. My husband of 31 years could not accept me when I began to question the actions and dogmas of our strong fundamental conservative church. He was a minister and my freedom of thought was unacceptable. I often say, when I stopped enjoying the church, he stopped enjoying me.
In the end, I learned unconditional love from people ‘outside’ the church. The people in the church had ‘conditions’ on their love for me.
But I cannot answer for other people. I can only answer for myself, my actions, and reactions.
Love may feel very natural and instinctual. Sometimes it is, and most often it starts that way. But love is a choice and a commitment. When a child / teen starts to get involved in things that one might feel is wrong, and maybe it is, and maybe you need to show a little ‘tough’ love, but when you look into their eyes, you see who they are, who they will become and you believe they can do it. You have to look beyond the current moment.
When my daughter was born with spina bifida, she learned to walk with leg braces and crutches when she was two years old. It was wonderful that she could stand, it was also sad that she needed assistance. Sometimes she cried and didn’t want to put on the braces. After my hugs to her, I would look in her eyes and I didn’t see a two year old with crutches, I saw a beautiful young woman who was mobile and could get around independently. I gave her strength through my belief that she could do it.
When my son was in college and feeling listless and couldn’t find direction in his life, he looked at me and asked , “what should I do”? This was during the time that Back to the Future movie had come out, and in the movie there is a family photo and people keep vanishing from the picture. He said, tell me what to do, I am vanishing… But I looked him in the eyes and didn’t see a lost young man. I saw a capable, bright, strong young man. I told him I could not tell him what to do, he had his own journey, but I knew whatever he chose to do, he would do it great. He could accomplish whatever he set out to do.
Today my daughter is driving a special equipped van and living in her own apartment. My son is a husband, and father of a beautiful 4 year old daughter and gainfully employed. He looks at her and tells her she can be and do anything she wants to do. No ‘box’ to stay within, just a free spirit soar that her spirit can take.
Love can be challenging. Loving people can let in pain. Loving people can bring joy. But love them, it is a choice. That is what makes conditional love so painful—they choose to let go of their love if you don’t do as they say, or be as they want. When I met and fell in love with my current husband, he accepted me then, and now, for who I am, not necessarily what I do. When he hugged me, he hugged my soul.
“The fire that we call loving is too strong for human minds. But just right for human souls” Aberjhani