We talk a lot about romantic love around Valentine’s Day. When romantic love devours us, we can find ourselves joyfully lost, frightened, and overpowered by intense feelings of belonging. And when this romantic love-bubble bursts, we seem to deflate into a mess of hurt, broken, and overshadowed feelings of failure and unworthiness.
It seems that love, from our human perspective, is inherently limited. The love we feel for another, as partners, family and friends, seems to come with all kinds of conditions. Some of these conditions may seem quite reasonable. For example, you might feel perfectly justified to say to your spouse: “I love you, but not if you have an affair/physically harm me/gamble away all our money.” Other conditions may be more dubious: “I love you, but only if you agree with me/let me have my own way/have enough money, beauty, fame/share my beliefs/keep me from being lonely…” This list can go on and on, depending on the deep inner needs that are unmet in the individual lover.
Love conditions can change in time throughout a relationship. They are restrictions on who or when we are willing to love and how much. Its polar opposite is unconditional love. Unconditional love occurs when we love people freely, fully and openly, with no expectations, demands or restrictions. Unconditional love is a constant stream of acceptance. It is not turned on or off, like conditional love. Unconditional love is full of mercy for the limitations manifested in the one who is loved.
But is it possible to love in this way? Perhaps unconditional love can only be fully expressed by the Higher Self or God. Nevertheless, it is an ideal that the world desperately needs, and something worth acting upon and experimenting with. We might first start with receiving unconditional love from our Higher Self. To know that we are fully worthy, accepted, and loved for who we are, in all our messy brokenness, failure, and even acts of irresponsible choice or worse.
In the ancient Syriac Christian tradition, there is no Hell. The 4th century poet Ephrem and later Isaac the Syrian wrote of God’s irresistible Love. They believed that God’s unconditional love is eternal, ceaseless in its desire for us to embrace it and all that is good. No one can reject God’s love forever, no matter how long they turn aside, try to outmaneuver or outlast His or Her Loving gaze. Unconditional Love is irresistible!
This makes me think of times when I become frustrated or angry with my husband. I shut down and want to run away. But he knows and loves me well enough to always come closer at these times. He typically grabs ahold of me before I flee the room and tenderly embraces me. I may be acting childish and unreasonable, but I cannot resist his act of unconditional love!
Our story is just one small example of unconditional love in action. But more profound examples occur when we forgive and continue to love those who have deeply hurt us. Perhaps the failure of a partner to meet a vital condition for our love is a call for help. If he or she cheats on you, can you still forgive them and wish them well (over time?) even if you ultimately decide to end the relationship?
Unconditional love brings freedom. We are free to be ourselves in all our human frailty and know we are still loved. We are free to love others without expectations, demands or emotional turmoil. In turn, the love is also free to flow and transform all that is around us.
We cannot expect to reach perfect unconditional love – that is perhaps only for God, but we can continually step closer to it and learn to find the right balance between the two. We can start by realizing our unmet inner needs and start to see how we try to fulfil them in our relationships. What conditions do we place on the ones we love (including ourselves)? And how do we ascertain our loved ones’ compliance?
Then try, step-by-step, to meet our inner needs ourselves. To gently move beyond our love conditions, first for ourselves, and then for others. As we open up to more love, the Higher Self can sneak through all our messy insecurities and help us to realize a broader, constant, consistent, and radiant Love. A Love full of mercy. An Irresistible Love!
Oh! And by the way…Happy Valentine’s Day!