For most of us, unconditional love is a difficult – if not impossible – concept to grasp. In an egocentric world bogged down with terms and conditions, the idea of loving someone unconditionally is akin to inviting a thief to one’s house and giving him a set of keys – pure trouble. Stipulations govern most aspects of our lives – employees are sworn to uphold a code of work ethics or risk discharge; students are required to follow school policies or hazard expulsion; churchgoers are expected to abide by the church set of laws or run the risk of banishment.
Our personal relationships are not spared from such onslaught-prenuptial agreements doom a marriage before it has even begun, and marriage itself is regarded as a contract to which husband and wife are bound for life. Burdened by all these requisites, it is no wonder that the majority scoff at the notion of loving completely.
But just what is the meaning of unconditional love? How do we practice it and not lose our sense of selves? Unconditional love is comparable the adoration existing between lovers. But while the latter is usually confined to feelings that are romantic in nature, the former encompasses all kinds-religious, familial or storge, philia as present between friends, and self-love.
Of all these, the unqualified love of self takes primacy for one can not even begin to care for another without first caring for himself. Crucial to the idea of unconditional love is the absence of stipulations- its existence does not depend on a condition being met, a task being accomplished, or an order being obeyed.
One superior example is parental love. A child may vacillate between loving and hating his parent as he goes through life, but a parent’s feelings for the child never wavers. A mother does not love the child for being good and she does not stop loving the child when he misbehaves.
Loving unconditionally also means loving freely, without expectations of reciprocity. It is thinking of another’s happiness without regard for what one might get for oneself in return. A person who loves unconditionally loves because he feels so, regardless of whether the feeling is reciprocated or not. This may sound masochistic, but the very essence of unconditional love is that it is an act of feelings apart from will.
One can not say that he has loved unconditionally if the affection given is dependent on being loved in return. Unconditional love is inexhaustible. It forgives and forgets transgressions, without holding grudges. Loving someone unconditionally implies separating the individual from his conduct and beliefs, and accepting the person for who he is.
There are instances, however, when a loved one’s behavior becomes unhealthy as in the case of alcoholism, drug abuse or domestic violence. This is when unconditional love of self takes precedence and a person would be wise to distance himself from such violent behavior. But perhaps the most defining characteristic of unconditional love is that it is unrestrictive.
It means giving others freedom to pursue their own happiness for their own good. A parent who loves absolutely will let go of the child’s hand so he learns to find his own way in life. Similarly, one who loves wholeheartedly will not stand in the way of the lover whose happiness lies elsewhere.
As we can see, unconditional love is a state of being and feeling, independent of the actions of the loved one. It is devoid of stipulations, expectations, and limitations. Loving unconditionally maybe the hardest thing we can do, but it is also the most rewarding. As the saying goes, what you give comes back to you many times over.
Love unreservedly and you will be loved back the same way. And that is the essence of happiness.