An acquaintance joked the other day that she tries very hard to be unconditional. But she does expect something in return! A prickly joke, this, and a great illustration of how easy it is to talk about being unconditional and how difficult it is to put it into practice.
If I offer a friend a ride somewhere and I don’t expect anything in return, my offer is unconditional. Of course this means I won’t mind if I don’t even get a thank-you back. Right? Expecting someone to say thank you seems to go without saying. But this is about the expecting. Thanking someone is a gracious (and polite) gesture. Expecting a thank-you is everything but unconditional.
Things get more complicated when we start talking about unconditional love. Loving someone without the love being returned? Without expectations? Writing about it is much easier than experiencing it. It so often leads to pain and sorrow!
Love is so simple. It is living from a sense of abundance, it’s there in unlimited amounts. Like sunshine, like the myth of the purse that was always full of gold. And still we are afraid to love in this manner.
Why is this so difficult? Why do we grow unhappy when we give our love to someone but receive nothing in return? This partly has to do with fear, often old fears that are awakened in us. Especially if we experienced betrayal or loss as a child. Love makes us vulnerable.
But surrendering to love enables us to learn a tremendous amount about ourselves. Our own beauty – and our own darkness – is reflected back to us by the beauty and darkness we see in the other. We learn to face our greatest fears and touch our greatest joys. We learn to trust and we learn that the most important thing is to be able to trust in ourselves. This is why it’s always worthwhile to take on the adventure of love. Even when it does not end as we had hoped.
But allowing yourself to be dependent on love is a different matter entirely. No one else is responsible for your happiness than you yourself. It is so tempting and oh so treacherous to make your happiness depend on what someone means to you, what you mean to someone else, how someone takes care of you, how you take care of someone else.
Learn, first and foremost, to love yourself. Then it is much easier to love someone else unconditionally, from a sense of abundance.
There is, however, always a boundary. I wrote about this earlier in my blog Walking away. If a bond is no longer good for you, if it costs you more than you can or wish to pay, then it is high time you started taking care of yourself. That too is part of loving yourself.
Unconditional love means loving someone and taking responsibility for your own happiness at the same time.
Is this something you recognize?
p.s. I’m taking a short (2-3 weeks) break after this and will return full of inspiration!