Humming in my Universe http://philstar.com
Many years ago, when as a young parent I cradled my babies in my arms, awful thoughts of danger would come, and it would immediately occur to me that in case of fire, or something just as horrible, there was nothing I would not do to save them. I would readily have my arm cut off, or even give up my life in exchange for their safety. I had no hesitation whatsoever. That to me was the unconditional love I had as a parent. I would still do it today.
I’m sure many parents feel the same way about their children. Unconditional love is exactly that: love without any conditions; the objects do not have to earn it. From the lover’s point of view, it is given freely, without stipulations, no ifs or buts. And it asks for nothing in return. It only wishes the best of everything for the loved ones.
Unconditional love is something we are always looking for. We all long to have a best friend or lover or a family or community we can go to and experience thorough and full acceptance of who we are. We want a place where we do not have to try and project an image to be wanted, respected, accepted and yes, loved! A safe place where we are completely welcome and completely at home just as we are.
We are not twisted, folded, bent, cut down or forced in any way to be anything else or to fit into anyone’s expectations. We are simply who we are. And THAT feels great!
In my opinion, persons who can allow or accept other people to be who they are have made great strides as human beings. They have surely come to an acceptance of themselves, embracing their strengths, good qualities and positive traits, but more importantly, also their weaknesses, imperfections and even neuroses. They have made peace with both the desirable and despicable aspects of their own personalities.
One can tell when people have not traveled deep into their journey of self-acceptance. They are usually a bit too judgmental and harsh with other people’s foibles and errors. I believe that what we find ugly and despicable in others may have to do with parts of ourselves that we cannot accept or forgive. By the same token, what we find attractive in others are projections of ourselves playing out and ‘affirming’ us.
It takes a truly great spiritual being to live a life that is free from judging the actions of others. Maybe some zen monks and priests, rabbis and other religious practitioners can do it. But most of us find ourselves often judging others, and we probably always will.
This brings me back to unconditional love. Why is it that when our kids grow up, we find the unconditional love we had for them when they were little replaced with expectations of responsibility, achievement and performance? Whatever happened to accepting them just as they are, no matter what happens? What’s happened to us, or what happened to them? Why the change?
I think about this often and I have some thoughts I wish to share. Love is not always a passive act of accepting people as they are. When we love, we wish the best of everything for our loved ones. And so we give them tools for living that will help them to be happy and functional in life. That means teaching them not just the warm and fuzzy things that are associated with love but also the hard stuff they need to learn like sacrifice, delaying gratification, controlling emotions and drives, etc.
This is tough love, that side of love that many people would rather turn away from, for fear that their loved ones will not understand and reject them. But tough love is useful and it is necessary to dish it out at some point.
What would our children be if all we give them is the love that makes them soft, comfortable and sweet, but unable to negotiate through the vicissitudes of life? The love we teach must be honest, and furthermore, complete. Love entails sacrifice and as much as we practice it on our kids, they must learn to pick it up and see its value. Love has to do what love has to do, and by that I mean, we must do the hard work it entails.
Love has a face that is easy to accept. It also has another face which demands that we all grow up and appreciate its harsher, less pleasant countenance. Otherwise, love would be mere compassion without wisdom, what the philosopher Ken Wilber calls ‘idiot compassion’. Duke Ellington described it graphically when he said, “Love is supreme and unconditional; like is nice and limited.”
Love is wonderful when we are rewarded for the love we give. But it gets difficult when our children turn out to be disappointments and let us down. When we wake up to the fact that our children have not turned out the way we wanted them to, the toughest part of unconditional love either steps up to the plate or recoils and withdraws and becomes cynical.
Our loved ones can disappoint us because we have expectations to begin with. Is it wrong to have expectations? I do not know. But yes, I do have expectations of my children and I know that many of them have not and will not be met. I also know that my parents had expectations of me that I did not achieve. I also had expectations of myself that I failed to do or become. I also continuously fail in many things in my everyday personal life.
The difference between how I feel about my disappointments in myself then and now, is that I can now let go of them much easily. I will not waste time living with regret. When I can let go, I know I am complete and do not have to cling to an ideal of perfection. I am simply ME. I am sure that, for everything I may have missed out on, there has been something gained. And as much as possible, I try to apply the same attitude when it comes to how I feel about my loved ones.
To complete these musings on unconditional love, I quote a snippet of dialogue from the movie ‘Unconditional Love’ that I picked up on the net.
Dirk Simpson: I don’t believe in unconditional love, I mean, what is it anyway? Cut off my ears, steal my money and I’ll love you anyway?
Grace Beasley: Yes, and more.
Dirk Simpson: More?
Grace Beasley: You don’t have to love me back.###
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