• Nicole Purcell

Unconditional Love - Part Three

Nonviolence Institute Friend and Partner, Carol Bragg, offers another installment of her blog post series on Unconditional Love. Leave us a comment, a thought, or send an email our way if you have feedback you'd like to share! nicole@nonviolenceinstitute.org

The Difference between Unconditional and Conditional Love

Part 3 of Learning to Love Unconditionally

When I began my quest to understand unconditional love, it was for the loftiest of goals. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote near the very end of his last book that developing an all-embracing and unconditional love for all people was an absolute necessity for human survival. Not one to avoid big challenges, I was hooked on trying to figure out how this could be achieved.

It soon became apparent that this was more than an intellectual challenge. Explaining how to love is different from actually experiencing it. When I held my new grandson in my arms and gazed into his eyes, it brought back fond memories of nursing my son and the feelings of unconditional love that I have for him. If I can love my son and grandson unconditionally, it seemed eminently doable to be able to extend that same love to other human beings. When I allowed myself to acknowledge my own desperate need for unconditional love, I realized that other people have the same need and that we can

do this for each other: we can love each other the way we wish to be loved.

To be loved unconditionally means to be accepted fully for who we are, without conditions. We are loved for the very essence of who we are, with all of our strengths and weaknesses, shortcomings, failures, and mistakes. This love comes from the heart and is freely given. It is other-centered for the other’s sake, a gift love. It comes with no expectations about how we should think or how we should change to meet someone else’s needs and desires. It does not seek to control our life choices. It listens and respects our boundaries. It is patient, consistent and forgiving, being there for us on bad days as well as good and when we really make a mess of things. It wants the very best for us and doesn’t encourage co-dependency. condone wrong-doing or excuse abuse. Instead, it seeks to empower us to overcome self-destructive or other-destructive behavior. It can get angry, but is slow to anger.

Unconditional love is the love we are all looking for. When we are loved unconditionally, we experience a deep human bond that dispels fear; we feel safe and secure. Unconditional love doesn’t limit or constrain us, but releases human potential, helps us discover the meaning and purpose of our lives, and enables us to become all we can be. It is liberating and energizing and gives us joy.

Conditional love comes from the ego, not from the heart. It has to be earned and is given only when we meet someone else’s expectations about how we look, what we think, and what we do. If we conform to those expectations, we receive approval. If we don’t, acceptance is withheld or we are met with anger and criticism. Conditional love is selfish -- “I will love you only if you. . .” It is controlling -- someone else becomes the authority for our life. Our pursuit of approval restricts what we think and do and

creates anxiety about triggering the other person’s anger and losing the love we so crave. We feel bad about ourselves because we are not loved “as is” and never seem to be “good enough.” Conditional love makes us feel defensive. Fear of loss of the relationship escalates conflicts, making failure of the relationship more likely.

Many say that conditional love is not really love at all; it is approval.

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