What Is Needed to Love Unconditionally
Part 6 of Learning to Love Unconditionally
by Carol Bragg
Many of us have been told in our places of worship that we should love unconditionally, but few have been taught how to do this. Indeed, I have spoken to clergy who remark that “It’s very difficult!” or who quickly change the subject.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described, unconditional love, agape, as the summum bonum, the highest good, the unifying principle of life. He referred to is as the love of God operating in the human heart. The real test, he said, is whether we have genuine love for the enemy.
Unconditional love means that I love you because you are a human being – a member of my pack, if you will -- and nothing you do can separate you from that love. Forgiveness is an essential component. “He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love,” according to Dr. King.
Unconditional love gives us a desperately-needed sense of connection and belonging that overcomes the feeling of separation that psychiatrists claim is the source of all fear. It makes us feel valued as individuals and accepts us for who we are. It takes away fear, giving us a sense of safety and security. It enhances our intellectual and emotional growth and calms and de-stresses us. It improves our health, strengthens our immune system, prevents disease, and speeds recovery. It makes us happier. And because it does all these things, it is in our enlightened self-interest that we should love each other unconditionally.
Adopting a positive mindset makes it easier to love others unconditionally, even those who are not particularly likable or those we regard as adversaries.
We must recognize that unconditional love is a universal and lifelong need. I need it and
because I know you also need it, I long to give it to you. This is the Golden Rule at its very best.
We must acknowledge that all human beings are essentially the same. When I look at you, I can see all the ways in which we are different. But I can also see our essential sameness. When I look at you, I see a reflection of myself and feel empathy and compassion toward you. All human beings experience pain and suffering and it is natural for me to want to relieve your pain and suffering. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: “If we could read the hidden history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s live sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
We must appreciate that we are all products of circumstances beyond our control.
Historical and cultural forces, how we were raised, what we were taught, what we’ve
experienced, our genetic make-up and the era in which we grew up all shaped who we are. I can’t say with any certainty that, under different circumstances, I would not have come to believe and do the same things my adversary thinks and does.
We must accept that we are all capable of both good and evil. Like others, I see myself as basically good. My enemies I think of as bad. But pushed to my limits, I am capable of doing violence to others. I frequently but unintentionally do emotional violence to others even though I’ve ruled out the use of physical violence.
We must understand that unconditional love is the ultimate agent for human liberation.
When we remove the barriers that have separated us from one another, dividing us by race, religion, class, level of education, political beliefs and national boundaries, we free ourselves from a great deal of fear and anxiety and expand our vision of the world. We cut chains that have limited us and experience an exhilarating sense of oneness.