My first thought … whenever I hear the concept of ‘unconditional love’ being bantered about, is that we must somehow ‘turn the other cheek’ and tolerate/endure people’s chronic ways of being with us … even if it hurts … because we love them. It disturbs me, however, that a wholehearted commitment to this interpretation of ‘unconditional’ might encourage the most caring and compassionate souls to step over neglectful/abusive energy … instead of stepping up to address it … or … stepping out of it entirely.
No … from where I am looking, that does not serve the greater good. In The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo sagely suggests:
In truth, unconditional love does not require a passive acceptance of whatever happens in the name of love. Rather, in the real spaces of our daily relationships, it means maintaining a commitment that no condition will keep us from bringing all of who we are to each other honestly.
For example, on any given day, I might be preoccupied with my own needs, and might overlook or bruise what you need and hurt you. But then you tell me and show me your hurt, and I feel bad, and you accept that sometimes I go blind to those around me. But we look deeply on each other, and you accept my flaws, but not my behavior, and I am grateful for the chance to work on myself. Somehow, it all brings us closer.
Unconditional love is not the hole in us that receives the dirt, but the sun within that never stops shining” (p. 309).
I much prefer to embrace the notion that the ‘unconditional’ nature of love is really best reflected in our willingness to keep working through the accidental harms that are an inevitable part of our humanity … consciously fostering opportunities to afford restitution for the collateral heartaches that result due to the colliding of our competing needs, wants and desires.
Perhaps, we might love each other most unconditionally by graciously making space for such an honest, sincere and transparent exchange … rather than dismissing, excusing and/or failing to tenderly express/address the wounding within our relationships.
In fact, when we take a really honest look at our lives, we will see that many of our deepest resentments have arisen out of our undelivered communications. Yes, it is often the unspoken violations … the unexpressed injuries that covertly forsake the love and security in our relationships. And maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe we can create a safe space within our relationships to honor each others wounds instead of righteously defending ourselves.
Thank you again, Mark Nepo, for obviating the ‘unconditional’ love that is inherent in “bringing forth from within, rather than the enduring of what comes from without” (p. 310).
May we feel such love and be such love … unconditionally, Karen
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