How to Love … Unconditionally.

Unconditional Love - Mark Nepo - web size

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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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deb
    Jan 22, 2016 @ 12:57:24

    So good Karen! Lots to think about again!! I struggle with finding the words for this kind of communicating and so I hold things in waiting until I can find the ‘right way’ or ‘right time’ to communicate. Sometimes this allows my thoughts to grow bigger when given more time (or even allows me to add past history) !! How to find the words? How do I learn to communicate?



    • Karen Lanser
      Jan 22, 2016 @ 17:02:07

      Hi Deb! You have identified such a common concern for so many of us! There is no easy answer because communication is such a dance between the speaker and listener, but I can speak to a few of the challenges most of us have experienced. One of the things that often gets in the way of clear communication is that we fail to express the need that exists beneath the problem. For example, we are much more likely to complain about what is not working well than to speak directly about what it is that we need instead. Other times, it might be that we have the words … but they get hijacked by our emotions. This can make it hard for the listener to grab the message … they may be more aware of the anger, sadness, regret, disappointment attached to our message. Men in particular … have trouble holding space for communication if it comes with tears. Also, we want to be careful not to avoid using the word “You” in our sharing. This can prompt the listener to feel like they are wrong, bad and criticized. So … it can often be better if we can say “When _________, I feel __________, because _____________ and I need ____________ instead.

      These are just a few ideas, and there is no way to guarantee that even the most impeccably expressed communication will be HEARD. Hearing is completely in control of the listener. All we can do is try to avoid any of the pitfalls that make it harder for the listener to hear what we are trying to say.

      Not sure if any of this helps, but I appreciate your honesty and transparency and wish you success in puts words to what is in your heart! ❤



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