In this weeks spotlight I wish to consider what is meant by unconditional love. Is this a reachable goal in life? Is it reasonable to think that we can attain a state where we truly love everyone unconditionally regardless of who they are or what they have done?
Is Unconditional Love Possible
Let me put some flesh on this unconditional love construct by asking a few questions. Does unconditional love require that we love the perpetrators of the greatest evil in history? When I read about the human horrors inflicted on young women by the likes of a Jeffrey Epstein, it can be truly difficult to think unconditional love, and that says nothing about the acts of the likes of Hitler and Pol Pot. So is it unconditional love to feel or express animus toward some figure of this nature? Indeed, is it unconditional love to express animosity, anger, hatred and the like against a politician, a public figure, our neighbor, or anyone else? When I read the social networking posts, catch the news, or listen in to conversations at the coffee shop, it seems I hear anything but unconditional love these day. As such, is unconditional love truly possible in the world in which we live?
In order to begin to approach answering these questions, I think we need to define what is intended when we refer to unconditional love. We find this definition in Wiki, “Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions. This term is sometimes associated with other terms such as true altruism or complete love. Each area of expertise has a certain way of describing unconditional love, but most will agree that it is that type of love which has no bounds and is unchanging.”
Four Loves and Human Potential
In Christianity, the Four Loves, affection, friendship, eros, and charity, are thought to be representative of the definition of unconditional love. Further, prominent writers and human potential leaders have supported unconditional love this way:
Abraham Maslow supported the unconditional love perspective by saying that in order to grow, an individual had to have a positive perspective of themselves. In Man’s Search For Meaning, Logotherapist and Holocaust Survivor Viktor Frankl draws parallels between the human capacity to love unconditionally and living a meaningful life. Frankl writes, “Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the essence of another human being unless he loves him. […] Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize … potentialities.” For Frankl, unconditional love is a means by which we enable and reach human potential.1
Given these definitions, the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this article, are somewhat disturbing to me. For example, to the question: “Does unconditional love require that we love the perpetrators of the greatest evil in history?” the answer is yes. How on earth do we do this?
Perhaps the answer is in the question, “How on earth?” It is awesome to think that you can love unconditionally the perpetrators of heinous crimes committed against innocent children, but I must admit that where I want to forgive them—that’s one thing—love them unconditionally quite another. Now I may be speaking just for myself here, but perhaps the unconditional part comes when we’re on the other side—not on this earth.
Forgiveness and Love
Just for me, I would like to feel as though I did, or even could, love those who commit truly ugly evil acts, but in honesty I would be lying to you and myself if I made such a claim. Forgive them in the big picture of it all—that I seem to be able to find room in my heart and mind to do. I have tried loving the person but not their act; however, I have found that difficult. If I hold the perpetrator of evil in my mind as an innocent infant, a cute newborn baby, I don’t have any difficulty loving them. Is that fooling myself? Perhaps if we divide the essence of a person, their quintessential spiritual self, from their human life form, it is possible to unconditionally love them.
Maybe the next step, that of unconditional love in all stages of life as human incarnations of the spirit, I will become able to feel unconditional love toward the worst of people, but until then I’ll continue to work on the forgiveness aspect. How about you—are you able to truly love all unconditionally?
As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read this piece and welcome your feedback.
Wikipedia. Unconditional Love