Thursday, October 14, 2010
We all want to feel loved. We think about it, hope for it, fantasize about it, go to great lengths to achieve it, and feel that our lives are incomplete without it. The lack genuine love is the cause of most of our anger and frustration. It is no exaggeration to say that our emotional need for love is just as great as our physical need for air and food.
Most of us have been taught since childhood to do without Real Love and to settle instead for giving and receiving conditional love. Our misconceptions of unconditional love began in early childhood, where we saw that when we did all the right things—when we were quiet, obedient and good—people loved us. They smiled at us and spoke in gentle tones. But we also saw that when we were “bad,” all those signs of “love” instantly vanished. In short, we were taught by consistent experience that love was conditional, that we had to buy “love” from the people around us with our words and behavior. But, what is real love?
Real Love is "I care how you feel." Conditional love is "I like how you make me feel." Conditional love is what people give to us when we do what they want, and it's the only kind of love that most of us have ever known. People have liked us more when we made them feel good, or at least when we did nothing to inconvenience them. In other words, we have to buy conditional love from the people around us.
It's critical that we be able to distinguish between Real Love and conditional love. When we can't do that, we tend to settle for giving and receiving conditional love, which leaves us empty, unhappy, and frustrated.
Real Love is caring about the happiness of another person without any thought for what we might get for ourselves. Real love means love without condition. It means giving love without expecting anything in return, including any reciprocal love. It’s also Real Love when other people care about our happiness unconditionally. It is not Real Love when other people like us for doing what they want. It is not about desire and possession; it is about appreciation and concern.
So there is a world of difference between conditional and unconditional love. So much so, that one cannot be sure that conditional love can be love at all. "If you loved me, then you would..." isn't love, but rather manipulation. If someone asks us to do or say something that isn't in our nature, that isn't true love. The one, who puts conditions upon their love, holds a manipulative power rather than a sacrificial love that costs them something. The one who invest all in a relationship, holding nothing back, and loving unconditionally will experience a love greater than the one who maintains conditions. Regardless of whether the love is unrequited or requited, the unconditional lover knows real love because they give all.
In contrast, a conditional love, if it could be called love at all, would be one without trust and perseverance. One that is easily withdrawn when anger ensues and where wrongs are recorded. It is not one that rejoices in truth, but one built on fear. A conditional love has elements of real love, but it is perverted and distorted and needs to be released from its conditions to become something it was meant to be. It is perfect love that drives out fear, for the recipient can rest assured that no matter their faults love will abound.
(At the same time real love doesn't mean making sure someone is always comfortable. Pain and discomfort are part of growth. If we believe loving someone is about fostering their growth and if we shield someone from all pain or discomfort, we do not love them. So let us not confuse loving someone with blindly making them comfortable, satisfying their desires, and shielding them from trials. If we do, we are only making it difficult for them to grow as human beings.)
Most of us have received little, if any, real Love. We prove that every day with the evidence of our unhappiness - our fear, anger, blaming, withdrawal, manipulation, controlling, and so on. People who know they're unconditionally loved don't feel and do those things. There is no fear, manipulation, conditions, or records of wrongs when real love is being given. True love is always and forever unconditional. Real love always hopes, always trusts, and always preservers. It does not boast. It is not easily angered. It rejoices in the truth. And it is never self-seeking. There is divine beauty in a relationship built on this kind of love reciprocated between two people.