Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Reflections - On One Condition...

So... I was waxing philosophical and thinking about unconditional love - we've all heard of this somewhat elusive emotional attachment, but do you think it really exists? I did at one time, in my idealistic youth. There was another time, many years ago, that I honestly believed it might even be possible, These days, I think I'm just a bit more cynical, and feeling like that makes me wonder why it's so hard to love "unconditionally" - or feel "unconditional" love.

Unconditional Love by tearbearsbydesign

I suppose my major argument against the concept (playing the devil's advocate here) is that the word "unconditional" is so finite... and life experiences seem so infinitely complex. Think about it. I know it sounds backwards, but it's not.

A mother's love for her child is often deemed unconditional, yet I look around me and see so many parents and their children at odds with each other... often barely talking except when absolutely necessary, and even then ending up shouting at decibel levels that would frighten many people not used to such animosity. What causes relationships to disintegrate to this level?

Attend any wedding ceremony and you will hear the bride and groom vowing their undying, unconditional love, forever... yet the courts are filled with those same couples, often just a short few years later... seeking to forever dissolve that bond and rescind those vows. What brings these couples to this point?

Having been raised Catholic, I probably learned the biggest dichotomy about unconditional love in school and at mass - our heavenly Father, who we were told loved us unconditionally in one breath, could also condemn our souls to the everlasting tortures of hell if we died with unabsolved sin on our souls. Hmmm...then it just scared me... now it sounds pretty conditional.

'Signorelli! Signorelli!' by butchvsjoel

Even on simpler terms, you might hear about that dog or cat that came from a litter you raised, attacking its new owner or destroying its new home. And you think back to that tiny, cuddly, loveable little ball of fur that you remembered it being, and you have to wonder, "Why?"

I wish I had the answers. Knowing what not to do would make things so much easier, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, we often only learn what buttons not to push after the damage is done. And also unfortunately, some people are simply not respectful of one another's feelings or the boundaries they may have. And of course, there are simply those situations where something completely unpredictable and unforeseeable is at work, but I believe those are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Often, luckily, we're on the outside looking in at these types of relationships... the brother who doesn't see eye-to-eye with anyone and creates turmoil whenever he's around... the parent who has unrealistic expectations or refuses to accept their child's need for individuality and independence... or the parent of the child who has chosen a life of crime and hatred... the husband and wife who don't really communicate because they're - pick one (too busy, the game's on, the girls are waiting, money is tight, the kids are misbehaving, and so on)... and even the dog who is left alone for too many long stretches or tortured by the neighbor kids... and when we hear bad news, we're often very quick to pick sides or make assumptions about what happened.

Unconditional love says "I will love you no matter what" - but when you think about it, you know in the back of your mind there is also an "unless". "Unless you hurt me." And depending on the relationship, those "hurts" can come in many forms... the parent that abuses his child, the child that refuses to respect or abuses a parent, the spouse that cheats, the spouse that refuses to be a partner and work as part of team, the pet owner that forgets that animals have needs and feelings too.

I'm sure there are people out there who will say that enough love can overcome any situation, but frankly, I'm not so sure. Even in the love of a mother for her child, often considered the purest and most unconditional love, I think there are conditions. Maybe it's just that we're not all equipped for that much love. Maybe we're too self-absorbed... and maybe, just maybe, love should be conditional - and we should want to find the love that says, "You will know I love you unconditionally when you come to realize that I would never, ever intentionally do anything to hurt the bond between us." A very humble and very wise man once explained unconditional love to the love of his life in those words - and hearing the sincerity in his voice as he spoke to her, they've stuck in the back of my mind ever since.

Maybe that's what we all need to remind ourselves of - to never intentionally hurt someone we're supposed to love... to respect them, their boundaries... to treat them in a way that they will want to reciprocate. It's simply too easy for people to get caught up in the "me", rather than try to do what is best for the "we."

I think it all comes down to the Golden Rule - which may be a little different here than you may remember it. - "Do unto others as they would do unto themselves." - and never assume that just because you feel something is right in your mind's eye, that it's right for them. Don't expect perfection because we're all human and it's not fair to judge others and not let them judge you in return...yet I'm not positive that forgiving the unforgiveable - which often turns into another empty promise and even deeper hurt - is necessarily the answer either. Don't hide behind a facade to impress, only to lower it later to complain that someone doesn't understand you. You have to be you for people to know you. Be honest and fair in all of your dealings - personal, business, or community. Be tolerant of those with opinions other than yours - they are entitled to their beliefs and opinions. Accept responsibility for your actions. Remember that where and when there are ill feelings, there are no winners. You may win the battle, yet lose the war.

Touching Hands by DaleODellPhotography

I think the world would be a happier, more peaceful, and loving place if we all just had a little compassion, tolerance, respect, and empathy for those around us.



Anonymous said...

With so many words and thoughts in my head I will simply state: This was truly a wonderful piece. I believe personally, a LOT of hurt comes from others pressing their views on others and when we don't or can't live up to the expectations set before us, hurt and anger leak in.

Love this writing. Well done.

mysticwynd said...

Thank you so much, Tammy. I always hope that something I write might resonate with someone out there somewhere and that I'm not the only one with these thoughts. Thank you for letting me know that it did :)

customteddys said...

This was a very interesting post and I'm glad to have read it. I've never understood unconditional love, but that hasn't stopped me from trying to live up to the hype of it all. Thanks for the thoughts.. Vicki

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