Unconditional love, it has become a bit of a buzz word that can mean different things to different people so let’s start with a quick definition before we move on. I’ve read unconditional love described as an act of altruism, or self sacrifice in the name of love for the object of affection. I’ve also heard of “mothers love” or a love for an individual person that remains the same regardless of what a person does or says. It’s this “mothers love” that I want to talk about, the ability to separate the individual from their actions, to always love the person, but not necessarily what they do. Let’s take a look at a quote from Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy founder Dr Albert Ellis:
“As a result of my philosophy, I wasn’t even upset about Hitler. I was willing to go to war to knock him off, but I didn’t hate him. I hated what he was doing.”
Albert didn’t hate him, he hated what Hitler was doing. Unconditional love when applied to the self or to another person out side of yourself, is the simple act of being able to separate a person from their actions. To be able to fully love the innate universal value and dignity of the individual while at the same time condemning their destructive actions. Many people mistake this concept as being that in order to unconditionally love someone, you must support or put up with every thing they do. And so it sometimes occurs in child rearing that the parents believe that they must support and applaud (or at least not punish) the bad behavior of the child in order to maintain unconditional love. This is not the case, the wise parent makes it clear to the child that “You are not bad, the thing you did was bad”. This gives the child the opportunity to learn what behavior is acceptable and what is not, without their sense of self worth and unconditional parental love being effected. You see we only get one “us”, however we always have another opportunity to act differently next time in cases where we acted badly, or wrongly in the past.
And so it is with abusive relationships. Many people hold the misconception that unconditional love is defined as the ability to put up with sexual, physical, verbal or psychological abuse in the name of “love”. This is not the case, nor can unconditional love be defined as an act of altruism. Altruism is the act of helping out someone else at the expense of the self, a noble concept but it has nothing to do with unconditional love, that would more likely fall under romantic love or charity. The point here is that you must be able to truly separate an individual from their actions, and judge them separately. In the case of the individual, because every person is capable of both good and bad actions, there is no point in feeling anything other than total love and acceptance for them regardless of who they are. However you must judge people’s actions subjectively through your filter of cultural assumptions, held beliefs and opinions. Here’s another Albert Ellis quote:
“I don’t damn any person, including Stalin, Hitler, and President Bush”
You must understand that it is possible to damn the actions of an individual without damning the individual themselves! Let’s now have a look at how one can go about separating a person from their actions.
The Person - We cannot judge a human being for two reasons. The first reason being because every individual human is capable of committing both good and bad acts, Hitler for example instigated mass murder and genocide, however he is well known to have been very kind and genuinely loving toward children and animals. The second reason is that “good” and “bad” are determined by subjective cultural assumptions as well as person preferences, beliefs and opinions. Some argue that there is an objective morality in place in the universe however even abhorrences like murder, rape and torture have been supported by individuals, cults, religions and political regimes over the years. So despite most decent folk finding things like murder, rape and torture shocking and bad, it would be naive to say that they haven’t had their share of fans and support over the course of human history. The point is that you cannot damn a person, because while a person is alive they always have the capacity to do “good”, to be kind, to be honest, to be authentic, to be decent. And that “good” is determined by cultural assumptions and beliefs, what is good for one person might not be good for another. There has never been, nor will there ever be an absolutely evil person. As comforting as it might be to imagine that there are good and evil people out there, I’m sorry but it’s just not possible. Everyone is capable of good and bad, and over a life time every person will have done at least a little of both. However every single person also contains the innate human worth and dignity that is within us all, this is what must be loved unconditionally.
Their Actions - Now here comes the part where we get to do some judging, yay! The fact that a person cannot be evil absolutely does not justify their destructive or cruel actions or behaviors. Nor does it mean you have to put up with any form of abuse, no matter how much you love the person. When someone is considered “evil” it is assumed they will do evil things, and therefore their bad actions are, in a strange way, justified. Let’s use the example of the abusive husband. If a man beats his wife and children these are bad actions, the violation of personal space, personal boundaries and causing of physical and psychological injury is serious stuff. However a few hours later he might have calmed down and be laughing and joking. Things are rarely as black and white/good and evil as we would like to believe they are. The poor wife in this example does not leave because she loves him and knows he is also capable of goodness. Many of us think that because we love someone we must be with them, we must put up with them, that love justifies bad actions. IT DOES NOT! You can love and accept a person unconditionally and at the same time know what they do is wrong and leave them. Or in the case of yourself, you can change your bad actions and behaviors while still unconditionally loving yourself.
So how does all this relate to unconditional self-love, and what’s the secret? I’ll tell you! Much of our sense of self worth, our sense of personal value, we erroneously base on our actions, the things we say and do and the things that happen to us, this is called self esteem. When we are doing well we feel good, and when we mess up or do bad we feel bad. This is correct and natural to a certain limited degree, but our innate sense of love and acceptance of ourselves should never be based on what we did or didn’t do, that’s simply ridiculous! You have to realise that it is possible to unconditionally love and accept yourself fully, while at the same time condemning and looking to amend your own bad actions and behaviors. Do not look for forgiveness, look to admit and learn from your mistakes, to do better next time, but all the while to know that you completely love and accept yourself no matter what.
The wonderful thing about this secret, the secret of separating the person from the action, that no matter what you do you are deserving of unconditional self love and acceptance, is that you can begin practicing unconditional self-love this very minute, you do not have to wait until you become some perfect version of yourself. Because every single person on this planet is entitled to unconditional love and acceptance that includes you! If you don’t feel particularly loving and accepting of yourself right now try this very simple affirmation, repeat it to yourself daily until it clicks:
“I love and accept myself where I am right now“
Always remember to separate, a person can never be either all good or all evil, and is therefore deserving of and entitled to unconditional love and acceptance. Their actions however will be judged, and you must decide whether you want to be involved with a person who’s actions are hurtful, destructive or wasteful. It is completely possible to love someone and at the same time disagree with and refuse to put up with their bad actions. Whether you are practicing unconditional self love, or the unconditional love of another, always think of the wise parent “You are not bad, the thing you did was bad”, “You are not stupid, you did a stupid thing. We all do stupid things from time to time”. Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine the kind parental figure holding you and reminding you that you are always unconditionally loved and accepted no matter what, and remember to “Love and accept yourself where you are right now!”. And as for your actions, well while you are alive there is always another chance to do the right thing next time. This is the secret, Shhhhhh
This is a very large subject, but I hope I’ve managed to convey some of the important points. Have you attained unconditional self love? What has worked well for you?
Thanks for reading
- Revolutionar Self Love
- How to Love More by Caring Less
- Love – Simple & Profound
- Divine Love
- Unconditional Love in the New Year
Click the book titles to visit their Amazon pages, read the reviews, and sample or purchase the books.