“By loving others unconditionally, we open the door of happiness.” ― Debasish Mridha
“Don’t love to be loved in return. Love for the sake of loving.” ― Connor Chalfant
We refer to love in many different ways. The Greeks even broke love into 8 different types such as romantic love, familial love or affection, obsession or infatuation like falling in love. Of the “loves” we refer to, I personally only believe in one kind of love–the unconditional kind. We may refer to other things as “love”, but in my mind they aren’t real, true love.
The only definition I hold for love is true, abiding, unconditional love. The Greeks refer to it as Agape or selfless love. It’s a funny thing when we say “unconditional” love, because I don’t think we understand what that means. It is part of human nature to attach strings, requirements, e.g. “conditions” to our love.
- You have to be like me, look like me, talk like me, think like me, etc.
- You have to give me what I want
- You have to live by the same values as me
- I can only love you or be kind to you if I approve of you
I didn’t really have a good personal story to share on this topic (although I do share one of my favorites in the podcast), just to say that throughout my life I have encountered two kinds of people: People who loved me because they were loving people, and People who loved me because they thought they could benefit from it somehow. In other words, those who loved me unconditionally, and those who loved me conditionally. Those who loved me unconditionally brought healing into my life, and those who loved me conditionally either brought suffering, or difficult life lessons of some kind.
Loving others has nothing to do with them. It has only to do with you. This means loving them despite their actions, whether they like you or not, whether you agree with their lifestyle or not. This means you have to put your own jerk reactions, judgments, expectations or assumptions on hold. In the end, real love means loving others despite themselves AND despite YOURself.
Remember the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. I did some research and discovered that every major religion and most major cultures have some version of the Golden Rule. This means that nearly every person on the planet understands the concept of treating others as you would wish to be treated. But how many people actually follow this simplest of rules? If all who knew about this concept lived by it, there would be profound peace on Earth.
If someone doesn’t love you, or harms you, you have to reframe their behavior with a loving perspective. For instance, “Everyone is doing the best they know how.” This belief reminds us that everyone comes from different perspectives and values. Many people were given poor tools for dealing with life, and those perspectives and tools allow for harming others. Life is not always black and white. There’s a lot of gray in the world, it can help to put ourselves in others’ shoes.
Another belief might be something like, “I have the power to rise above others’ hateful or poor behavior.”
Another might be, “They are in a different place in life, one that isn’t compatible with mine.” This kind of framework allows you to set some healthy boundaries that minimize or eliminate their toxic behavior.
Loving others doesn’t have to be a grandiose act. Sometimes we expect unconditional love to be some grand, overt gesture. Loving another can be as simple as a smile, a nod in their direction, listening–really listening to them, opening a door for someone. As I go through my day these kind of acts from others light my way. These are small but beautiful reminders that there is good in others, and that there is no harm in showing kindness to another.
Remember to fill your own cup first. You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself. The more perfectly and wonderfully you love yourself, the more genuinely and powerfully you will love others. All others. Despite themselves.
Step 1: Identify someone who you think you should be loving better. You probably already have someone in mind. It may be someone close to you, or it may be the last person on Earth that you want to love.
Step 2: Name some ways you’re not loving them as well as you should (name some of the conditions or behaviors like words you say, ways you treat people or even love you withhold)
Step 3: Think of how you can treat them better and improve your love. Forgiveness…changing some habits of your own behavior…setting healthy boundaries…
A couple more quotes about loving others:
“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” ~Many attributions
“The love you give is its own reward.” ― Connor Chalfant
Photo credits: Kevin Gent on Unsplash