Unconditional love. What does loving unconditionally mean? That we will love another, irrespective of his or her behaviour, assuming we have learnt to separate the person from the behaviour? In theory, that's a wonderful ideal but how often does it work in practice.
Perhaps a parent/child relationship generally works that way. But what about the rest of our relationships? Generally we tend to love a spouse/partner, "unconditionally," until he/she does something bad. Would you still love your spouse/partner, unconditionally, if he/she began physically abusing you, or cheating on you for example? Perhaps not.
Nearly a decade ago, someone came into my life who very definitely taught me about unconditional love. I had to learn about what I believed was unconditional love – loving, no matter what - in order to have her in my space, otherwise with every hurtful, destructive behaviour I would have moved out of her space, further and further, until such time as I was nowhere to be found.
And all these years I've believed that I was somehow blessed and divinely guided, and that I knew what compassion and unconditional love was all about, and that this is clearly what I felt, experienced and demonstrated to this person. But a few moments ago, I had what I believe is for me a "light bulb" moment.
For the first time in nearly a decade in this relationship, I was finally able (constructively, I hope) to mention some things about certain behaviours which had caused me the full gamut of "negative" emotions – anger, pain, hurt, anxiety, resentment, distress, hopelessness. I believe I tackled the situation with calm, love, compassion, decency, and emotional maturity.
And virtually from the moment I did this, I felt an immediate sense of unbelievable peace. But more than that, I had such a rush of strong positive feelings for this woman – the strongest ever. I felt as though I was walking on air, my head in the clouds, kind of like winning a few million dollars, I guess. And I believe that at the core of this feeling and this high is a sense of unconditional love, in this case coming directly from my having been able to release negativity.
How do I make this huge leap from releasing negativity to feelings of peace and unconditional love? All these years, I've believed loving unconditionally meant that one loves another, no matter what the other does, and without asking or expecting that he/she change. But what if he/she does something awful, or changes as a person to something we can't relate to? Do we still love unconditionally?
My "light bulb" moment showed me something very clearly: it isn't about the other person. It isn't about what he/she does. It is about how we feel inside. All these years, clearly I was stuck. I think those negative feelings were blocking me from something very precious: being able to feel unconditional love for this person - because it wasn't about her behaviour, it was about how I felt inside.
I am of course not saying that people should therefore lash out, and be violent and aggressive, so that they too can release negativity and have immediate strong feelings of love. Definitely not. But taking responsibility for all our feelings – positive and negative – and all our actions – positive and negative – and treating our most important relationships with love and compassion, might help us to raise our consciousness and have more meaningful interactions with people.
This is a personal story and might not apply to every relationship, but it was such an amazing realisation for me, that I felt I wanted to share it.
Copyright © 2002 Beba Papakriakou - House of Bee Sting