What’s the hardest thing anyone can ever do? Love, unconditionally.
We use the word “love” pretty loosely in our society. I love salted caramel gelato. I love her dress. I love this sunset. But all of these statements describe conditional love. Conditional love describes love of something only if it selfishly pleases me. This week I’ve heard religious people say, “we love, serve and pray for our enemies,” but go on to tell me the answer is to kill them. Well, that’s not love either. You can’t possibly be unconditionally loving your enemies if you seek to kill them. That definition of love is conditional. “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Well, that statement is about conditional love too. When we say that, we’re basically saying, “I love you only if you act a certain way, otherwise I will hate part of you – the part that is doing something that I hate.” Why can’t we just stop at “love the sinner?” Period. The rest of that phrase is just putting a condition on your love.
There are a lot of things that I have hated in my life. I was mistreated and abused by many people throughout my life. Most of the people who abused me were supposed to love and protect me. I hated them. I hated what they did to me. I hated how I felt about myself when these things happened. Then one day my eyes opened – I realized I hated and I was hating. The fact that I was hating people and things just made me a hater too, and I was hating because people were hating me. Funny how that works, right? I was desperately lost in a cycle of hate, and I didn’t even know it.
Hate is not such a horrible thing to experience, because you don’t know what true, unconditional love is unless you know what hate is. Hate is usually caused by fear. Hate is often the result of something making you feel unsafe. It can be in a family, social, or emotional setting. You experience fear when something doesn’t resonate with what you’re programmed to believe is “good” and “right,” so when people act a different way than you want, you contract back into your corner and hate it. It scares you. For instance, when we see someone doing something we consider “bad,” we fear the consequences for ourselves, we label it as a “sin,” and then we hiss and spit in the corner. Pointing. Judging. And that makes us no better than the person who is triggering that emotion within ourselves.
But I’ve come to know and experience that acceptance and love of these things that we fear is incredibly freeing. The only person who suffers is the one who hates. That lack of love, and that paralysis of fear eats you from the inside. It destroys your ability to be the best version of yourself. If you’re spending your time pointing fingers at people and telling them all the things you hate about them and want to change – that’s not going to change them. It will, however, harden and color your own heart. You stain yourself when you do that.
Isn’t it better then, to stop judging things as good or bad? Isn’t it better to stop labeling things as “sin,” and instead realize that there are things that feel better to us than others? Once you do that, you can open your heart and learn to love people right where they are – not where you want them to be. You also come to a place of understanding why people do the things they do. Stress and trauma create a diseased mental and emotional environment, and people unconsciously make decisions to diffuse their own anger. That includes both the “judger” and the “sinner,” who are really very much the same. Those people just lack love, despite what they preach, and oftentimes they haven’t been privileged to receive unconditional love. They learned this behavior by receiving conditional love: I’ll love you if you look or act a certain way or make me look a certain way. Sometimes these people grow up in a world of violence and never experienced love at all – conditional or unconditional. Sad, right?
Under all that stress, and under all that judgement in EVERY HUMAN lies the pure innocent state of being. It’s the state of being when we were born. The one that looks into our mother’s eyes and into her soul and loves – unconditionally. Do you remember that? Can you imagine it for a moment?
…and if you can, for a moment, think about what you hate the most, and then open your heart and love that thing or person unconditionally, your life will begin to transform. Love by understanding, empathizing, and feeling deeply. Love with wild abandon. Turn your hate into acceptance. Accept and love things as they are.
Changing the way you love will literally change your life. Let’s stop and contemplate that for a moment. Let’s try to be present when we start experiencing fear and hate, and during that process of understanding, let’s shine a spotlight of love – the unconditional kind – on whatever we’re wrapped up in. It’s sooooooooo hard. You’ll feel the layers of hate and fear cracking on the facade of your heart. It hurts. Your heart has been bound up with these conditional fallacies for so long. But I promise you, this practice will just continue to make you a better and better person.
…so, to wrap this up, I want to leave you with a quote from my favorite poet, Rumi: