“Unconditional Love”, like many ideals that we strive for, is just that - an ideal. Striving for it may help us become better people, but achieving it makes us inhuman.
Love always comes with conditions. If someone abuses you, there is no nobility in welcoming their abuse, or in refusing to acknowledge it.
Loving unconditionally - no matter what - requires a reality distortion field. It means that no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the reality, you will love unequivocally without any strings attached.
Parents understand that this is not a good way to raise children. If a child behaves badly, you do not encourage them to continue. You attempt to modify their bad behaviour by setting conditions and boundaries. You don’t deny your love, but you make it conditional on good behaviour.
Unconditional love, therefore, is love without boundaries and this is not a healthy condition when other people do not respect those boundaries.
The reason for adhering to the ideal, however, is to encourage self-sacrifice. Given that we are inherently selfish creatures, we use it to remind ourselves that collaboration, community and altruism can provide advantages for ourselves that may not be immediately apparent in the short-term, but can confer long-term benefits.
It’s better, then, to be realistic about love. Love can endure despite unfavourable circumstances, so long as both parties are committed to respecting one another’s boundaries. This is a modified form of unconditional love. Love without blindness.
If love was really unconditional, it would encourage suffering, because someone would suffer.
Some might argue that unconditional love is akin to faith. For example, “God loves me unconditionally and, so, I must love him back unconditionally.” If that were true, then the bible wouldn’t be full of stories of God’s wrath. It seems he is perfectly happy to punish people who he feels are not worthy of his affection. Does he, then, demand of us that which he himself does not adhere to?
Mother Theresa is held up as an example of someone who sacrificed their own life to give unconditional love to others. Yet, this is glossing over the reality. As beneficent as she was, she did not give her love without conditions. For instance, despite the millions of dollars she received each year to run her clinics, she kept them sparse, refused to have any modern equipment, reused needles without sterilising them, gave no painkillers save aspirin to those in pain, and refused to send patients who needed emergency medical care to the hospital. Why? Because she believed that human suffering was beneficial and, even, “beautiful”. She publicly stated that AIDS was, “just retribution for improper sexual conduct”. She frequently spoke out against contraception, abortion and divorce as crimes against humanity. This negligent and rudimentary care was given on purpose, because she wanted to see people suffer towards their salvation, as suffering brought them closer to Christ. In some respects, she saw herself as God’s housekeeper, cleaning up the filth and caring for the sick, so that they may contemplate the error of their ways and ask for God’s mercy. They had to receive care on her terms, or die. This was tough love, but not unconditional.
Unconditional love, if it were to exist, would be harmful. It is the love of an idiot who invites others to take advantage of them.
What do you think...?
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