Although there is really only One world, or One reality--God's--in our world of duality, we seem to have two realities, which are as follows: In Spirit, everything is Eternal, Unlimited, and Unconditional--including Love. Therefore, Divine Love is Eternal, Unlimited, and Unconditional. On Earth, however, everything changes, is limited, and is conditional--including love. Consequently, human love is fleeting, limited, and conditional. The development of spiritual love, true love, unconditional love, should therefore be our goal.
With the difference between the two options (real love and conditional love) being so obvious, it would seem like a "no-brainer" as to which one most people would choose to experience. Nevertheless, most human beings (consciously or unconsciously) choose to repeat, over and over again, the experience of limited, conditional love in their relationships.
What Is Unconditional Love?
When attempting to define "Unconditional Love," we often try to make Unconditional Love fit within human references. But, as soon as there is a "you" trying to define what love is OR whom to love, how to love, and what to love, we are doomed to fall short of truly loving unconditionally. On one level, this is perfectly understandable, as we can do only the best we are capable of at the moment (or from our present awareness).
Ultimately, to truly understand Unconditional Love, we need to embody this Love. This awareness of Unconditional Love can be realized by accessing our Divinity--which may seem to be out of reach at times. So, until we maintain this level of Divinity, on a consistent basis, it is best to practice Unconditional Love on a level that is as close as possible to being Divine. In other words, although presently we might be unable to totally understand Unconditional Love (unless we are in our Divinity), we can, in the meantime, experience glimpses of its essence.
Unconditional Love is not an emotion; it is a Divine State of Being. To love unconditionally means to Love as God Loves. Therefore, unconditional love cannot be for only some people or for some parts of some people. Nor can it come from only some parts of us, such as physical or emotional, and not from other parts. Unconditional Love is not there on some days and gone on others. Since it is a Divine state, it must be as eternally present as God Itself. Therefore, if we have love for someone or something and it fails to meet this criterion, it is probably not unconditional. If our love for someone or something is ever conditional in any way, then it is not a true expression of Love Divine. Nevertheless, our ability to love unconditionally will increase as we continue to grow spiritually.
Bargaining for Love
If we are triggered by the behaviors of other people, if we believe that we would be happier "if only" those other people behaved differently, we are witnessing the conditions we have placed on love. It is as though we were saying that if only they would behave differently we would feel more loved and respected by them and would then also love and respect them in return. Since this implies that love is not already present, such love is therefore incomplete (imperfect) and conditional. When we make bargains for love, the love is never real and will not be long-lasting. Needless to say, when the conditions of such bargaining wear off, we will need to create more bargains so that each of us can feel falsely loved again.
Being unconditional in our love and choices does not mean that we do not have preferences in life. It simply means that we remain as unattached as possible to the outcome of any given situation. We all are benefited by learning how to express our preferences in a healthy manner and not from a place of control or neediness. Healthy preferences are similar to having our needs met at a reasonable level. When we express our needs in the form of preferences, rather than expectations or demands, it allows for more flexibility. On the other hand, when we express our requests and become upset when they are not met, then we know that our requests were actually agendas, expectations, or attachments, and as such, inevitably result in the pain of disappointment.
Conditional love is always "dependent" (on needs being met) and exists in relationships that are "codependent." Such false forms of love are so fleeting and volatile that they must constantly be fed by more and more flattery, approval, gifts, and bargaining. People literally sell their bodies and souls to get even a glimpse of false, conditional love, simply because it feels better than seemingly having no love at all. But in reality, it isn't better. The spiritual, psychological, and physical expenses of settling for limited forms of love are far greater than the little we receive for our bargaining, or attempts to "purchase" love.
Although loving unconditionally might mean that it is our intention to see past the errors of others, it certainly does not mean we are blind to such errors. Imagine, for example, if Jesus (or any other master) had come upon a man who was about to harm a child. Would he walk past and say, "No big deal; it's just an illusion?" Of course not! Neither would he buy into the idea of making the child (the victim) right and the murderous man (the victimizer) wrong. He would know that within each, there is a Divine Essence, albeit momentarily forgotten. He would also know that both parties involved believe in the same core illusion: the man believes he is separate from God and therefore is hurting so much inside that he takes it out on the child; while the child also believes he is separate from God and therefore becomes susceptible to the abuses of the man.
How to Express Divine Love
So, how do we become better at practicing such a seemingly impossible task--expressing unconditional love? First, we work to heal the false belief that we are separate from God: we strengthen our connection to the Source of Unconditional Love--our True Self--which is Love Divine. Without establishing this connection to the Source of Unconditional Love, all attempts to experience true love would be futile. Once we have made this connection to Spirit, however, we are then more prepared to practice unconditional love in our day-to-day lives.
Whether or not we choose to practice deeper levels of forgiveness, one thing is certain: we cannot attain the consciousness of unconditional love just by studying or analyzing the concept or by "preaching" it to others. Instead, we must actually live it by practicing it! We must be diligent in recognizing each time we are either choosing not to love (judging), or we are loving with conditions. Once we have this awareness, we are free to choose to do otherwise by loving unconditionally.
Although the external form of unconditional love may differ with strangers we pass on the street versus our most intimate friends or partners, the inner intention remains the same--to allow the Divine aspect of ourselves to seek and love the Divine aspect in others. This intention is more often accomplished one step at a time, rather than in huge leaps.
How Unconditional Love Transforms Relationships
When we begin to truly understand and apply unconditional love, we will find ourselves experiencing the following (and more) in nearly every form of relationship we encounter:
- Greater acceptance of others, rather than trying to change them or get something from them.
- Recognition that others are coming from either love or fear and deserving of our patience when we recognize the latter.
- Interdependence, enough to not "need" anything from others, but still willing to share whatever we have to offer, as well as receiving what others have to offer.
- Less need to "prove" anything and less need to be "right."
- Conflicts lessening in number or at least our participation lessens.
- Forgiving ourselves when we recognize that impatience and/or judgment have somehow surfaced.
- More love for more people and more joyful moments, which are the natural effects (gifts) that come from maintaining a holy, forgiving life.
To further understand the attributes of unconditional love, let us paraphrase the Biblical quote from Corinthians 1 regarding love:
The person who practices Unconditional Love is patient, is kind, and envies no one. The person who practices Unconditional Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, nor quick to take offense. There is nothing a practitioner of Unconditional Love cannot face; there is no limit to his/her faith, or hope, or endurance. There are three things that last forever: faith, hope, and unconditional love; but the greatest of them all is Unconditional Love.