Unconditional Love: What It Is and How to Spread It
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner!
When I was younger, I used to dread this time of year because I didn’t have a romantic partner to share the holiday with.
But now I appreciate Valentine’s Day for the celebration of love that it is.
Romantic love, friendly love, motherly love – all deserve to be cherished and celebrated.
There is, however, one type of love that is the rarest and most beautiful of all.
It’s the greatest gift we can give one another. I also believe it’s an important element of our spiritual growth/personal development and the answer to many of the world’s problems.
But, exactly what is unconditional love? And can we learn to love unconditionally?
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Conditional Love vs. Unconditional Love
Conditional love is just that – conditional.
It is dependent upon something and will therefore only be given if certain expectations are met; there is some sort of exchange involved.
For example, a:
Unconditional love, on the other hand, is given freely.
It’s not dependent on whether someone meets your expectations or gives you something in return. It is limitless and altruistic.
When I think of unconditional love, what comes to mind is a mother’s love for her baby.
Loving someone unconditionally means loving them for who they are, not what they do.
This means accepting the good with the bad - you love them for their true essence.
Unconditional love is selfless; there are no strings attached and it is given without an expectation of reciprocation.
It is not based on any specific factors, outcomes, or fulfillment of conditions.
In my opinion, unconditional love is a rare and precious gift both to give and to receive.
So, how can we cultivate more unconditional love in our lives?
How to Love Unconditionally
The concept of unconditional love is not really taught in school or promoted in society.
So, it’s not necessarily something that comes naturally to everyone.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to love unconditionally.
Spreading love has many surprising health benefits, including:
Unconditional Love: How to Feel it and Spread it
“Spread love everywhere you go: first of all, in your own home. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor . . . Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.”
- Mother Teresa
What do you want to see more of in the world? Empathy? Love? Peace? Happiness?
Extend those things forth yourself.
In doing so, you increase empathy, love, peace, and happiness in the world and you contribute to making it a better place.
Here are 8 tips to spread more love!
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1. Love Yourself
“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.” -Max Ehrmann
Perhaps the best place to start when it comes to unconditional love is with yourself.
Accepting yourself with all your faults and imperfections can be easier said than done!
Some ways you can love yourself unconditionally include:
-forgiving your transgressions (remember you are not the same person so don't continue beating yourself up for your past mistakes)
-healing your emotional traumas (breath work, yoga, meditation), and
2. Do random acts of kindness
“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.” -The Dalai Lama
Practice doing random acts of kindness. It doesn’t have to be anything big – small acts can have a big impact.
Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about. Compliment a stranger. Donate. Pray for someone you don’t get along with. Cook/bake something special for someone.
3. Forgive those who have hurt you
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Extend unconditional love by forgiving those who have hurt you. Even if that person has not apologized or shown remorse for what they did, you can obtain peace of mind and freedom from the pain through forgiveness.
If you struggle with forgiveness, try practicing lovingkindness meditation. Here is a guided video if you are interested:
4. Find inspiration
Find inspiration in others’ actions, quotes, role models, etc.
My favorite unconditional love quote is from the Bible:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” -1 Corinthians 13:4
I really love the first part- love is patient.
Merriam Webster defines patience as:
“the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”
“[b]earing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune or pain without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, etc.”
Such calm fortitude and the ability to control your emotions really helps to foster an environment in which unconditional love can grow both for others and for yourself.
5. Respect and appreciate others’ differences
Respect and appreciate others for who they are, even if their opinions or choices are different than yours.
The key to unconditional love is compassion, not judgment.
So, instead of wishing someone were more in alignment with your likes, opinions, or expectations, accept them for exactly who they are.
Don’t seek to control them; rather, accept the bad with the good and allow people to be who they are.
This doesn’t mean that you have to accept whatever someone dishes out – you have to look out for yourself too!
It’s important to set boundaries and sometimes that means unconditionally loving someone from afar.
6. Give without expecting anything in return
Unconditional love means wanting to see someone be their best self and being willing to help them along in that journey.
When you extend help in the spirit of unconditional love, you give it freely without expecting reciprocation … pro bono love, not quid pro quo love.
Not expecting anything in return also means not expecting someone to act a certain way, meet certain standards, etc.
Showing love only when someone does these things in return is actually conditional love.
Such conditional love and approval can be harmful (especially to children) because it sends the message that they are only worthy of love if they satisfy some external benchmark.
This kind of mindset can lead to perfectionism, anxiety, and a persistent feeling of never being good enough ... it diminishes autonomy, self-esteem and overall mental health.
So, we need to be mindful and ask ourselves if we are actually showing unconditional love or if we are attempting to exert some form of control over someone.
7. Prioritize kindness over being right/winning
To extend unconditional love, we must prioritize kindness over being right or winning.
Loving someone unconditionally means focusing on their true essence rather than their external behavior.
We are all human, we all make mistakes, and we are all just doing the best we can with the skills and level of awareness that we currently have.
If you truly love someone, being right or winning an argument or holding a grudge is not more important than your relationship with them.
Ultimately, choosing kindness (forgiveness) over being right/winning (your ego) will bring you so much more peace and happiness.
8. Recognize that happiness is a choice
In psychology, there is a concept called hedonic adaptation.
It basically means that despite external events (good or bad), people return to a baseline level of happiness.
No external thing will make you happy or sad forever – you eventually return to your genetic set point, which accounts for 50% of your happiness.
The other 50% is comprised of life circumstances - (10%) and your choices -(40%).
So, happiness is largely a choice. It’s something you intentionally pursue through your thoughts and actions.
And like happiness (and gratitude), unconditional love is a choice.
Do you want to choose happiness? Do you want to choose unconditional love?
You have the power to choose who you want to be and what kind of life you want to live.
Over to you … what does love mean to you? Leave a comment!
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