Sunday, November 29, 2009
Love is not love unless it is unconditional
I learned very early in this life that a lot of what we human beings label as love is either very co-dependent or conditional, and that we have mirrored that kind of love in our religions and beliefs about God. Christianity (along with most religions), teaches us that God's love is very conditional: We must bring just the right sacrifice into the temple or he'll not only reject our sacrifice, but us too. And if we keep messing up and don't get it right, we get cast into the outer darkness while God and his teacher's pets (the ones who gave the right answer to the question "Do you know Jesus as your personal savior?"), get to have a party in heaven.
Ah! I get it! So love is about pleasing! (The light bulb moment.) I get it - I go to God with a contrite heart and confess to him what a dirty, filthy, worm I am and that I don't deserve to be loved and then I ask Jesus into my heart and get covered up in Jesus' blood so that I can deserve God's love and now God doesn't know it's me but he's really looking at Jesus and...wait a minute. If I get covered up in Jesus' blood and God only sees Jesus, then he's not really loving me, is he? And since Jesus is God, then really God is only loving a reflection of himself. Then God must be a narcissist.
And this is the model that we use as the primary measurement for love in Western society. Little wonder we're so fucked up. This is the reason why parents can't love their children without placing unfair and unrealistic expectations upon them. (Do it my way or risk my disappointment. Marry the right person or risk my disappointment. Choose the profession that I want for you or risk my disappointment. Don't make mistakes, get divorced, lose your job, be gay, or in any way disgrace this family or risk my rejection.) This is the reason children grow up feeling like they're total fuck-ups and can't do anything to please their parents or gain their love and approval. This is the reason we pass that hurt, anger, and disappointment into our own relationships with our friends, neighbors, spouses, children, and throughout the entire world. It is this model of love (which is really not love at all), that is the cause of all war, hunger, and greed, for it is rooted in fear - fear of not getting our needs met, fear of being unrecognized, and ultimately the fear of being cast into the outer darkness or the fear of rejection.
At the tender age of thirty-nine I decided that I'd had about all of this kind of love I could take and I set out on a different journey. I set out to find real love. It took me about three years of intense deprogramming, and consistently receiving a lavish dose of real, unconditional, love on a daily basis before I began to realize that what I had always thought was, and experienced as love, wasn't love at all, but was a sick, fearful, narcissistic kind of love that was only using me to get its own needs fulfilled. And once I tasted real love, I could never go back to the cheap, conditional, imitation stuff. And when the threats of rejection from my family and friends came along (because I was no longer playing by their rules), it made it so much easier for me to turn to them and say, "Sorry guys, I really do love you, but I've found something much better. I no longer need what you have to offer," and I turned and walked away.
For nearly ten years, now, I have known and experienced real love. I'm not saying that it has always made my life easier. In fact, in many ways it has made my life more challenging, for to accept and live real love, one must completely ignore what the rest of the world not only offers but most often imposes as love. And I find that I must often remind myself, in moments of weakness, that what they're trying to impose on me is not real but a cheap imitation (like imitation cheese - yuk!). It's worth it, though, because in knowing real love I have cast out the fear of rejection and because I no longer know fear, I am no longer enslaved to others' expectations and I am free - free to love them in a way that they never knew how to love me...unconditionally.