Unconditional Love and it’s Many Expressions
Unconditional love often feels like a concept that in theory seems like a peaceful nirvana, yet in practice appears illusive – at least when it comes to applying it to day-to-day life. We find clues to the real meaning of unconditional love as we seek for and build romantic relationships. Have you ever said something like, “I just want to be loved for who I am” or “I want a relationship where I can just be real and don’t ever have to pretend to be something I’m not”? These two statements and others like them illuminate our innate human longing for unconditional love.
We don’t want to pretend. We don’t want to put on a happy face. We’d like to share our true thoughts and desires and we certainly don’t want to have to effort to be loved. Yet, here is where the problem comes in. Most of us have been conditioned to believe that some qualities and behaviors are lovable while others aren’t. This too often breeds a strategic approach to love that includes proving, performing, and personifying what we hope will be worthy of love. It’s this rejection of the imperfect parts of ourselves as well as the imperfect parts of the ones we love, combined with our efforts to hide what we fear won’t be loved, that makes embodying unconditional love more challenging, if not impossible.
In human form, we all long for unconditional love for ourselves. Most would also admit they think they should be unconditionally loving to their partners, and probably to their own families. Still others desire to be unconditionally loving toward all of humanity. Yet, most of us fall short when it comes to putting unconditional love into practice. Then that very failure to love unconditionally, for most, perpetuates our conditional loving.
What does unconditional love look like?
Unconditional love may be something we never fully and continuously accomplish in human form. However, it is our individual and collective mission as human beings. Our heart’s call us over and over again to release anything and everything that keeps us from truly offering unconditional love in the world – to ourselves, to each other, to everyone.
Unconditional love is our individual and collective mission as human beings.~Joanna Shakti
Yet we still must turn this essentially vague concept into something concretely understandable. We need to answer the question, “what is unconditional love” for ourselves. We must recognize it in action, both when it’s offered to us and when we gift it to another.
In practice, unconditional love looks like acceptance, allowing, and embracing. It means embracing ourselves and each other, exactly as we are. Criticism, judgment, and expectations cannot live in the light of unconditional love. In other words, whenever you judge yourself or another person, you are not practicing unconditional love, at least not in that moment.
When we experience someone as accepting and embracing they feel safe to be around, to be real around. They feel safe because they have committed to expanding their capacity for unconditional love and they have offered that love to us.
In the grandest scheme of things, If we all lived in true unconditional love, our wars would abruptly end. Violence would cease. We would have full inclusivity and equality. All people would have the food and care they need. Yet, simply looking at our daily news shows us over and over again, the great void of unconditional love.
Learning to love unconditionally
What is happening in the world around us reflects what is happening in our own personal hearts.
That can be hard to admit. We want to think of ourselves as loving beings. And, we are. Yet most of us, if we’re willing to tell ourselves the truth, will admit that we lack unconditional love because we reject and judge ourselves and each other. Because we fail to embrace every quality in those we care about.
Love, real unconditional love, is a courageous act. Not only is it courageous to be vulnerable, courageous to receive, and courageous to risk the loss inherent in loving someone, it’s incredibly courageous to admit all the barriers we have to fully accepting ourself and another. But that courage to admit when we judge, the courage to accept when we’d rather reject, and the courage to soften when we’d rather put up walls, leads to the ecstasies of unconditional love.
If we are to learn to love unconditionally, we must practice acceptance, embracing “the good, the bad and the ugly” of ourselves and each other. This embrace creates a sense of safety that invites us into authenticity.
So ask yourself, where do I hold back my love? Of myself? Of another? What do I judge in myself or others? Where do I make my love conditional on how you show up or behave? Where do I withdraw love when I do not like or approve of what you are doing?
Then find ways directly, or with support, to release these barriers.
It feels safe
When we feel safe we can let down our guard. We can say the things we might not otherwise share. We can be messy and imperfect and know the other person will still love us. We can admit our weaknesses. We can own our imperfections. We can stop pretending to be perfect and stop hiding the parts of ourselves we fear won’t be loved.
The real trick as you’ll see is to create that sense of safety with ourselves. Those in the third phase, the Ecstatic Ecstasy phase, of the Path of Soul Love, know that before they can experience and sustain true and consistent ecstasy in life, they must discover how to be safe with themselves.
As much as we may desire to be a safe space for another, we first need to be a safe space for ourselves. Then as we feel the peace, the serenity, and safety of self-acceptance and unconditional self love, we will naturally and organically want to give that gift of unconditional love to others – consistently, all the time.
It is our own commitment, our own decision, to practice unconditional love and to remove all of our barriers to it that will change the world. If every single one of us chooses to step onto a path of life committed to love we would have peace on earth.
The more unconditional love someone embodies, the safer we feel with them.
We must, of course, also note that unconditional love, however, is not synonymous with tolerance. You do not need to tolerate a behavior that is not loving towards you. Setting boundaries can be a true act of self love.
What is unconditional love in a relationship?
Relationships, especially romantic ones, particularly soulmate ones, have the power to teach us the truth about love. We actually embark on the journey of relationship to remove our own internal barriers to love – to unconditional love. Mistakenly, most believe that a romantic relationship is meant to bring us unconditional love.
This (mis) perception is why we can so easily find ourselves disillusioned by and disappointed in the one we chose to love. We are not “granted” unconditional love by virtue of being in a romantic relationship. Our romantic relationship shows up so we will learn how to be unconditionally loving. Starting with ourselves. Our unconditional love of self brings about an internal experience of Ecstatic Authenticity, which in turn, makes us available for the external experience of shared Ecstatic Intimacy.
If you’ve expected another to be unconditionally loving towards you, your practice is now to be unconditionally loving towards yourself first and then towards them. Your concern is not about how unconditionally loving they are. Your concern, your responsibility, is how unconditionally loving you are.
To get even more practical in answering the question “what is unconditional love in a relationship” let’s consider how one could deeply express this most precious form of love. In relationship the greatest expression of love sounds like, “You do not ever need to change for me. I will never ask you to be something you are not. I will never expect you to go against your own inner knowing or desire. I will not ask you to be what I want you to be or what I think you should be. I know that my happiness comes from within and I do not expect you to compromise yourself for my happiness. I want you to be you and I hope that you want me to be me.”
Unconditional love of self
Whether entering into a new relationship or deepening an existing one, in order to offer the kind of declaration of unconditional love described above, one must have a deeply secure and loving relationship with themselves. Only through this kind of strong relationship with oneself can we have a genuinely conscious relationship with another.
For those who experience self-criticism, self-judgment and even self-hatred, your being is crying out for unconditional self love. It can be no other way. We are meant to be loved and that love starts within.
Going deeper, shame is the antithesis of unconditional love. Shame, as Brene Brown defines it, says “I am bad.” And if we believe we are bad, incomplete, undeserving, unworthy, or anything of the sort, we cannot know unconditional love, nor any complete feeling of love. This kind of shame will shut us down and put us back into the cycle of proving, performing and personifying in an attempt to get love. Once again, love will elude us.
In contrast, when someone lets down their guard and reveals their true self, warts and all, do you feel safer to be the real imperfect you? That’s the power of unconditional love.
Does another’s realness make you feel like you are not alone and that you can relax and show more of your whole imperfect self? When you see someone expose a weakness or vulnerability have you ever felt an unexplainable love for them, even if you don’t know them well? This is again an expression of unconditional love… loving all…without exception.
If we are living and breathing on this earth and we are not enlightened (and even if we are), we will have reactions. We will get upset. We will say or do something we wish we hadn’t. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll know that we yelled at somebody or ignored someone who didn’t really deserve it. And, those we love will do all things too. These behaviors do not make us unlovable.
No matter what behaviors we or others have that we’d like to see change, they’re normal. That dark and light – the great and the not so great – are all part of being human.
Does it mean you shouldn’t fully love yourself, your parent, your friend, your co-worker, or your lover?
Just because we have parts of ourselves that we wish were different or we’ve done things we wish we’d done differently doesn’t mean we can’t be kind and loving to ourselves. The same is true for others in our lives. Love – unconditional love – is always available… when we choose it.
Since 2006, highly conscious men and women, with a commitment to extraordinary relationships, have chosen Ecstatic Intimacy to find and cultivate Soul Partnerships from their bedrooms to their boardrooms. Ecstatic Intimacy believes in coveted relationships, for all.
You too, are invited…
*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.