I’m not a big fan of the term unconditional love because I feel as though that love that would have conditions is not genuine love. I think that people often erroneously conflate love with other emotions, because genuine love for someone exists regardless of any conditions or parameters. In my estimation, love involves the removal of any personal intentions or gains that are associated with having that person in your life. Wanting someone for yourself isn’t love, love is wanting the person to grow and flourish to their potential, regardless of if that means having you involved in their life and in their journey. I think it’s easy to become infatuated with someone and mistake that for love, but I also think it’s easy to genuinely love not just specific people, but people in general.
I truly believe that it’s possible to conduct your entire life out of love for your fellow man. Empathy and compassion are the cornerstones of love. We might not be able to understand why a person behaves a certain way, or why they make the decisions they make, but we can love them regardless. I used to not even believe in love, I truly thought it didn’t exist. I lived in a very dark place inside my head and I genuinely believed that everyone was just in it for themselves, and the only reason anyone did anything was for themselves. I would distort authentic expressions of love as them somehow doing it for themselves so they can feel like a good person. I had become so isolated and resentful, towards love and even towards being, that I lived a life completely devoid of love as a concept.
But then I experienced the purest form of love possible. When I started my journey into recovery for my addiction I started attending certain meetings designed for the purpose of helping people with addictions. At my first meeting I definitely felt relief, relief that I wasn’t alone. I thought I was the only person battling this devilish affliction, but that subsided the second I heard the people at the meeting share about their struggles and their journey. Not only did I feel relief, I felt loved. I felt as though everyone there actually cared about me. They didn’t want anything out of me, they didn’t care because they were my mother, father, brother, or friend, and they cared because they operated their life on the basis of love. One man at the meeting explained it best, he said that when he sees a newcomer, a person struggling, someone he doesn’t know and has just met that very night, he looks over at them and thinks “I really hope he makes it.” To me that’s love in its purest form.
Genuine, authentic love doesn’t care about the past, it has no judgement. We don’t need to wait to fall in love with someone, and we don’t need to love out of obligation, we can love because it’s a mindset. It’s a facet of spirituality that regardless of who the individual is, regardless of what they’ve done, we can understand they are worthy of happiness and deserving of love. Everyone deserves to have people hope that “they make it”. Self-love is another battle of mine. But once again, if I’m operating under the principle of genuine love, a love that has no judgement, I can love myself. I don’t have to carry the burdens of the past. I can absolve myself of my own criticism and see myself as someone who is deserving of love, someone who is worthy. I don’t have to love my past and to be honest, I shouldn’t. But if I can love myself in the present, despite all my faults, I will conduct myself in a manner that cements my worthiness. And if I feel worthy of a good life I can chose to live a good life. I might not be the greatest person in the present, and I might have been a horrible person in the past, but with genuine love I can love the person I’m working towards becoming. And if I can love the person I’m striving to be, I can love myself in the present while I’m along that journey.
- Jack A. Bingham
Author of Obsessive-Compulsive Dramatic: My Fight Against OCD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Addiction