The popular understanding of “unconditional love” can easily become distorted and skewed. It can quickly become enabling and an excuse for bad behavior. Unconditional love has been used out of context to co-sign a individual’s negative actions. The misconception becomes “I will love you no matter what you do, think or say.” Then we complain we are victims, when in reality we are simply volunteers to be treated poorly. No one should be a doormat or a chew toy for another’s whims.
Sometimes love without condition is simply, “I will always love you, I just won’t be treated this way any longer.”
For me, a healthier conception of unconditional love is loving someone despite self-centered fear and looking past human failings. Unconditional love isn’t a free pass without regard for another’s actions. Unconditional love means loving someone more than their feelings. It is loving someone enough to be truthful, and tempering that honesty with compassion. It’s embracing another’s humanity and loving someone for everything they are, as well as loving them for all they are not.
Love should have focus, boundaries and direction. Unconditional love is, by definition, a relationship. A healthy relationship must be mutual, balanced and harmonious if it to survive and grow. It’s only “unconditional” if that contract is clear, understood, shared and returned.
We should be able to hold another and tell them with all of our heart that, “I love you and I’m not afraid that you will stop loving me when I tell you what you are doing, saying or thinking is harmful to you, me or us.”