Zen of “If” and Unconditional Love

Having been steeped in Religion studies I often come across the concept of Unconditional love. Which as an ideal always seems to resonate as a marvelous place from which to experience the world. We talk about it, make “wise” references to it, and use it as an inspiration. It’s amazingly popular as a concept in a lot of religions and spiritual “paths.” I had a dialogue with several people about this last night and it seems like something we have been conditioned to believe in. Like most things conditioned the concept doesn’t hold up well in examination. I’m not finding it in human interactions. Don’t get me wrong, it may exist out there somewhere, there’s always the stories told about it, but I personally have never seen it, and can only live through what I learn from my experiences. “I love you unconditionally” often means, “I will love you unconditionally IF you do this or that.” (If’s and conditions are often implied instead of stated!)

I can honestly say I have never experienced what is referred to as unconditional love for or from anything or anyone as an ongoing state. I honestly believe I have had moments of embracing something that may be that, but it quickly fades in the reality of relationship and life in general. Saying “I love you unconditionally” is something that seems to last as long as there are no reasons to place conditions. It seems anyone can love unconditionally when there are no apparent reasons to formulate conditions.

I saw this a lot in substance abuse, where people would stay in relationships and claim it was out of unconditional love for the other. To the point that it would cost someone everything they had including their lives. How bitter. I often see things fall apart when unconditional love meets conditions and expectations that conditions would be met.

I’m seeing that conditions are necessary for human relationship. And are a healthy part of any relationship as long as one has no expectations that conditions are met. They may be or may not be, what happens then would up to the individuals. I think reasonable boundaries and conditions are what reinforce our love and provide structure for any ongoing relationships. Love and relationship are based on give, take, and sometimes the process of bargaining. Love appears stronger when conditions are stated and achieved, a conditional love.

Take care of you and all you love, unconditionally or not!

Bryan Wagner

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