Can you show unconditional love?
By Jo Ann Wentzel
The meaning of unconditional love is no mystery but, how to achieve it may be a dilemma. Unconditional love is exactly what it claims to be-loving someone without limitations. This means you will love that person no matter what they do. It suggests that you can overcome all obstacles and still love that person. What this really means is that you can separate the person from the behavior.
Separating the person from the behavior is often difficult. For example, if one spouse is with a person who abuses them, forgetting that fact will be almost impossible. It can be done, some folks seem to have the capacity to forgive any behavior and still have strong feelings for the person. It can be done as any foster parent knows but, it is not easy.
You need to mentally compartmentalize the things people do and try to not let that effect your feelings for that person. With an alcoholic or drug user, most people know that person cannot always be responsible for their actions. While they are under the influence, they may not be acting in ways they normally would not act. They also may have lost your trust which is tough to think in positive ways about that person. You can still love the person, but hate what they do. This and the above example are more serious cases.
Even when you can separate the person from their horrendous behavior; it does not indicate you should remain in a dangerous or demoralizing relationship. Sometimes, that is not even helpful to the person with the awful behavior. You can love a person and still not be able to live with them. You may feel strong feelings for someone, but not be able to constantly be around them due to their unfortunate behavior.
In less serious instances, someone’s actions may not always represent who that person really is, so forgiving them may be easy. Loving a person in spite of themselves is asking quite a lot of the person putting up with them. In many cases, this is exactly what that lost person needs. To realize that someone will always be there for them is a great confidence builder. To be able to be sure that you will love them no matter what is the greatest gift you can bestow on an individual.
Unconditional love takes practice. Sometimes, you must ask what is the worst case scenario if you care for this person regardless of their behaviors. If the prognosis is not too serious, staying with them and showing them you love them may not hurt. If it is a very serious or dangerous situation, you may need to reassure them you will continue to love them always, but from afar.
A foster parent learns this lesson quite quickly when they begin working with the first person they take into their home. We can be appalled by their actions but, know that more behaviors get changed due to the amount of love those kids see in your feelings toward them. No, love does not conquer all but, love plus prayer goes a very long way to being able to endure bad behaviors and produce great outcomes.
Unconditional love means you will always be there for them. You will not ‘un-love’ them even when they do horrible things. It means you overlook lots and refocus on solutions rather than hatred. Sometimes you cannot do it but, give it your best try for everyone’s sake. Remember others have failed to love them enough to help them but, that shouldn’t be you.
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