On Unconditional Love

Wheel of Life Palliative Care Support Group: Living & Dying 2013 – Workshop 19 October

Love is the power within us that affirms and values another human being as he or she is. Human love affirms the person who is actually there, rather than the ideal we would like him to be or the projection that flows from minds. One accepts the other person’s totality. Unconditional love does not judge.

“Unconditional love” was first coined in relational to parental love, by Erich Fromm in 1934. Carl Rogers wrote about unconditional positive regard in relation to the attitude of a therapist to his or her clients. It has been said that we have a right to unconditional love only as children and only from our parents but for every other relationship in life we have to earn it. People who do not have that primary experience of parental love have difficulty with close relationships throughout life.

It seems the Western world is obsessed with love. Popular songs, movies and often literature are preoccupied with love – often romantic love. Watching American TV we are often encouraged to yell “Love ya” down the mobile phone to family members as we hang up.

Love is often most visible when we follow the advice of Shakespeare’s Cordelia: “Love and keep silent”.

Like Cordelia ’s sisters, we use the word love loosely. We use it to dignify any number of demands for attention, power, security or entertainment from other people. But we are often looking out for our own needs, our own desires, our own dreams and our power over people. Real love leads in a different direction toward the goodness, the value and the needs of the people around us.

It is best expressed in the language of St Paul:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not vaunt itself, is not puffed up…Love does not seek her own way, is not easily provoked, is not anxious to suspect evil…..bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but whether there be prophecies; they shall fail. knowledge; it shall vanish away,

This is an eloquent statement of the difference between an ego under its own devices and an ego under the influence of love. The ego does not want to suffer but “love suffers long and is kind”. My ego is envious – resenting the other or wanting what they have, but “love does not envy”. The ego wants to show off, to inflate itself, but “love does not vaunt itself, is not puffed up”. My ego always wants to win but love does not seek her own way. My ego is touchy, sensitive and often suspicious, being fearful of loss, but love “is not easily provoked and is not anxious to suspect evil”.

“Love never fails” but other peoples’ predictions (or prophesies) do. The gossip, (tongues) and the knowledge, “…it shall vanish away”. In Buddhist terms, it is ‘empty’, it does not exist inherently, it is impermanent and comes into being through causes and conditions.

This is the paradox of love; it is a divine force because of our failings, our humanity. It would be easy to love another who was all endlessly giving, unfailingly good-humoured and selfless. But because we are imperfect creatures love invites us constantly to be more than we are.

LM 2013

Wheel of Life – Palliative Care Support Group,
Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, 64 Banksia Terrace, Kensington 6151
Phone 9367 4817 welcome@hayagriva.org.au
Wheel of Life on the web