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Unconditional Love?

If I am a spiritually-evolved person, I should learn to be unconditionally loving. Posts, comments and memes on social media from friends, friends of friends and assorted strangers who seem like really cool people tell me that this is true. To be unconditionally loving is the gold standard to being a good person. A really good one. And who doesn't want to be a really good person?

I think there's a pervasive belief that you should cultivate unconditional love because that means you're "accepting" and "evolved." Hand in hand with that belief in the spiritual community is that if you leave a person or situation, you're cutting off the deeper lesson and thus cutting off you're ability to evolve into a more unconditionally loving person. So we wind up staying in situations longer than is healthy or reasonable. I've done it a few times and felt pretty burned, not to mention foolish for basically willingly signing up to be mistreated. What's so evolved about that?

I see mutual friends thanking people for being "unconditionally" loving and "sticking with them no matter what" as a litmus test for true love, and I feel a little conflicted every time I see or hear that. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter what...really?

For years I was around a group of people whose leader espoused being unconditionally loving. Sounded great. So I tried and tried to be those things. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job, until she and her circle started falling into patterns of dishonesty, manipulation and betrayal. I reasoned that I was in the midst of some Divinely orchestrated huge spiritual test that would certainly yield huge lessons and insight if I could stick it out, so I stayed and tried harder to be unconditional. All of that effort made my heart so heavy, as I was betraying my own beliefs about what was right and wrong. It took things to get so extremely dysfunctional for me to finally give up and run away like my hair was on fire. Initially upon leaving, I felt like I'd failed God's big test and must be at the spiritual amoeba stage. With distance I could see that the group was toxic to my happiness and, yes, my evolution. I firmly believe that my evolution began the day I walked away.

You betray, act maliciously, manipulate, lie, blame others for your choices, and I'm going to have a seriously hard time being "supportive" or feeling "unconditionally loving." People can change and it's my experience that they routinely do (usually for the better), but I'm not gonna stick around for long if you commit to diving deep into wildly hurtful behaviors. I might hold out hope you'll stop and feel contrite one day, but I'll be doing that from a loving distance. Just like I wouldn't give a car thief the keys to my car to show that I'm a compassionate person who believes people can change, I'm not going to give the offender in question the keys to my heart or access to my friendship to see if they'll eventually evolve out of it all.

Jesus was said to be unconditionally loving.

Mother Teresa was too. Well, that is until we learned differently through her journal entries after her passing.

Gandhi? I don't think so.

The Dalai Lama? Okay, he's likely high scoring near perfect on the Unconditional Love front.

Ammachi? I'll give it up to her too.

Martin Luther King, Jr.? Hmmm...he espoused having love instead of hatred in your heart. Deep but not sure I'd call that the "unconditional" kind.

I guess my point is that even among those stellar humans we so often hold up as the gold standard example, it's an iffy proposition. Maybe what I'm suggesting is that we all cut each other some slack in the unconditional love department. Maybe "unconditional" isn't healthy or reasonable for most of us mere mortals. If you pursue being unconditional-no-matter-what, groovy and best of luck. If you find you're more like me, you've dumped the quest to be a saint. When I gave myself that break, I found that a lot of joyous bliss and lightness of being flooded into my life. I'm now focused on the very human tasks of forgiveness, kindness and cultivating courage to walk away when people and situations feel misaligned to living my best life. "Ahimsa," a Sanskrit word that means "do no harm" and to act "compassionately," is also something I aspire to do and be. My plate overfloweth just trying to be those things daily.

Perhaps being unconditional at its finest is really cultivating the ability to be forgiving, kind, compassionate and courageous with yourself. I know that I can unconditionally get behind those things, so maybe there's hope for me to be a really good person yet.

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