Loving others unconditionally (without any conditions, or expectations attached) does not come naturally for me or anyone I know.
The question is how does one DO unconditional love (live it out, act and think).
In order for me to extend unconditional love to others I must have a reason. What would motivate me to love others unconditionally and withhold judgement.
Glynnis Whitwer from First5.org ministry says that we must ‘find the why’ and reason for our motivation to love unconditionally. The Apostle Paul writes:
“For we were once thoughtless and senseless, obstinate, deluded and misled . . But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of anything we had done, but because of His mercy.” (Titus 3:3-4)
Everyday, I must be mindful of the reason I choose to love unconditionally which is to honor God’s gift of grace to me by reflecting it back into my world.
In the Old Testament, the Jews had rules and regulations to please God and the Greeks lived to appease their god’s anger. The ancient god’s were not known for their love of humans.
Fear of punishment was the motivation for their choices.
“It is so easy to forget why we are to do good. We love unconditionally because we have been loved unconditionally. When we forget this ‘why’ we fall into the trap of religion. We become consumed with the rules and obsess over ‘right’ behaviour. We judge others by their choices and use it to justify our lack of mercy and kindness.”
So how do we do this?
‘Holding space’ is a phrase that writer Heather Plett uses to help us practice unconditional love. When we hold space for someone (spouse, friend, kids) we’re not trying to fix the problem or control the choices they make.
“Holding space means just being there, showing up, and listening deeply without judgement and trusting the person to figure things out for themselves.”
When we do this, it can feel like we’re doing nothing, but in fact we are there to support and love unconditionally.
A year ago our daughter was struggling to make decisions about her future as she was going to school and working at the same time.
It seemed that my helpful advice only brought confusion and tangled up her thought processes. It took a few months for me to understand that what she really needed was for me to just be there (hold space), not offer advice or try to fix things for her.
We always feel like we need to do something when someone is struggling or hurting. People need our presence more than they need our actions or advice.
I was actually ‘taking her power away’ by trying to fix her problems and advise her. I realized I needed to change my approach.
When she saw that I wasn’t trying to help her anymore she was ‘empowered’ to make a decision without worrying about me second guessing her decisions.
Part of loving unconditionally is making the person feel free enough to make mistakes. Somehow this helps de-tangle their thought processes and their fear of failure.
Offering gentle help and guidance needs to come from a place that is supportive and non-judgemental. It is a place of humility. They feel you are there for them whatever decision or choice they make.
They do not need to feel shamed for not knowing the right thing to do. They do not need to live in fear of our anger or try to appease us by making choices that will keep us happy.
I liberated my daughter to make decisions that she felt were best for her. Whether she was right or wrong in my eyes didn’t matter. I had enabled (empowered) her to make a decision without trying to please me or her dad.
This is particularly important for our kids as they transition into adulthood. When we give them freedom to make their own decisions, they will get more out of it than if we dump a pile of information and advice on them.
Loving unconditionally or holding space is not easy to do, because our human tendency is to want to fix people, give them advice or judge them for not being further along the path than they are.
We need to love unconditionally, without conditions, as God loves us.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)