One thing to understand is that while love may unconditional, relationships are not. If a marriage falls apart because of infidelity, one can still view the unfaithful partner with unconditional love. But that does not mean infidelity is acceptable in an intimate relationship. If a family member is repeatedly abusive, one can still wish for them love and happiness, without placing oneself in harms way. In fact, sometimes we can find it far easier to practice unconditional love toward a stranger or a group than to an individual that we have history with. Relationships have conditions that create the framework in which the relationship operates. It is healthy and wise to set boundaries and to expect to have them honored. It is by honoring and protecting ourselves that we can find a way to love and wish joy to those in our lives, no matter the circumstances.
What about on a larger scale? How can we love unconditionally those whose opinions or beliefs are different than our own? Because of our political climate, many unpleasant things have been brought to light about our society, and about the people that live in our country. The image of white supremacists spewing hatred and terrified children in cages, the dismantling of women’s rights and decreased services to the helpless and needy, and an overall increase in awareness that there are millions of our citizens that operate from a place of hate and bitterness have all served to create an environment of mistrust and disdain. Still, we can hold a vision of love and happiness toward those who operate from a place of anger and hate. Our wish can be for those to find a place of peace that will bring forth happiness.
To love unconditionally is not easy. Because we are having a human experience we can, and probably will, fall into the trappings of the ego. We feel justified in hanging onto anger toward those who have wronged us. We can’t fathom how to wish joy to those that we view as monsters. The solution? Fake it until we make it. We try to notice when we are feeling angry, bitter or hostile toward an individual or a group. And with that acknowledgement we can make a choice to wish them well, bear them no ill will. This simple practice can be done without having to change one’s beliefs or to accept abuse. Eventually the practice will become a habit, and then a way of living with compassion. Loving unconditionally is not about condoning vicious behavior or agreeing with principles that we believe are damaging or dangerous. Loving unconditionally is realizing that we have the power to wish others well, and to use it without compromising ourselves.