It is amazing to find someone who knows our weaknesses, our failures, our issues, and still loves us! We call that unconditional love. We do not have to prove ourselves to them or be someone we are not. Their love for us is stronger than our mistakes and may even be stronger than our love for ourselves.
Some of us have "conditional love scars" from those who rejected us or cut us off because we did not measure up to their expectations or give them what they wanted. Our scars came from the fact that we could not count on unconditional love when we failed or when we were not who others wanted us to be. Conditional love is fragile and is not stronger than our failures.
Sometimes it is difficult for us to believe that
someone could love us unconditionally because we do not love ourselves
unconditionally. Our mistakes and issues are always before us. Some of
us carry a lot of baggage that we struggled to unload. What would life
be like if we did not carry this heavy load around?
Just because someone loves us unconditionally
doesn't mean that
all of our behavior is acceptable.
Some of us believe that people would reject us if they really knew us- knew what we have done, or what we are dealing with inside. Consequently, we keep others at arm's length and do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable- which can be very lonely. When we only accept ourselves conditionally, we fail to act with self-compassion and grace. We can be very critical and unforgiving of ourselves. In turn, this leads to another problem: the way we treat ourselves is the way we teach others to treat us.
It is difficult to have self-esteem without first accepting who we are. When we accept ourselves unconditionally, we recognize, accept, and forgive our imperfections. When we fail, we do not let our failures define us. We can act with compassion and use our failures as learning experiences. When we love ourselves unconditionally, we can accept others unconditionally.
Just because someone loves us unconditionally doesn't mean that all of our behavior is acceptable. Unconditional love does not mean we can treat those who love us anyway we want. There is no place for abusive or harmful actions in a relationship founded upon unconditional love. Boundaries, commitment, trust, honesty, honor, forgiveness, and grace are the conditions of unconditional love. If we love someone, we live in a way that honors him or her.
Being accepted for who we are can be the launching pad for becoming all that we were meant to be. We can now risk growing and trying new things.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700