Unconditional love is an impossible ideal
Ship It Post #
Apr 16, 2022
Inspired by Charlie & Ben Podcast Ep. 142
What does it mean for love to be unconditional, to have no conditions for loving someone?
A common example is a mother loving her child even if he becomes a mass murderer. But there is a condition to this love: the object is someone she gave birth to. A mass murderer completely unrelated to her would not receive the same kind of love.
So for love to be unconditional, there cannot be a condition of the recipient. You might think you could have unconditional love for a girlfriend or wife, but the status of their relationship with you is a condition.
Maybe there’s someone who feels like they really have this unconditional care and compassion toward all humans. Then the condition is being of the right type of species to receive their love. A scorpion in their sandal, a microbe across town, a pebble on a planet in a distant galaxy don’t meet this condition.
This brings to bear another condition for loving others: proximity. There’s simply no way to show the same unconditional love towards an unknown stranger in Central Asia that you’d never meet as you would with your family in your American hometown.
Because to show love, you have to have some way to communicate with the other person.
For love to be unconditional, there can’t be a condition for the object one’s love, and this means you can’t restrain love for yourself. This would be hard for most people, to unconditionally accept one’s self, flaws and all. We place conditions on ourselves. Someone without an inner self critic is rare. Yet this would really be the only possible “condition” that could be met for this impossible love.
Healthy relationships have boundaries. A.k.a. conditions. Someone who “unconditionally” continues loving their abusive partner is not a virtue when it comes at the cost of their own health and happiness and self-care.
My former religious tradition would paint God as the only being capable of unconditional love. The same God who damns people to eternal torture for not being perfect like him, or not meeting his condition for faith.
Whenever people talk about a possible “unconditional love,” there is always a condition for that love that they don’t recognize.