Brian Tracy is CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. Tracy has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed more than 5,000,000 people in 5,000 talks and seminars throughout the US, Canada, and 70 other countries worldwide. As a Keynote speaker and seminar leader, he addresses more than 250,000 people each year. Tracy has a lot to say about unconditional love in his books. In one of his seminars, he made the following statement: “The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.”
Lisa Pool, a “re-branding” agent who works with clients to master their image and teaches on the DIY way to successful marketing and small business promotions. Had this to say about the unconditional love that she experienced in her life. According to the book by Greg Baer, Real Love, unconditional love is, in essence, true love – so different from the kind of love most of us have known all our lives that it deserves a definition of its own.
For Lisa, unconditional love is caring about the happiness of another person without any thought for what we might get for ourselves. It’s unconditional love when other people care about our happiness unconditionally. Lisa isn’t too fond of treating the subject of unconditional love in a “touchy-feely” way. Even beginning a discussion about love and true love and what is real love can give some the impression that is what the “hippie movement” was all about. But it’s important for each of us who have experienced unconditional love should learn how to share it with others without getting all romantic. Lisa said that she had been talking about this behavior for years but only recently did she begin to understand it on a deeper level that there is a lot more to unconditional love that what’s seen on the surface.
Unconditional love is not exhibited when we do things for others so they will like us for doing what they want or because we give them what they demand of us. Under those conditions, we’re just “paying” for love in a way (or literally in some cases) with what we do to get that attention. They can only be certain of our unconditional love when they make foolish mistakes when they fail to do what other people want, and even when they get in our way, but we don’t feel disappointed or irritated with them. When they make a seemingly poor choice about their lives, take a wrong turn, undo or sabotage their own happiness… its unconditional love that keeps us right by their side, not judging or punishing but loving them without prior conditions. It’s that love alone that has the power to heal all wounds, bind people together, and create relationships quite beyond our present capacity to imagine.
To love another person under any circumstances is not relegated to passionate love either. It is not what the pop psychs refer to as “enabling” or just allowing someone to continue their unacceptable behavior by overlooking it or neglect to bring it up. Unconditional love allows us to be confident in ourselves and the strength we have in our hearts and minds to give the same to another person. Friends and family can be completely unconditional with their love for us. However, from our youth up we have been programmed to be conditional, to expect something in return for our love. We cannot say with complete confidence that we don’t place some degree of conditions on almost all our communication and interactions. We are quite specifically conditioned to only give love when we are reciprocated, and most often according to what we think is worthy of our love. Unconditional love is not a loan needing to be repaid, but an unattached gift freely flowing from our heart – a gesture where only they benefit directly.
On occasions, we might be fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of such an act of thoughtfulness, the experience can be both endearing and a bit awkward – what do we do to or for someone to show our appreciation for such an unconditional act of kindness, especially when they ask for nothing in return? Genuine unconditional love is a little strange to receive in our world of expectations and reactions, and yet if we allow ourselves to be the receiver, we will find out that it is pretty terrific. So if that’s how we feel, how must it feel to whom we freely offer unconditional acceptance and love?
So that brings up the question, how do we love unconditionally? Here are some points that Lisa gives for us to consider:
First, loving unconditionally is more an act of the will than a feeling of emotion. Loving is the act of extending ourselves, vulnerabilities and all, into uncharted emotional territory with the belief that regardless of the outcome, we’re willing to risk giving our love away to benefit another person. Love is an abstract feeling, it cannot be poured into a glass like orange juice. In fact, love only exists as an idea until it is put into motion by an act of our will. Sometimes our love will bring us nothing in return and at others times we are overwhelmed by the other person’s gratefulness. But no matter what the result, the greatest satisfaction we can experience is just knowing we gave our love away without any strings attached. When that happens, it is a pure act of unconditional generosity.
Secondly, ask yourself “Am I truly acting with all the love I can give to this person at this moment?” Sometimes the answer to that question is “No,” because our egos are too big and get in the way of a true unconditional response. Unconditional love is a conscious act of the will, so we need to check ourselves to see if we are ready to make that commitment. Unconditional love may be an entirely new process for us in every situation, and we want to convey sincerity with each person we extend that love experience to some people who don’t know how to accept love without conditions.
Thirdly, we may have a situation in our life that is uncomfortable for us to accept and our behavior and reaction to what is facing us may not necessarily in the best interest of our personal growth. To love someone unconditionally does not mean that the act of that love is always going to be easy or feel comfortable. To be there for someone when they have challenges and need to foster growth, even those individuals in the fog of confusion know that there is going to be pain and some serious discomfort. If you go out of your way to protect them from these feelings and emotions you’re not loving them unconditionally. Unconditional love means you tell them the truth with gentle, kind communication and you are there, without judgment, to see them to the other side.
Fourthly, what does it mean if you are seen as someone who loves others, giving of yourself freely without any boundaries? Can it be that people see you as a “people pleaser?” Are they convinced that you are loving them unconditionally or loving them to please yourself? We all must know that playing the martyr is not rewarding or validating and only leaves us and the other person resentful as victims of a selfish scheme. We must make sure that we recognize what’s in this for them, not what’s in it for us. This is a healthy part of defining who we are as individuals and crucial to know our own level of satisfaction in being a giver who expects, not wants, anything in return. Remember, only when we know intrinsically that we have love that can be given without hurting us can we give love cleanly and unconditionally.
Fifthly, forgiveness is so important. Again, this can put a strain on our behavior and give us the satisfaction of knowing we’ve done our best. We may like to think that we have mastered this, but must be prepared if we haven’t. It’s probably the most difficult and truly absolute act of love we can perform. In any circumstance where we feel we have been wronged, neglected or taken advantage of if someone doesn’t apologize, it can prove to be the most loving thing we can do to them and ourselves if we choose to keep giving without any anger or resentment.
Burying any hurt or resentment we may have can end up hurting us emotionally and spiritually, and over time, physically. The noted author and philosopher Piero Ferrucci shares in his book, Beauty and Soul, that forgiving “is not something we do, but something we are.” Granting forgiveness unconditionally isn’t communicating you’ll allow someone to be hurtful or rejecting an acting as though it doesn’t bother you. The act of practicing unconditional love will be tainted and not at all healing if you choose to hold onto negative stuff. While you do acknowledge that you wish their reaction would have been more thankful and appreciative, you immediately dismiss any thought of contemplating any punishment they deserve. There is no perfect, simple way to love without conditions. But the ability to do so grows stronger each time we do.
Fifthly, life is hard more often than we’d like it to be. Life is definitely conditional; if we don’t eat, sleep or drink water we will surely die. Scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, and ministers have for centuries spoken of the “unconditional, perfect and everlasting love.” We can surely accept this a being a real thing, but not always guaranteed. We all have our bright side and dark side. If we allow ourselves to deny this human condition is to be ignorant to the foundation of our human nature. Self is a part of growth, and learning how to train self to be more giving rather than wanting can be a benefit every moment of every day for us and those whom we have the privilege to love.
So what does the Bible have to say about the idea of unconditional love? There are two sides to this agape love: What is said about it and what is seen when it is put into action. King David said that he felt like a green olive tree when he was in God’s presence. That’s because he felt loved by God forever and ever. It made him want to thank God each day of his life because of what God had done for him. His hope was secure in the fact that God was exactly who He said He was. There is nothing more pleasing and satisfying than to know that you belong to Him.1 A green olive tree was not yet ready to have its fruit pressed into olive oil. But that is its purpose and destiny. Once those olives are harvest and pressed to release their oil, they get nothing in return. In fact, they continue to bear olives so that they too can be used to produce oil. But, figuratively speaking, if the olive tree would have any reason to smile and feel a sense of satisfaction would be to know that its oil is being used all over the world to create savory dishes in many different countries as part of various cuisines.
Wise King Solomon, David’s son, learned much from his father. In his book of wise sayings, called Proverbs, he lets the readers know that insisting on having things done your way will always end up causing discord and even fights, but love has the power to treat misunderstandings with calm and graciousness so that the person is more important than the disagreement.2 But Solomon wasn’t finished. Later on, he said that a true friend loves unconditionally. Not only that, but close friends are born to help share our troubles.3
The prophet Isaiah also received a special word from the Lord concerning those in Judah who thought God had forsaken and forgotten them. But the Lord was quick to answer with a question. He asked, can a woman forget to nurse her hungry child? Is it possible that she has no compassion for the child she gave birth to with pain? But even though this may be possible for some, God says I have not forgotten you. In fact, I’ve written your names on the palm of My hands.4 This was the Lord God’s way of saying that His love is unconditional and everlasting.
The prophet Jeremiah received the same message. God was reminding His people that He is and always will be their God. He told them that His love was the kind that lasts forever.5 They were never to think of God’s love a conditional, seasonal, or dependent upon what they were willing to give in return. It could not be bought, earned, merited, received as part of a trade, begged for, or demanded. It was freely given and freely received.
Of course, one of the greatest definitions of unconditional love was what the Apostle John said after hearing Jesus explain the Kingdom of Heaven to a Sanhedrin member named Nicodemus, and entry into this kingdom came by experiencing a new birth.6 God wanted to show the creatures that He created in His image that He loved them. So He sent His one and only Son to die for them so that their sins could be atoned for. And everyone who accepts the free gift without strings will be given a new relationship with God that will last forever. John doesn’t say that God said if you do this I’ll do that. No, no! He sent His Son with His offer of unconditional love in His hand. And anyone who was willing to accept this gift of everlasting love would be blessed with the gift of everlasting life.
Later on in his Gospel, John records what Jesus told His followers at the time that His passion, crucifixion, death, resurrection, return to His Father in heaven were about to take place. No wonder that His followers were somewhat anxious. But Jesus told them to love each other the same way that He loved them. So what kind of love was that? Jesus told them that this kind of love would cause one person to willingly give their life in order to save the life of a friend.7 In other words, unconditional love without any mandates or strings attached.
The Apostle Paul took this one step further. He told the believers in Rome that God let the whole world know how much He loved them by sending the only Son He had to die for their sins so the He could forgive them for His Son’s sake.8 That is the definition of unconditional love. Buy Paul wasn’t finished. Not only is God’s love unconditional, but there is nothing that would cause Him or persuade Him to take it back or stop showing His love.9 Because of that, we should love each other with the same true love. Don’t lay down any conditions or demand anything in return. Let it flow into their hearts freely without any attachments. Once you let it go, let God take care of the response.10
But just in case some believers weren’t sure they really knew what unconditional love really was, Paul gave them a full explanation that laid it out jewel by jewel, shining and sparkling with the glow of God’s unconditional love. With that love operating in your heart and soul, there is nothing impossible with God. And the one point Paul chose to finish his description with is this: “Love never comes to an end.”11
Then in his letter to Bishop Titus, Paul explained why God’s love was so unusual and pure and one-of-a-kind. God loves us when we were acting like fools and did not pay Him any attention or cared if He even existed. We were chained to such sinful tendencies that getting free was out of the question. We had but one goal and that was to please ourselves. And when we couldn’t get what others had, we became angry and hated them even more. In return, they hated us just as much. But that’s when God stepped in and show how kind and loving He was. He knew that because of sinful living we were bound for punishment and destruction. But out of pure love, God’s Son paid the price for us so that we were saved from the punishment we rightly deserved. He took away that evil spirit and put His Holy Spirit in us. Not only did this save us, but it gave us the strength to continue our right relationship with God.12
Do we need any more examples of unconditional love as God puts it into action? The hardest part is not understanding it, but putting it into practice. We are so used to getting our money’s worth of whatever we are willing to pay. But this is a case, of being willing to pay with no guarantee that we’ll get anything in return. Is that bad? Absolutely not! That’s what makes unconditional love so beautiful! By giving to others what they cannot get on their own and doing so with no strings attached brings the kind of joy in our hearts that is impossible to describe.13 Dr. Robert R Seyda
1 Psalm 52:8-9
2 Proverbs 10:12
3 Ibid. 17:17
4 Isaiah 49:15-16a
5 Jeremiah 31:3
6 John 3:16
7 Ibid. 15:13
8 Romans 5:8
9 Ibid. 8:35
10 Ibid. 12:9-10
11 I Corinthians 13:1-8a
12 Titus 3:3-7
13 1 Peter 8:1