nervous conditions

I recently had a conversation with my mom about love languages and how understanding our own love languages and those of our friends and loved ones can really go a very long way in relationships. Whether its words of affirmation, quality time, receiving or giving gifts, acts of service or physical touch these languages tend to inform how we best receive and show love. We reminded each other of our love languages and then she told me that my Dad’s love language did not fall into one of the five categories that I just mentioned (these were defined by Dr. Gary Chapman). If you were to ask my Dad what his love language is he would say unconditional acceptance and love.

A couple of days after this conversation with my mom, my parents and I were chatting over Sunday Lunch and this time the topic of unconditional love and acceptance was broached by my Dad. He spoke of its importance, especially at the outset of relationships, and lamented that we so often fall into patterns of constantly setting conditions for ourselves, our friends, our family and our colleagues that need to be met. The example that he used was that God accepts all who come to Him unconditionally through his grace and loves them that way as well. I realize that my formulation of this very complex relation is overly stripped and simple but my Dad’s words cut to the heart. I had, without really noticing it, started setting conditions for myself and the people around me to the point where I almost took this approach for granted.

I found myself learning what Elisabeth Kubler-Ross describes as “the ultimate lesson” all of us have to learn: unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well. Part of this learning process is realizing anew that my understanding of love is often so limited and warped. John Powell said that the only love worthy of a name is unconditional; and Duke Ellington echoed this when he said, “Love is supreme and unconditional; like is nice but limited.”

Unconditional love and acceptance are the greatest gift that we can give to others and its transformative power cannot be quantified. Hafiz of Shiraz illustrated this beautifully, “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, ‘you owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who sought to see the world he lived in transformed by love and truth. He said the following, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

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