"I just want, I just want love. I just want something. Something for nothing. I'm a beggar and I'm a chooser. I'm accused, I'm an accuser. But nothing's unconditional." -- The Bravery
We all think about, talk about, and wish for it. After all, it certainly is a nice idea, don't you think? Imagine being loved and accepted by all people without conditions or limitations.
Total. Absolute. No matter what you say, what you do, or how you look.
That's pretty awesome.
I think the best example of unconditional love is the relationship between a parent and a child. I know of one father/son duo in particular that exemplifies this principle. Son keeps making self-destructive choices and father keeps picking up the pieces. That doesn't mean that father doesn't dislike the behavior (I'm sure he wants better things for his child), but he loves his son. He seems able to separate the act from the perpetrator of it. Speaking from a "childless by choice" perspective, I wonder how he hasn't disowned him by now. I think I would have changed my phone number.
I guess that's why I'm not a parent.
But, I digress.
The question here really is: are we willing to love and accept others unconditionally first? Is that where it starts? With us?
It's so much easier to point the finger at others who criticize or disagree with us, as if to say, "if only you would think, talk and act differently, this world would be a much better place." Come on now, we've all done it. I know I have.
For example, I was reading some facebook postings the other day about running with iPods. Half of the people who commented were supporting the idea of running with music. The other half condemned it, citing it unsafe and an unfair advantage to use in racing. Depending on what side of the fence you sit on, I'm sure you have an opinion. Personally, I run with music 80% of the time. I wear it on most, if not all, of my solo runs. I have worn it at races ranging from 5K to marathon distance. I know lots of runners who don't agree with me for doing it. At first, I used to feel defensive if people made fun of/criticized me for running with headphones, saying things like, "that makes you a jogger, not a runner."
But, then I realized I was defensive and argumentative because I felt insecure that they didn't accept me. It wasn't their words; it was how I responded to them. Perhaps THEY feel that THEY wouldn't be a real runner if THEY wore headphones. So, what they say is much less about me and my iPod and more about themselves.
Either I change my behavior (i.e. don't run with headphones) to please them, or I accept them for who they are, opinions and all. Neither one of us have to be right or wrong, necessarily. We just get to choose for ourselves. Their choice doesn't have to affect me one way or the other, nor mine them.
It's okay to be okay with someone who may not be okay with you, but if you're not okay with you to begin with, then it's damn near impossible. (You know, that whole, "I'm OK, you're OK" thing). I obviously didn't unconditionally love and accept myself for running with music. If I did, I wouldn't have been offended.
In my quest to be a positive and optimistic person, I've also become more aware of how I talk. It's a work in progress, but I'm doing pretty well with it. Basically, I'm focusing on speaking only of the things that I want more of in my life. You know, the good stuff. In the process, I've also become more aware of how other people talk. Here is a conversation I had with one of our members this morning. I'll call him "SA":
SA: (standing by the front desk, looking out of the window) It's so rainy and dreary out.
ME: Well, it depends on your perspective.
SA: (laughs) Well, it's not in here. (points) I mean out there.
ME: Still depends on your perspective.
SA: (looks at me quizzically)
ME: Rain is just that, rain. It doesn't have to be good or bad. It just is.
SA: (laughs again, shakes head, and walks to locker room)
Lots of people don't like cloudy, rainy days. It takes a lot more focus to find good in them than it does the sunny, warm ones. So, I certainly understand his reaction to the weather. And sure, it would be nice if everyone around you opted to have a sunny dispostion regardless of what was going on outside. However, you can't control your environment. That goes for the people in your life as well as the weather. Focusing on what you can control is the only option, and the only thing you can control is you.
Making peace with things as they are and appreciating the people and things in your life for the good they bring you is the path to unconditional love and acceptance. After all, like attracts like. If you want to be loved, be loving. Gandhi said you must be the change you wish to see in the world. When you realize that other people don't have to change in order to please you, that world becomes a pretty cool place to hang out in.
"The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well." -- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross