Love Without Condition

by Heather Bradley

I want to invite you to take a walk down imagination alley with me for a minute. You’re trying on shirts for a friend’s party when one, in particular, catches your eye.

You pick it up, read the tag, and immediately throw it back into the pile.

The moment you realize it is made of 2% polyester blend, you completely disregard everything you loved about it. It looks great on you, accentuates your best features, well within your price range, and quite stylish.

Despite that, you can’t bring yourself to buy this shirt because of the minute amount of polyester. This might be a silly example, but hear me out.

This is how I see people who put conditions on loving someone.

I don’t know where we got our thinking that we have any right to separate people by labels into categories of how much we love or accept them. We put people into boxes. Here are my gay friends, here are my Christian friends, here are the people I mentor, these are the people I consider to be family, etc.

Our lives are full of boxes and compartments that we put people into. I’m just as guilty of it as the next person—I’m only human, of course, but it doesn’t make it right. It’s something I work on almost constantly.

Here’s my problem with conditional love: it does not really love at all. If we love people as we are commanded by Jesus to do, we love all of them. We can’t pick and choose the parts of people that we accept and love—it’s all or nothing. It’s like saying, “I love you, but you need to ______.” Would we want someone telling us that the only way we can be loved is to change this, this and that about ourselves? No.

We want people to love us just the way we are.

That means we want to be loved even if we have 5 tattoos, 12 piercings, and blue hair. Those things don’t make us who we are. Who we are as human beings is based on nothing more than what is in our soul.

The hardest thing for me when I came out to more than my closest friends was that people who had previously thought I was a really “good girl” and had it all together came to think of me in a completely different way. Never mind the fact that who I was, and have always been at the roots, didn’t change in any way, shape, or form.

I was—and continue to be—the same Heather I’ve been since the day I was born. The only difference now is that I care a lot less about what other people really think of me. If people’s thoughts and attitudes toward us change simply because they get to know us on a deeper level, they never really had unconditional love for us anyway.

Unconditional love was always kind of a foreign concept to me.

My parents loved me—and still, love me—without condition. But the people I was surrounded with weren’t the same way. I had to follow these guidelines and fit in this box to “earn” that love, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be at all.

If you’re going to love someone, then love them with everything you have. Love them despite the shortcomings and things in their lives you might not necessarily agree with. Love them through their darkness the same as you do in their light.

Then—and only then—will we be able to really experience the greatness that is true unconditional love.

Photo via flickr user atache