Some religions and some spiritual groups/thinkers like to use the idea of “Unconditional Love” in ways that are bunk. Most EVERY love we have for every other human being is absolutely conditional and should be.
Marriage is often referenced as an institution that includes UL as I’ll refer to “Unconditional Love” hereafter. Yes, we take vows of fidelity and other “obligations” but if we are completely honest, marriage is a contract, a deal. In traditional Judaism there is a legal document called a Ketubah, which is literally a marriage contract.
Most Jewish couples, whether overtly religious or not, get a beautifully caligraphed Ketubah, that is usually signed and sealed by the rabbi that performed their marriage. The fact that most of these couples can’t understand the Hebrew in which its composed is besides the fact.
Let’s be honest about marriage. It is Let’s Make a Deal in how we court one another and what we expect from each other in the marriage. Traditionally, a man was the breadwinner and the woman the homemaker. Since that’s changed with the times, our roles may be different but the contractual nature of the relationship is still present nonetheless.
Many marriages begin with a pre-nuptial contract, which is explicit in financial expectations and sometimes other things as well. Speaking from personal experience and years of therapy, there’s NO DOUBT that my marriage is a deal. Our family therapist has stated that fact in unequivocal terms. My wife and I may not always agree on what is expected in “our deal” but we absolutely acknowledge that it is a deal. Yes, love is a big part of (our) marriage and yes, we can have romantic ideals but it is still an arrangement with defined expectations.
Many parents will exclaim that they have UL for their children and on that there can be more layers, subtlety, and disagreement. I expect and want my boys to be good people. I won’t unconditionally forgive them if they hurt other people except in self-defense. I will still love them but I may have less respect for them.
There are many examples of where and when a parent’s love is tested. The most egregious examples are of children who commit heinous crimes. Some parents stand by their kids and make excuses for their behavior. Some parents simply stand by them and declare their love. Other parents will disown an errant child whether due to drug behavior or serious crimes. I will not judge anyone in those circumstances but I understand both decisions.
I will state here and now that if either of my boys were to wantonly and violently hurt another human being for profit or gain, my love would be diminished if not erased.
There are some religious faiths that will forgive mass murderers. Sorry, that doesn’t fly by me. The ONLY person that can forgive a murderer is, perhaps, the victim’s family. When Timothy McVeigh killed hundreds in Oklahoma in his domestic terrorist attack, I remember seeing signs from some religious groups saying they forgave him. That sickened me. Who gives them the right to do that? Maybe God can forgive. Maybe the victim or the victim’s family can forgive. But, NO ONE else has that right.
There is one place, ironically, where UL exists for the most part. And that is with our pets. They do seem to love us unconditionally. However, when my beloved dog Simon nearly killed another dog in an unprovoked attack, I took responsibility and the question of “putting him down” was vigorously debated. Thankfully, the other dog’s family cut us some slack and we didn’t have to put him down.
But animals are animals. I don’t believe animals operate on any moral compass. Only human beings do. And that is why I do not believe in UL. The bigger picture of life and its meaning rests with God. I don’t claim to understand his ways nor do I believe any human being can.
Do you believe in an unconditional love?