When you tell someone “I love you,” what are you really saying? Do you mean you want to spend the rest of your life with them, as husband and wife. Is it just something you say to get someone to do things your way? Is it your way of saying you “like” them, but you have no idea what the difference is between love and like? Or is it something you just say to everyone who comes across your path? Maybe they did something nice for you. “Oh, I love you!” Or perhaps they told you they love you, so you felt inclined to say it in return, even if you are unsure of the validity of your statement. Saying “I love you” shouldn’t be a trial or a tribulation, but it should also be something you are proud of and stand by.
Most love is conditional, but I’m sure you knew that already. It doesn’t matter if you love your rabbit, if you love a person in the romantic way, if you love your family members, or if you love your friends, these types of love are often conditional. Notice my use of the word “often” to describe the conditionality of these types of love, and that is intentional. Obviously there are some of these types of love, depending on the person, where the love displayed is indeed unconditional, but I’ll get to that later. Most times, conditions are placed on our love. For example…
I love you, but not if you kill someone.
You might have smiled and dismissed that one, but it’s a valid concern, because while killing someone might be seen as the extreme, and drastic case, it does happen. People who kill others often do have family members, friends, or even romantic relationships with people who honestly and truly love them. But doing something drastic can do things to that love, making something you thought was unconditional not really that way at all.
I love you, but not when you’ve lied to me too many times.
We are only human, and when someone lies to us, it builds up a sense of distrust and animosity, even if we don’t realize it’s happening. No matter how much you love someone, usually if this happens too many times, and especially on major issues, the love can definitely be revealed as conditional.
I love you, but I love myself so much more that I neglect you.
What happened to putting others before yourself? If you show yourself as selfish, and more intent on doing things for yourself than for other people, that too can show a love as conditional. Some would even argue that this love was always one-sided anyway, that your ability to love yourself to that extent and more, and not to share your love with the person you’re supposed to share with, has created a situation that is unsustainable. That is the very definition of conditional.
Others would maintain that the only unconditional love in the world is the love of God for His children, and if you’re a religious sort you might very well go along with that one, even if you have many other people you profess to love. It’s easy to point to a spiritual relationship with a higher power as a singular type of love. But even if that is the case, remember that love is a two-way street. Do you love Him in that unconditional way as well? The Bible argues that it’s impossible for human beings to love unconditionally. “May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22 (NIV). You can see in this passage exactly what I’ve said. As human beings, we put our hope in the Lord, but he puts his unfailing love in us. See the difference? And this idea of love vs. hope is repeated throughout the Bible to drive home this point.
But if you’re not a religious or spiritual person, do you think you have what would qualify as unconditional love for someone or for a group of someones? Have you walked through the fire with them and come out still holding hands? Unconditional love, if it exists, SHOULD be rare. It shouldn’t be something you think you have for every single person in your life. That is unsustainable because people are in their essence not trustworthy, they do not share the same definitions of love, and their love can often be malleable, a mirage even to themselves. We often deceive ourselves because of expectations, even if we don’t realize it.
That’s my point, though. Love is more than just a feeling. It’s all in how individuals define it. The closer your definition is to the definitions of the people in your life whom you love, the more chance your love could also be unconditional when it comes to those people. But it’s impossible to have unconditional love for every single person you profess to love. At least in my opinion it is. What do you think?