July 6, 2022   

Unconditional Love

The word “unconditional” implies that love is conditional in most cases. There is also a degree of demand injected into the concept of unconditional love, as if to say, “No ordinary love would suffice; it must be unconditional.”

It also implies that it must be tested; otherwise, how would you know it’s unconditional? You’d need to push the boundaries to confirm that there are no boundaries. Unconditional love should tolerate any level of abuse. That is, it implies abuse.

The most common use of the concept is in parenting. It’s children who demand it because they do not yet understand what love is. They are too egocentric.

Iris Murdoch defined love as “the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.” That is, love is the opposite of egocentrism. We were not born with the ability to love; we must learn to love. Children demand unconditional love because they don’t know how to love or be loved. After all, how could they? They don’t yet have a clear sense of self and others.

If love is unconditional, you don’t need to be you. You become replaceable because she would love you even if you are someone else. Otherwise, you’d have to define what constitutes “you,” and those qualities would become the conditions for love. As an object of unconditional love, you disappear.

Jacques Lacan defined love as “giving something you don’t have to someone who doesn’t want it.”

In your everyday interactions with others, you project a flawless persona, like on your resume. But love requires revealing the truth about yourself. What you do not have is this perfection our society expects, a consistent self free of contradictions. It’s risky because you can be rejected and hurt. But someone who loves you does not want or need your sacrificial offer because he knows he, too, is a flawed being. Unconditional love is a childish fantasy where you don’t need to risk anything. We have to grow out of this fantasy at some point.

Those incapable of love would expect unconditional love and claim to give it. It’s impossible to define the conditions as it is impossible to define who we are. The only path to love is to muddle through.