Several weeks ago, the topic at one of my Men’s Meeting was Unconditional Love. I can be a contrarian in meetings, taking an alternate viewpoint on many topics, but perhaps none more than Unconditional love. Unconditional love seems to a kind of spiritual coin of the realm, something that we are supposed to strive for if we are to call ourselves spiritual. Having never seen the coin myself, I sometimes doubt it’s existence. Oh, I’ve heard reports of it, even heard people in meetings say they practice it but I’m not even sure it should exist. Should we continue to love someone no matter how heinous their behavior? Am I supposed to love Adolph Hitler? Jeffery Dahmer?
Now, please bear with me as I walk out on some thin ice and talk about religion for a moment. As far as I can tell, the standard Christian message is that hate is wrong and that you are indeed supposed to love your fellows unconditionally, just as Jesus did. After all, didn’t he forgive his persecutors as he was dying on the cross? Perhaps, but he also spoke of those who do not accept him being cast into the fiery furnace of hell where there will be the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Is that Unconditional love? A Rabbi once told me that unlike Christians, Jews are allowed to hate, something at least one Christian website attributes to Jewish misinterpretation of the word of Yahweh. Interesting. Do Jews get to reinterpret the New Testament? The website adds, a Christian is NOT allowed to hate other human beings, meanwhile condemning the Koran as Satanic and Jews to the fiery furnace. Is that the definition of Unconditional love … I love you now burn in hell? Or do I keep the notion alive by saying love and hate can exist simultaneously, two sides of the same coin? Even in the 12-Step program I belong to, there is a phrase … love cannot exist for long without justice. But in the Kabbalah, the Lovingkindess (Chesed) of G-d is balanced by Justice (Gevurah). I have a friend who says, When in doubt, do the loving thing. That sounds easy … except when you are searching for that fuzzy line between helping a loved one and enabling. And when, having discovered yourself on the enabling side of the line, the necessary action is letting the loved one fall. That doesn’t sound all that loving, so we invent the term Tough Love to cover it.
I suppose that’s my problem with the notion Unconditional love … I have to keep making excuses for actions that don’t seem all that loving if I’m to believe in it. And inventing new flavors of love. I’m better off tossing Unconditional love in my mental drawer full of spiritual concepts I don’t find that useful … and leaving it to those that do.
What do you think?