The other day was my son’s birthday, and I was watching him run around with his friends. He was doing this silly dance that he thinks is so cool, and I was just in awe of his wonderfulness. I couldn’t believe how great of a son that I have. For those of you who have children you know this feeling. You know how it feels to love someone so uncontrollably and completely. You know how it feels to love unconditionally.
I’ve given a lot of thought to unconditional love. The love between a parent and a child is the most obvious kind. I knew no matter what I did as a child that my father would never stop loving me. I knew that no matter how many times he grounded me for “nothing”, in my teenage brain, that I would never stop loving him. It is true. My father died 3 years ago… and I still have never stopped loving him.
Unconditional love is spoken about a lot.. almost as a fairy tale. As if it were an ideal that people could never actually live up to. Relationships fall apart just as fast as they come together. Divorce rates are growing while marriage rates are dropping. No one can say forever anymore, and because of that unconditional love seems like the unicorn of feelings… but here’s the thing. Love isn’t about staying together. Love isn’t about rings. Love doesn’t even have to be romantic.
When I think of unconditional love I think of those who are in my family. My father, my brother, my son… and those we choose to consider family, my God daughters. Those are the people that we love “more than ourselves”, and that I feel is where the biggest problem lies. It’s not that we can’t feel unconditional love for another person. It’s that we’ve lost the ability to feel unconditional love for ourselves. We are our harshest critics. We undermine ourselves all the time. We second guess. We insult. We ridicule. We don’t even have the ability to take a compliment from someone else anymore.
We see it all the time. Someone says, “you look good today” or “you did a really good job at..” and suddenly we have to come up with all of these reasons why it wasn’t actually our doing. We have to try to sound modest. But it’s not modesty. It’s the uncomfortable feeling of being praised. We’re not used to it. In our heads all day we hear, “oh you look fat”, “you totally messed up that spelling bee in 3rd grade what makes you think you can land this big contract”, “look at him and his nice suit he’ll get this job over you.. who are you?”, “why would anyone love you when there’s someone like her out there?”. These are the words we tell ourselves and then we wonder how we could possibly have trouble loving other people.
We never think about the damage that self deprecation actually causes. We think that we’re helping. Next time you find yourself hearing these words in your head think about how you would feel if someone ever said them to your kids or your parents. Think about whether or not you would ever say those words to someone you love… and… don’t you deserve the same love?