On Facebook, and before that on LiveJournal, I have a fairly regular posting on a subject that is near and dear to my heart.
That subject is “unconditional love.”
I can’t TELL you how many arguments I’ve had with other people on the definition of unconditional love. I think I lost track somewhere around the hundredth such argument.
First off, let me define it for you.
Simply put, unconditional love is loving with NO conditions on that love.
Sadly, far too many people in this world believe that such unconditional love must ALSO mean unconditional approval.
Nothing is further from the truth.
One can unconditionally love another person, while refusing that other person to cause damage to yourself via choices, actions, or behaviors.
A perfect example. Some small part of me, regardless of my anger and hurt and actual chemical brain damage, still loves my ex-husband in an unconditional fashion. HOWEVER, because he chooses to NOT control his actions, choices or behaviors in regards to damaging me – I am choosing for my own safety and health to no longer allow him access to me in ways that would continue to do me damage.
This is the same thing that people call “tough love.”
If positive reinforcement, boundaries, punishment for bad choices (such as incarceration for theft or assault), or other ways to encourage positive growth and change in another person do not succeed, you have an OBLIGATION to yourself to protect yourself from further damage caused by the choices of that other person.
I love my family dearly, and unconditionally. But there are subjects on which I refuse to communicate with them. Their belief/opinion/conscience has been clearly communicated, so have mine, and further communication will only cause me harm (whether it is harm by causing doubt in my own self-worth, or harm because of the refusal to “agree to disagree” on certain subjects) – I will NOT discuss those matters with them.
It’s called having healthy boundaries.
And yes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I am an addict. I am a nicotine addict. And, because of that, there are certain ways I am endangering my family. Because of this, I am willing to limit my behaviors to certain places at certain times, so as to not continue to damage them. This is the OTHER side of unconditional love.
The fact that my choice can damage others means I have a responsibility to LIMIT that choice around others.
Just because you unconditionally love someone, that does NOT mean you are required to accept everything about them. The ONLY things you are required to do are a) protect yourself from other people’s choices; and b) protect others from your OWN choices.