Conditions–we place conditions and expectations on our interactions and how we operate interpersonally. We work hard for the expectation of a good salary and kudos. We do a favor expecting and hoping for one returned at a later date. We exchange goods for money or services. When something is offered for free, we either don’t trust it, or we swoon and hoard it even if we don’t need it.
When we witness a Giver, someone who just gives and gives and gives, sometimes we call him a sucker. You know, the person who is always giving their time and money and services. We don’t want to be the person who gets walked all over, taken advantage of.
I used to keep score. One for you, one for me. Gotta be fair, after all. Won’t be taken advantage of. Tit for tat. Won’t be a loser. Firm boundaries, you know. I see now I hid behind the guise of Firm Boundaries and Fairness as a way to mitigate pain too.
If I loved someone I would want him to love me right back. I’d get anxious until I’d hear it or see enough symbolic gestures to verify it. Because if he didn’t, that would suck to be me. So it sucked for him too; my anxiety for reciprocal feelings made everything feel pressured and heavy–apologies to everyone I’ve ever loved. You know who you are, but chances are good you’re not reading my blog then because you think I’m Psycho Girl and you may have filed a restraining order. Sorry ‘bout that. I’m better now. Promise–that’s what this post is about actually.
I’ve learned to love with no expectation of anything in return. Not a “Me too,” not a nod, not a promise, nothing in return. But loving someone simply because it feels good. Because he’s a good man. Because it’s a good thing. There is so much joy in just loving unabashedly. Your heart actually expands. And then your world expands. True story.
Am I risking? Hells yes! But a reply or nod or promise of the same isn’t security or permanence or even necessarily true. I know who I am. Someone’s love does not define me. What does define me is the love I put out in the world. How I choose to interact with people and this world speaks to who I am. It no longer scares me, most of the time. (Alright, 51% of the time–which is technically most of the time). And now I choose to interact in this world by sprinkling my love all over like fairy dust. Or like Johnny Appleseed. Only sparklier, and no flannel. Nor apples.
It makes me a better person (all the time), and it makes the world a better place. It teaches me to be patient and giving and strong and brave and gracious. It teaches me to be forgiving and kind. In a selfish way, loving freely for the sake of loving gives me the better part of the deal. I like who I am this way. I am so grateful to feel such joy and happiness and love. Such unconditional love feels fantastic to give, to feel.
Let me be clear that I’m not advocating for excusing bad behavior or accepting disrespectful interactions in relationships. It goes without saying there needs to be a baseline of mutual respect. And offering unconditional love and kindness begets love and kindness. My kids know it’s hard to be mad at someone when you are holding his hand.
I’m not just talking about only a romantic love either. I mean sprinkling forgiveness and kindness and love to everyone without the expectation of anything in return. Try it sometime–it throws people off guard, which is always worth a chuckle. But then it softens them–and you too. It makes them lighter, breezier, smiley-er–and you too. It makes your relationships easier. It makes people feel better–they can sense your unconditional kindness. Give of yourself because it feels good, because we’re all deserving of love, because well, why not?
And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth,
“You owe me.”
Look what happens with love like that.
It lights up the sky.