1. Love yourself unconditionally. Unconditional love starts at home, with oneself. You know your own flaws and shortcomings better than anyone else, and better than you can ever know anyone else’s. Being able to love yourself despite this unsurpassable awareness of your own faults puts you in the position to be able to offer the same to others.
You must be able to recognize, accept, and forgive your own imperfections in order to do the same for someone else. If you cannot deem yourself worthy of being loved unconditionally, you’ll never truly be able to deem yourself worthy of offering it.
2. Make the loving choice. Always ask yourself, “What is the most loving thing I can do for this particular person in this particular moment?”. Love isn't one size fits all; what might be a loving act toward one person could be harmful to another person, in that it doesn't help them get closer to becoming a truly happy human being.
Unconditional love is a new decision you need to make in every situation, not a hard and fast rule you can apply to everyone all the time.
For instance, if you have two friends dealing with the loss of a loved one, being the shoulder to cry on and engaging in long talks may be the loving choice for one, while granting some distance and silence may be so for the other.
If you aren't sure what is the best way to help someone, you can ask them "How can I help you with this right now?"
3. Forgive those you love. Even if someone doesn't apologize, it's inherently loving to both them and yourself to let go of your anger and resentment toward them. Keep in mind Piero Ferrucci's advice that forgiving "is not something we do, but something we are."
In religious terms, you’ll hear the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Loving someone unconditionally does not mean liking every action they take or choice they make; it means not letting such things interfere with your desire for the best for that person in all things.
If someone you love says something hurtful in anger, the loving choice is usually to let them know those words hurt you, but also to forgive their indiscretion. Help them to grow and yet know that they are loved.
But don't mistake being willing to forgive for letting people walk all over you. Extricating yourself from an environment in which you are repeatedly mistreated or taken advantage of can be a loving choice for both yourself and the other person.
4. Don’t expect to shield someone you love from all discomfort and pain. Part of loving someone is fostering their growth as a person, and pain and discomfort are an inescapable part of growth in this life. Unconditional love means doing what you can to make the other person happy and comfortable, but also helping them grow through their inevitable experiences of discomfort.
Don’t lie to “protect” the feelings of someone you love; support them in dealing with their feelings in the face of pain.
For example, lying about a dire financial situation to spare pain is likely to foster more pain and distrust in the long run. Instead, be honest, supportive, and eager to work together to find solutions.
5. Love more by “caring” less. Wait, isn’t caring what love is all about? Yes, you want to “care” for a person in the sense that you strive for their well-being and happiness. You don’t want to “care” in the sense that your love is predicated on specific outcomes, which by definition is conditional.
So, not “I don’t care what you decide [because your well-being is irrelevant to me];” but instead “I don’t care what you decide [because I just love you regardless of your choices and actions].”
You don’t love in return for actions that make you happy; you derive happiness from the act of loving unconditionally.
6. Accept yourself and those you love as is. You are far from perfect, and yet you are perfectly capable of offering love; they are likewise imperfect, but worthy of being offered love.
Unconditional love is about acceptance—about not expecting others to make you happy through their choices and how they live. You can’t control others, only yourself.
Your brother may be notorious for his bad choices, but that should have no bearing upon your love for him. Don't love because of how someone lives, but simply because they live.
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