Unconditional Love

Weekly column
A few days before Lent, I woke with a heaviness on my heart. I was concerned about a situation that had recently occurred and was wondering what to do.

I wasn’t involved in what took place, but a friend had asked for some advice. I was able to calmly listen, and then I tried to encourage and offer a little guidance.

But as the days went on, I found myself more and more annoyed. I was agitated at the wrongdoing, frustrated by the injustice in the situation. I wanted to deal with it, even if that meant just being rude to someone.

No matter how much I thought about the events (and of ways I could express my disapproval at what happened) I knew I had to let it go. This situation had nothing to do with me. I was not at liberty to address the issue – and more importantly, I had no right to treat the offending party with anything other than kindness.

What was required of me was hard to grasp and accept. It felt like an unfair challenge that I should have to continue to act not just civil towards this person, but to act with love.

As I lay in bed early that morning, I thought about how hard it can be to choose kindness. But even worse was the heavy feeling on my heart. I didn’t like living with this angst in my life and I knew the truth: the only way to get rid of the angst was to let go of my anger.

There are plenty of times when we need to address wrongdoing. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus tells the disciples that if someone wrongs you, to go to that person to deal with the issue. If that doesn’t work, you bring another person into the situation as a witness, to get a peaceful resolve.

But there are also situations when dealing with the problem is not the solution. If the problem is none of my business, I have no right to be involved. An unkind word spoken (but not to me), a mismanaged situation (not involving me) – these are unfortunate, but they are not for me to handle.

That morning, what I heard clearly was this: Perfect love casts out all fear.

Fear is what was driving my attitude, a desire to withhold kindness and love. I was afraid to be loving and kind because what if that person doesn’t deserve kindness? If I was nice to this person, he might be free to keep being mean. Didn’t I need to be rude?

Faulty reasoning at best.

Perfect love casts out all fear.

What is this perfect love, I asked. Immediately, I saw an image of the Sacred Heart – the bloodied, battered heart of Jesus, burning with love for me.

That was the kind of love I had to show everyone around me – even those I had not deemed worthy of my love. Maybe even especially those people.

So often when we are working extra hard to love someone, it’s because this person is difficult to love (even in some small way). Maybe it is someone who doesn’t receive love well or is prickly or maybe even just plain mean. The people who are easy to love don’t drive us to the feet of Jesus begging for mercy.

When I think about the heart of Jesus burning with love for me, I know that if he has that much love for me, surely I can spare even just a little for this person in my path.

Sometimes it is scary to love a person we think doesn’t deserve it. Sometimes the cost seems too high.

But when I remember this is the same love poured out for me every minute of my entire life, not just from family and friends, but from God, I realize I can somehow muster the strength to share this with others, even those who don’t receive it easily.

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  1. Keri Sullivan Ninness says:

    someone once gave me a card that said 'the people who are hardest to love are the people who most need our love.' This thought is helping me through a difficult lenten commitment (one inspired by you!) I can so relate to that fear-that someone will get my love when they don't deserve it. The thing is, I get love every day from Jesus, not deserving an ounce of it. Still a hard pill to swallow though 🙂

  2. You can't possibly know how badly I needed this!! Thank you so much for this post and so many others that help me remember who I am supposed to be in Christ-even when it seems impossible!

    AND by the way, you are no where near just a pregnancy blog-but I would probably still enjoy your blog just as much if you were.

    Thanks for always inspiring me to be better.

  3. Rachel this is a really really good one! Love this!

  4. I feel quite sure that we ALL have at least one person in our loves who is difficult to love. Thanks for this – what a great Lenten commitment.

  5. Whenever I am having "issues" with someone who is testing my limits I always go back to this truth: "to err is human, to forgive is Divine" . I cannot recall, for the life of me, who said this, but it has stuck with me, and always comes back every time I am struggling with forgiving. Only then did I understand that to be able to forgive is a grace from God. And so I pray for it, cause sometimes it just doesn't come easy. May you and your friend find peace in the middle of this situation.

  6. What a wonderful reminder, esp. during lent. Well put!
    I just hope I'm not the one that other people struggle to love, but I suspect some days I am! Thanks be to God for His mercy and the mercy of those around me!

  7. It is so true that those who are hard to love are the ones that need it the most. They are so hurt inside that they don't know how to be loving themselves. I usually look at situations like this as an oppurtunity to express the love that God has placed inside of me towards that person- to show them that there is natural good in the world because often they don't think it exists.

  8. Ecce Quam Bonam says:

    Really excellent piece. I'm glad this is getting a nice, wide readership, and it deserves an even bigger audience.

    I doubt what you received was gossip, but this understanding gives insight into the burden that gossip places on people, quite apart from the targets of its malice.

  9. This was beautiful. Thank you for your thoughts today. I'm going to be thinking about this for a long time.

  10. Stephanie says:

    It is difficult to give over to God that which disturbs our sense of peace, as if we could assuage the situation with our worry or anger or opinions. I have been on pins and needles concerning the motivation of a friend's career change. But, as Aslan says in A Horse and His Boy, it is not my story. So I must pray; however helpless I still feel, I MUST pray.