So I learned the fundamentals of unconditional love. I think.
I was at work one time and I’d done just about everything there was to do and had started most of the closing tasks, and then this huge line of customers came in out of nowhere. And my coworker got stuck out on the register with them. I felt like I was getting some sort of revenge, because that happens to me often and it’s the literal worst, because there is literally nothing to do when running register than to stand there awkwardly and watch people get their yogurt. And someone was finally feeling my pain. And sometimes while I was on register, I would look back in the kitchen and see a coworker on their phone, and then would have to listen to them talk about how they were bored, when they could have been cleaning things, or standing at the register and letting me clean things instead of being unproductive. And I would get angry and all.
So I got this idea the time my coworker was stuck on the register to pull my phone out and sit in the back and do nothing and hope they noticed. So everyone knew my pain. It was a legitimate plan. But I felt something really deep in me. Really clear, almost audible. It came full force, all at once. It was a question and it gripped me like nothing has in a while. “Would you do this if they hadn’t done it to you previously?”
Of course not.
“Then you’re loving conditionally.”
Oh. Holy crap.
Unconditional love involves giving of yourself, regardless of how that person has treated you in the past. It’s not an “if-then” deal. It’s loving that person just as if you have never been offended by them. It’s loving them through the things about them that you aren’t okay with. It’s loving them as Christ has loved you, with no intentions of settling the score and getting them back for what they’ve done. It’s being patient, kind, not envious or jealous, all that 1 Corinthians 13 stuff, without first seeking out a reason as to why they deserve it.
And it’s funny, because in 1 Corinthians 13, it is made clear that love “keeps no records of wrong”. So here’s the thing – if you’re keeping no record of wrong, as you are called to, since that is love and the greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40), it should be impossible to give someone a disadvantage due to their past when it comes to loving them. It should be impossible to love conditionally, if we are truly allowing God to fill us with the love that He has shown us.
And as the time went by after this happened at work, I started asking myself if I was loving everyone unconditionally. Like if I were to have an attitude with someone, I asked myself if I would have gotten that way had it been one of my friends that I was speaking with. Or, not even gonna lie, I got angry in the past few days with someone over a misunderstanding, and I prevented myself from having an attitude for no reason by asking myself if I would get an attitude with my new boss at my new job, who I am trying to impress as to have good standings and get what I want. And that made the situation unconditional. And also made me realize there wasn’t anything to be upset over in the first place and that my selfishness was blinding me. I need to treat everyone with respect and love, regardless of what it gets me in the end.
And that’s all love is, really. Learning not to be selfish. If you look at the list of things that love is in 1 Corinthians 13, they are mostly negatives. Love is not proud, love does not boast, it does not envy, it is not self-seeking. Because love is so opposed to our human nature that it requires us to deconstruct our instincts and to let go of our innate desire to provide for ourselves above others. And part of that means, to quote freaking Mark Twain, loving like you’ve never been hurt.
Again, this is on a minimal scale. We’re talking about using a phone at work to make someone understand how you feel. But this is a principle that I know is going to change the way I see relationships and the people around me. It’s gonna be one of those things I ask before I do anything to anyone, and one of those things that I will be continually shocked by when I realize my intentions.
I don’t know. It’s just a question to ask yourself. And it just goes to show how far away my heart is from the heart of God at times, yet how fervently He pursues me and seeks to transform me from the inside out.