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Learning How to Love Unconditionally

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“The most important thing in this world is to learn to give out love, and let it come in.” ~Morrie Schwartz

Love is a strange and beautiful thing.

I always thought I knew what love meant. I grew up hearing the words all the time. It was on TV, in books and magazines, and people all around were saying it.

I thought I knew how to love. I mean, I told my teddy bear that I loved him because he kept me safe at night. I told my sister that I loved her, only if she was nice to me and would play the games that I wanted.

But if I didn’t get that new limited edition beanie baby, I felt differently for my parents. If my friends at school didn’t give me the birthday presents I wanted, I felt differently for them.

I seemed to only love the people and things that would give me something in return and that would allow life to go on the way that I wanted it to.

I never truly felt love, a love that was unconditional and all encompassing, until the day I first saw my dad cry.

My friends always tell me that my father is the happiest man that they’ve ever met. He greets everyone with open arms, and his smile is so big you can practically count all of his teeth.

The other day I came home, and my dad looked sullen, the smile usually spread across his face missing. He looked into my eyes and just collapsed into my arms, sobbing.

I could feel his sadness before I even heard the tears, from the way he put his entire body weight on me as if he needed help just standing, and the way he gripped me so tight like a child does with his mom on the first day of school.

My sister had just made a rash career decision that would leave her in a large amount of debt and temporarily unemployed. And my dad just didn’t have the money that she needed to help her out of her situation.

Growing up, my dad always told us that his one purpose in life was to give us the life that he never had. And in his eyes, at that moment, he had failed.

You see, my parents are first generation immigrants from Vietnam. They come from impoverished families, both with more than 10 siblings each. Their journey to America is almost like a fictional tale to me, something that they rarely talk about, with my dad escaping first, then my mom, aunt, and sister, who almost didn’t even make it out alive.

At first, the American Dream wasn’t all that it was made out to be. Yes, freedom rang, but so did the challenge of learning a new language, a new culture, a new way of making money and supporting a family.

But somehow, they did it. They raised my older sister and put her through college. They raised my aunt, and put her through college. They raised my twin sister and me, and put us through college. And in the midst of all that, they found a way to sponsor all of their own siblings to emigrate to the land of the free.

It didn’t come easy though.

They accomplished all of this, even if it meant working two (at times three) jobs. Even if it meant scrubbing floors, toilets, hospitals, classrooms. Even if it meant working all day and night and surviving on only two hours of sleep.

Even if it meant tears and days where we all just cried ourselves to sleep.

Growing up, my dad gave me everything I wanted. He let me play sports, bought me nice clothes and toys, a new car—even if he had to sneak by my mother so that she wouldn’t get upset about how much he was spoiling me.

But at the same time, my dad expected straight As, and to succeed and excel in everything that I did. At times I would get so mad at him and scream and complain about why he made me study so much when all of my friends were out having fun. His reply was always, “So you don’t ever have to live a hard life like us.”

I always wondered how my dad made it, how he and my mom brought up three successful children and stayed together through it all.

This year, my parents will have been married for 35 years, and to say they’ve been through a lot is an understatement. They made sacrifices that threatened their relationship with each other, with their brothers and sisters, and even their own parents—all for us.

There is never a day that goes by where my dad doesn’t tell me “I love you” before going to bed. It’s with this unconditional love that keeps him going strong, and that keeps him smiling every day no matter how tough things can be.

I was blind to this until that day I saw my dad at his most vulnerable point. Looking at him, bent over in my arms like a little child, I realized that unconditional love does not come easy; it is something learned and practiced.

It is through the toughest times, the happiest times, and every single obstacle of life that you can discover new ways of loving.

I did that day as I held my daddy, my hero, in my arms. I discovered just how to finally let the love come in that my dad had been giving me for 22 years, and not question or find a reason for it.

My dad has taught me that to love unconditionally is to love with absolutely no boundaries. Even when it hurts, his love is never failing; it stays limitless, never changing.

There are times in our lives when loving someone else seems nearly impossible because of the difficult situations that we find ourselves in. There are times when we say harsh things to people we love just because things aren’t going our way, or because they made us unhappy.

In these situations, we find ourselves putting provisions on love. We attach it to how others are acting, and whether they reciprocate the feelings we give to them. We attach it to the circumstances and emotions that go on in a single moment.

We find ourselves holding back, fearful of being hurt, afraid to sacrifice a piece of ourselves. But what if we looked beyond all this and just loved?

Love because you’re grateful for the things someone has done for you. Love because someone needs you, needs a friend to lean on during their struggles. Love even when it is difficult, even when your mind tells you that you shouldn’t.

Love by looking beyond people’s faults, struggles, and whatever pain and hardships that life may bring. 

This unconditional love is something that can so easily be given if we recognize it, and that can change someone else’s life completely.

When we love and treat each other with the utmost care and attention, the little things that bother us seem far less overwhelming.

What would the world be like if we stopped looking to get something in return, and just loved unconditionally, for the happiness and inner peace it brings us all?

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Avatar of KC Dang

About KC Dang

KC has a passion for traveling and loves spending time outdoors, practicing yoga, and making people smile.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://www.facebook.com/baid.punit Punit Baid

    great post on unconditional love,its rare that we love someone truly,world will surely be great

    if we lower our expectation and love unconditionally

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    I completely agree with this line – Love by looking beyond people’s faults, struggles, and whatever pain and hardships that life may bring. But have to admit it’s harder said that done:) Looking beyond those things in people close to us, especially family, can be a challenge. Your Dad is a perfect example of unconditional love.

  • Chelle aka Writer Yogi

    I actually wrote and contemplated this myself. Love is something we are beginning to section off as “family love” or “friend love” etc. We should love Everyone. Not everyone Except for… I have come to find that loves major definition is acceptance. Compelte acceptance. When you love the person faults and all. Some people may think, just because you love someone means you are In love with them. That isnt true! Love is respecting others and accepting how they are whether you like it or not because we all move in the world and are affected differently. Namaste 

  • http://twitter.com/shannon_anicas Shannon Anicas

    Thank you for the beautiful post. It came when I needed to hear it most. I am struggling with so many things in my relationship with my boyfriend that I am losing site of why I loved him in the first place. I am letting the little things get in the way of the unconditional love we have. I should be understanding of things and not throwing a fit because they arent going the way i thik they should. THank you for reminding me of this.

  • Anna Hengartner

    Absolutely amazing article! :-)

  • LG

    Thank you for writing this article, it’s beautiful :) I’ve been trying to love unconditionally for a long time, trying to overlook things and ignore things. you’ve given me a new insight to “unconditional”. Concentrate on the good things and accept the bad but always love. Thank you :) 

  • Psanhez1085

    I agree with u. Maybe we put expections on us rather on other, it might be easier to love the unconditionally. Not easy task but nonetheless but sure will make us happier

  • http://twitter.com/jessicadally jessicadally

    I think there’s a very big difference between love and codependence.  If you love someone without boundaries that means they can beat you, treat you horribly and abuse you.  That’s not love and it’s not loving of yourself to allow that.  Having good boundaries doesn’t mean you constantly judge people when they fail, it’s that you know that these failures are simply human and not a big deal because you determine how and if they affect you.

    I have no desire to have someone love me unconditionally.  I want them to hold me to standards of acceptable behavior and forgive me when I occasionally fail.  Anything else means they need me, not that they actually love me because if you don’t love yourself (by having boundaries) you can’t possibly love anyone else.  Just my 2 cents.

  • Breebarton

    Made me cry. Just what I needed to read today. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

  • Lv2terp

    Fantastic blog…Thank you!!! :)  I am still on my journey to figure out how to accomplish unconditional love, I appreciated you sharing your story and great reminders of what unconditional love means! :)

  • Breeze1770

    Loving unconditionally does not include accepting negative, destructive or otherwise abusive behavior. It does not remove accountability for actions any more than having good boundaries means you truly love your self.

    Loving unconditionally does not mean you must ignore things you don’t like in order to love.
    Neither does it mean you must feel guilty for not loving.
    It is not bound to fleeting emotion like Romantic love, nor is it bound to wounded ego like co-dependency. Unconditional Love is not a reward to be earned or a privilege to be withheld. It  is not a bargaining chip or a power trip. It’s not despite anger, abuse or neglect. It’s not because of obligation, or guilt, or shame.

    Unconditional love just IS.
    When you have it for others, it allows you to accept them as they are, even if it means you don’t like the things they do. It lets love them without the conditions that say they will only receive love if they are “worth it”. When you have it for yourself, it allows you to accept yourself as YOU are, even if it means you don’t like the things YOU do. It lets you love YOURSELF without conditions that say you will only receive love if YOU are “worth it”.

  • Robcat

    Inspiring, honest and well written!
    Thank you for sharing your story with us all.

  • Rose Eliff

    What a great story, KC! You seem to have an amazing family and truly wonderful parents. And you’ve presented good things to consider in our own lives, too. Not “I’ll love you if …” but “I’ll love …”: simple as that. I recently wrote a post about my Dad who is no longer speaking to his children since his wife passed. Nonetheless, I will continue to love him. I don’t need him to love me in order for me to love him. I’ll love …

  • Jada Pearman

    Absolutely beautiful . This touched my soul .

  • jessica

    This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  • Alyne

    Thank you for sharing this. It sure brought tears to my eyes. It’s really touching!

  • Tunsia Jolyn

    Thank you for writing this. Beautiful story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christineepiphany Christine Long

    Very beautiful post~ thank you so much for sharing it!

  • gozde

    i loved it! thank you so much! sometimes i can forget!

  • Doan

    Thank you.

  • Robin

    I’m sorry, but sometimes it’s too much to love. My Mother was manipulative, dishonest, and not safe to love. She would take and take and demand until there was nothing left. Nothing left of me. Setting boundaries and limiting contact was required before love could even be thought of again.

  • Robin

    No. Love requires intimacy, love requires relationship. Loving everyone equals loving no one.

  • Mark Reuther

    What a great father you have. And what a nice article. But the title says “learning” how to love unconditionally. And I don’t see any advice about learning how to love. Of course, the way people learn how to love is by growing up in a loving family. But so many of us grow up in largely loveless families, and we never really learn how to give and receive love. It gets kind of tough once that window of opportunity is missed.

  • Raj Raj S

    great great great great and the greatest article..

  • Radhika

    Wow. Thank u for such a fantastic read. You are blessed :)

  • kavin paker

    You have an entertaining way of writing and yes I love the why, I usually ask ” What are you hear to teach me
    http://www.trypluebeck.com/

  • Kimberly

    My husband n I av lived together for 8yrs but with no kids, this caused frustration and my husband left me alone for another woman. I was so bitter,cried and Even tried to commit suicide, it was by this river bank while trying to get my self drowned that I met this man.I explained all my problems to him and he laughed and told me about Priest Andrew and said he can be of help, then he gave me his contact as ask me to contact him which i did and told him my situation and he assured me of a solution, and four days after i contacted him, my husband came back. Its 3weeks and 4days now my husband came back and am 2weeks pregnant. all thanks to priestandrew91@yahoo.com

  • tony

    In my opinion, nobody loves unconditionally. There is always at least a reason behind why they love. You could say ” If there is a reason why we love, it’s not love, it’s called ‘Like’.” We humans always except something in return (although it might not be too obvious).When a boy loves a girl , he may love her behaviour or may be her shape. Some people buy iphones because they love the brand. Parents love their children because the blood streaming in the children are their blood.How could a person love another without reason? Any idea?