July 30
Few perfectionists can tell the difference between love and approval.  Perfectionism is so widespread in this culture that we actually have had to invent another word for love.  "Unconditional love," we say.  Yet, all love is unconditional.  Anything else is just approval.

Rachel Naomi Remen


Today's Meditation:

Thank you, Rachel, for saying something that needs to be said, again and again and again.  All true love is unconditional.  Anything else is not love, but needs to have another name.  "Unconditional love"?  What can that possibly be?  Can we actually qualify love?  And if we do, are we doing so accurately?  Love, we know is simply love, and the idea of giving it any other name seems more like an effort for us to justify not loving some people while loving others.

Her focus on perfectionism in relation to love is interesting.  Perfectionism is a disorder that makes people so tied to outcomes that they have to try to control all of the processes that lead to the outcomes.  In relationships, a perfectionist will try to get the other person to do things in certain ways, to talk in certain ways, to act in certain ways.  And the message that the perfectionist sends is, "I'll love you as long as you do things right."  In other words, "As long as I approve of all that you do, we'll be okay."

Looking at life this way can keep us from getting all that we can out of our experiences here.  Expecting people to be certain things and to act in certain ways keeps us from getting to know those people as they are, as opposed to how we want them to be.  And if someone we love wants us to be certain ways, and rejects us if we don't live up to those expectations, then we have to realize that that person was willing to share approval, but not necessarily love.

I don't want to give approval dressed up as love.  I want to share love with my fellow human beings.  And while approval can do a lot for some people in some situations, it certainly is no substitute for love.  And the term "unconditional love" really doesn't make sense when we think about it, does it?

Questions to consider:

What to you is the difference between "love" and "unconditional love"?

Why might we have stopped sharing unconditional love with the other human beings who are part of our lives?

What are some of the main characteristics of perfectionists?  Do any of those characteristics fit you?

For further thought:
The beginning of love is to let those we love
be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them
to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only
the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

Thomas Merton


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