The Gift of Unconditional Love
by Larisa Stow
I have a friend who recently and abruptly cut off all communication with me. We had been close friends since college. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, she and I have always had very different ways of perceiving the world, but we valued our friendship. And because of that, we were committed to navigating through different perceptions and misunderstandings.
At least that’s what I had thought. In retrospect, I realize that I had never fully put that belief to the test. You see, I had not always been completely honest with her about how her communication style affected me – and I was afraid that if I disagreed with her, she might not want to be my friend.
But just as a caterpillar is destined to evolve into a butterfly, I could not stop the shift that was taking place within me. Anais Nin wrote, “…and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” It is indeed true that the day came when I knew I could no longer hold myself back from sharing my thoughts and feelings – even if it meant that she (and others in our circle that I love dearly) would either fall away, or go running as fast as they could, away from me. But the honest expression of my feelings had become a non-negotiable step in accessing my true self and authentic voice.
In a perfect world, friends are able to disagree without feeling estranged and annihilated by one another. We are able to give and receive critical feedback while still loving and feeling loved by one another. But as we are “perfectly imperfect”, this lofty ideal can often be outrageously challenging to put into practice. When I allow others the space to share with me those places where I am falling short in their eyes, where I am not living up to their expectations, it is a real ego-buster – it is outrageously painful. It takes every strength I’ve got to sit there, calm and receptive, in the searing inferno of those reflections. And yet, while it has been the hardest test of friendship to receive such “constructive criticisms”, I have come to see that it is through these reflections from my community that I am able to see more of my own blind spots and grow exponentially into the person I aspire to be. Friendship in its highest expression strives to be unconditional; to love, to listen, and to receive each others’ personal truth – even when it does not match our own. (This ideal runs counter to our societal programming which teaches us that we will only be received and accepted if we behave within certain sets of conditions.) It is the greatest gift we can give to our beloveds: to hold a mirror and reflect back love; to see their highest even when it feels beyond our capacity to do so. If we can stand in the fire of not being seen and understood, and still feel love for ourselves and our friend, we begin to see the highest in ourselves and the world around us.
Another dear friend of mine called me on my birthday. As we tuned in with each other, I asked her about her life. She shared about how a friend is always angry with her, and she questioned as to whether or not she should end the relationship. I asked her, “are you able to remain neutral and stay in your heart when this person confronts you?” She laughed and said, “not always.” “If not,” I responded, “then this friendship is giving you the opportunity to hone your Jedi training.” What better opportunity do we have to strengthen our capacity to LOVE, than those instances when we are confronted by what appears to be the opposite?
My heart aches and strives to become a person who is able to be unconditional love and compassion for those around me — whether or not I agree with their behavior, or what they are saying to me, or about me. If I can do that, then I can truly begin to call myself a “Peace Maker.” Until then, I have to thank my friends for giving me lots of opportunities to practice my peace-making skills. And while those moments can seem almost impossible to face, I am humbled when I reflect on how my own opportunities to practice unconditional love pale in comparison to what so many humans have had to face in their lifetime. I just read an article about a woman who not only forgave her child’s murderer, but has unofficially adopted him, living next door, after his release from prison. She is a unique and laudable example of a true “Peace Maker” who demonstrates the highest ideal of humanity’s capacity to love unconditionally.
As for my friend who cut me out of her life, I still dream of her on an almost nightly basis. Most nights are the same. I reach towards her in love, cautiously at first, waiting till I feel an openness. Then it happens, our hearts soften, and a divine energy surrounds us, as we remember how much we love one another. An air of forgiveness rushes in and our vibration lifts. The world fills with light as we do. Upon awakening, I recognize that while our relationship is estranged in the physical world, I am working in my inner realm to love her no matter what, even as that love is not reciprocated. And in loving her unconditionally, I find that I am learning to love myself more.
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Larisa Stow is the lead singer/songwriter of Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe at www.larisastow.com and is a Transformational Life Coach specializing in extreme thought makeovers and personality-soul alignment. If you are ready to raise your vibration, you can visit www.larisastowcoaching.com to learn more about one-on-one coaching and playshops.