Monday, June 25, 2007

Limits to Unconditional Love...

This morning, I've been thinking about unconditional love. There are two news stories that triggered this off.

Bobby Cutts, a married police officer, killed his pregnant girlfriend. A high school friend, Myisha Ferrell, may have helped him dispose of the body ~ or at the minimum, helped him to cover up the crime.

In the later years of my generation, some group of academics came up with the idea that we should all love each other unconditionally. No matter what the behavior, we should stand by our friends and our families.

No limits.

Personally, I've never bought into the concept of unconditional love. I believe behavior has a lot to do with my feelings about someone. Maybe I'm just missing something, but if you kill your girlfriend, you're on your own. I will not help you dispose of the body and I will not help you cover it up, even if I think you are the nicest person I've ever met. Even if you tell me it was an accident and you didn't mean to do it. You do it. You own it.

Paris Hilton's parents are planning a big party for her when she is released from jail today or tomorrow. Kathy Hilton still claims that Paris' jail term was "unfair".

While I think it's obvious that her parents are trying to make money off of her, I can't help but wonder how that girl was raised. Was she constantly told "you're special", "everything you do is okay", "we will stand by you, no matter what you do"? It seems a significant part of responsible parenting is to teach kids that there are limits to their behavior, that they are not "special", that we all have to meet certain standards of behavior to have harmony in our lives.

I don't understand the whole "unconditional love" thing. What's that all about? In your opinion, is there such a thing? What would you do if confronted with either one of these situations, opposite ends of the continuum, but under the same umbrella?




Tabba said...

"Love the sinner, hate the sin" comes to mind.
In my warped little mind, the only time I can think of unconditional love is when it comes to my kids.
For, if they committed a horrendous act, I think I would still love them.
That doesn't mean I would enable them or not allow them to face their responsibilities.
That being said, if Rav decided one day that he wanted to commit a horrendous act, I think I would have to leave - to protect my kids - and let his chips fall where they may.
Why is it different for my kids & not for Rav? I don't know.
And in my heart of hearts, maybe I would still love Rav. But I would be completely uninterested in the sketchy behavior.
I'd have to resort to complete self-preservation.

I know that I try to teach my kids they are special in terms of their talents, their gifts, their intellect....not in the terms of rules not applying to them.
That is not productive parenting, in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Chani, I have been struggling with this one for a while because it means I have to figure out something new as an explanation for my low self-esteem.

I have a lot of trouble understanding my reaction to my mother/parents being judgmental. I kept coming back to the fact that my mother told me there is no unconditional love. But as a parent, I don't feel that there is unconditional love. I agree with you - behavior counts.

Like Tabba said, though, I realize that my parents still loved me, even though they didn't love what I did. And I don't think I am/was such a terrible person.

Anonymous said...

To answer your questions - I don't think Paris Hilton's family has done their job. they certainly should not be having a party. But I don't understand anything about them, really.

The other case - at the very least, it was weak of the friend to help him.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Tabba said pretty much what I was thinking. I am incapable of imagining not loving my children, but I would not encourage them to evade responsibility for themselves. I also agree with her definition of "special" which has nothing to do with skating and getting away with bad acts, but only with being unique in their particular gifts of personality and spirit.

Paris Hilton has never been taught right from wrong, or that she is not above the laws that govern other people's behaviors.

The guy who killed his girlfriend and the friend who helped him are so despicable that I am fairly speechless. It sounds like Dreiser's An American Tragedy, replayed, without the canoe.

If my friends screw up badly enough, I really can't be their friend anymore. So I guess I am also lacking in that unconditional love that is so esteemed by New Agers.

Love is not an involuntary instinct. It must be earned, except for ones children.

Anvilcloud said...

I agree. Unconditional love does not necessarily equate with unconditional approval.

Hel said...

For me unconditional love is loving someone no matter what they do. Not allowing them to do just what they want.

One of the most selfless acts of unconditional love my parents ever showed me was having me committed (against my will) to a state rehabilitation center. It scared the hell out of them leaving me there. Yet they did it because they loved me too much to see me destroy myself.

And despite me shouting that I never wanted to see them again they made the effort (including a two hour drive) to come and visit me every Sunday for the next four month.

And never once did they blame me for it later.

That is unconditional love.

Christine said...

Tabba and heartsinsf pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. I will always love my kids even if they do something horrendous. But I hope to god that I am raising them to NOT to something horrible. And while I will always love them, I wouldn't love their horrible acts; as Tabba said "love the sinner. . .."

I can't help but think that Paris was constantly told that she is above others and the law. That is just poor parenting. In a way i feel sorry for her, because this has probably been so ingrained in her head.

As for the murder--sickening. I am betting his parents still love him, though. THis parent love is always there. Just doesn't mean we have to condone or enable the horrendous acts or even defend them.

I believe this to be a truth: We always love our kids more than our parents.

Snoskred said...

I dropped by but can't think of a comment - I'm blank! ;)

If I never heard the name Paris Hilton again, I'd be happy, though..

Snoskred said...

Oops, I meant to say - hasn't it been nice these past few days without pictures of her everywhere and her name being mentioned much by the media? :)

slouching mom said...

I'm a little surprised to hear a lot of you saying that the love of a parent for a child is always unconditional.

I'll play devil's advocate, because I was a Philosophy major, and that's what we do. ;) What if you had two children, and one killed the other? (This, of course, has happened. What has NOT happened in human history?) Do you still unconditionally love the child who killed your child?

I wonder. Forgiveness, I can see...

(Sorry for the gruesome example; it is, of course, the limit.)

Lee said...

I was totally with the other moms who commented on the unconditional love of one's children, but then I got to Slouching Mom's comment and I had to sit back and reevaluate.

Now I don't know. What if your child were Hitler? What if your child was Jeffery Dahmer? What if your child abused you or your spouse?

I guess a corner of a parent's heart would always be saved for the innocent child, but loving a child who turns out evil...I dunno.

Thanks for some good perspective Slouching Mom!

Julie Pippert said...

I haven't read the other comments yet...and maybe I am a cynic, but...

No, I don't believe in unconditional love.

There are, perhaps, undamaged (enough) people in the world who are capable of something approximating this.

But not the average joe, and I'm not even sure it's a goal worth aspiring to, exactly.

I can't explain it but the concept of it that I've heard about sort of smells a little bit like The Secret to me.

First, love is dynamic, not static. We change, others change, situations change.

Second, those in your life that you are expected to love unconditionally are generally not people you chose.

I'll go out on a limb and say that I know for a fact I can simply stop loving a person when it hits a limit for me.

As far as my children go, well, they are very small. I care for them, even though I might grind my teeth in frustration. I use patience with them, even though I might be ready to shriek at a pitch only dogs can hear. I provide for them, even though sometimes it means compromise and difficulty. I do my best to raise them into Good People, not just because I love them but because I also love the world.

I call this love.

But I have a hard time imagining it comes with no conditions whatsoever.

This far, my conditions have been when you have so harmed me or another that You are intolerable.

As far as She Who Shall Never Again be Named Out Loud (LOL wink)...

My generation (X) seems to have been raised by the Enabler Generation. Free to be you and me sort of lost its boundaries of reasonablesness.

Other parents have wondered why the Xers---such cool youths---morphed into such uptight parents.

We're just trying to create limits, I think.

Regardless of generation though, there have always been and will always be those who believe themselves So Fucking Special as to be the Exception to whatever rules govern the rest of us in the unwashed masses.

Pardon my english.

QT said...

Chani - my mother has always told me that no matter what I have done in life, she will still love me because I am her child. This does not mean she will support my bad decisions or help me evade justice, so I guess it is not "unconditional" in that sense. Even if I was in jail, she has said that she will love me. I am not a mother, but I think that is part of the package for many mothers.

Christine said...

Julie, sm--i see what your saying, but sibling murder? That is an extreme indeed. The Secret? i have serious problems with the Secret and do not believe that my unconditional love for my kids is comparable to that philosophy. All i know is I love my kids with my whole being. I cannot imagine not loving them. I CAN imagine not liking them. Or hating what kind of person they have become or the actions they have taken. But that won't change that ache of love deep in my soul. I do believe there might be a point where i could shut them from my life for horrible acts. But not love them? I doubt it.

Love doesn't just have to be about being all happy go lucky I'm ok you're ok. Sometime it is just there, despite the actions of the loved one. Have none of us never loved a horrible man who treated us poorly? Have not abused children opened their hearts to their abusers? Yeah, i know these kinds of relationships are abou esteem and limited experience, etc., etc. But love is there even if it is in its ugliest form. And I do beleive love CAN be ugly. Very.

Love is complicated and painful, but I do believe when it comes to my kids it is unconditional. Period.

Christine said...

I know you are sick of me but. . .

I do not believe that all mothers love their children upon birth. In fact not all mothers love their kids at all. I do not want to imply that maternal love is innate, because i do not believe that is true at all

(I know a topic for another time)

I can only speak for myself and my love for my kids. I do not assume to speak for other mothers or parents.

flutter said...

No love is unconditional. There are conditions, circumstances, actions, and ifs that can taint a love beyond repair. Or at the very least, change it into something very different. There are things that can occur that shouldn't be forgiven and that should not be loved through and love, be it a strong and beautiful thing, is also contingent upon many many things. Motives are not among the least....

Gwen said...

What's up with all these pg women and mothers being murdered by partners this week? It's almost unimaginable!

As far as "Rhymes with Ferris Milton," I think her parents' behavior in this current situation goes a long way towards explaining what exactly is up with her.

I'm with the mothers who say they will love their kids no matter what but who also say that doesn't sanction just any behavior. Isn't that why that other group of academics coined the term "tough love?"

Cecilieaux said...

Of course I "believe" in unconditional love as a theoretical possibility. Not that it's common. The lack of conditions does not mean that one abandons all sense of ethics. Friends don't let friends vote Republican, for example, let alone murder someone (hmm ... is there a difference between being republican and being a murderer? how many angels can dance ... ?)

ellie bee said...

I think that basically where we get it wrong is that we confuse "unconditional love" with "unconditional acceptance of whatever behavior you want to dish out." Love is not necessarily approval. When my kids misbehave and I have to discipline them--hell yeah, it hurts me too! But, my unconditional love for them does not give them a free ticket to be asses. And they are happy and secure knowing that although they are going to screw up sometimes (God knows, we all do--myself included), and they are going to suffer the consequences, I am going to love them anyway--even while I'm grounding them.

KC said...

I do believe unconditional love exists. It's the love that grows from the purest of loves. I think this is more a reflection of the lover than the exact nature of the loved. How able are we to give freely.

meno said...

I love my daughter unconditionally, but that does not mean that i would help her dispose of the body. No way, no how.

That probably doesn't answer your question though. :)

MsLittlePea said...

This was very interesting. I'm so with ellie bee on this one. I do think unconditional love is possible. I always knew, no matter what, that my grandparents would always love me. That doesn't mean that they would approve of everything I did or help me cover up a crime I may have committed but that love would always be there.

Paris Hilton's parents- or any parent who raises their children on the "you can do anything because you're rich/famous/beautiful and no one will punish you" method, do a huge disservice to the child and to society. I'm still trying to understand Bobby Cutts and Myisha Ferrell, there's just no way I could ever help someone who's taken another person's(and a baby's) life.

patches said...

I guess it depends upon whether or not unconditional love is an umbrella policy that includes aiding and abetting.

I tend to agree with Tabba and Anvilcloud

jen said...

i think (and these are fantastic comments by the way) that i am along the lines of what Hel said.

But as Meno said, I'd not hide the body. But I'd still love. Or at least I hope that to be true in my heart.

Anonymous said...

You know all those awful stories in the news? I think they are better off being ignored and us concentrating on the positives in our lives. We can't help those that are killed...and by focusing on and talking about and fussing over stuff like that -- we are keeping it going all the more.I hightly recommend ignoring it all for a few weeks. I think you'll see a big difference in the way you feel and the way you see things. Tessa B.

Carla said...

Another very interesting post. I think loving someone doesn't absolve them from the consequences of their actions. And it doesn't mean helping them with their crimes. For me, love does not mean blindly doing what the other wants in any circumstances. Paris needs to grow up. I wish the media would stop giving her so much attention. That kind of behavior is not news worthy.

Pam said...

I'm with Tabba and the rest on this one. Unconditional love happens, especially with children, but unconditional acceptance is another matter.

As for the man who murdered his pregnant girlfriend and his accomplice, it sickens me. Heart breaking story.

Julie Pippert said...

Christine, I'm not questioning how you feel inside yourself about your kids.

I'm saying how I feel.

As I wrote, what I call simply love, period, might be what you call unconditional.

I don't use the word love lightly.

Also, more importantly, I think (general) you need to see and learn about healthy love in order to get anywhere approximating that. That's fairly rare, I think, and not a large part of my own personal history.

My comparison to the Secret is to say simply that I think many people take the concept of unconditional love and misapply it, such as in the case of someone helping someone cover up a murder, or accepting abuse because you are supposed to love someone unconditionally.

I'm not saying if you say you love your children unconditionally YOU are misapplying or acting like the Secret.

I'm saying sometimes the idea makes me worry because I have seen and heard it abused too many times.

Just to clarify.

For me, as I said, it is complicated.

Christine said...

Sorry Julie. I misunderstood. your points are well taken.


Bob said...

When I think of unconditional love, I think of my kids. I wouldn't help them commit - or cover up - a capital crime, but I don't think I could stop loving them if they were to do so. I don't know how I would feel if they were to do something so foreign to my sensibilities.

If my wife turned out to be a serial killer, I don't know if I would be able to keep loving her - she would be a different person than I fell in love with.

mitzh said...

I agree unconditional love should have its limit. It shouldn't be blind nor selfish.

The Hilton family seems to crave for too much attention that they'll do anything or use anyone (even each other) just to get it.

About the guy who murdered her pregnant GF and his accomplice, well it's another one of those news that makes me sad.

Love should be beautiful, it should make us a better person and this world a better place. But it seems that people nowadays are seeing love in a different way..

Suzy said...

Wow, I step away from the computer for 12 hours (a woman's gotta sleep, y'know) and there are 31 amazing comments about something very provocative ...

The friend helping the guy murder his pregnant girlfriend has NOTHING to do with love. Hell, the pregnancy probably had nothing to do with love. It sounds like it had a lot to do with the ABSENCE of love.

And I've tried very hard not to read about Paris Hilton ... just another poor little rich girl. It looks from an outsider's perspective like children of the rich & famous, while they are probably loved are also treated as accessories, much like a Gucci handbag or Prada shoes. Sporadically loved? Love measured in the amount of STUFF you give your kid?

I love my own children beyond measure. I tend to apply the term "unconditional love" to situations such as this: I will not withdraw my love if you don't clean your room, don't get an A in school, tell me a lie about where you've been, etc. etc.

Cold blooded murder pushes it into a different category, but as one commenter pointed out (sorry -- I'm too lazy to scroll back up) as a parent you hope that you've brought them up in such a way that they won't BE murderers or accessories to capital crimes.

As to the questions raised by Slouching Mom and Lee, if your child grew into an Adolf Hitler or a Jeffrey Dahmer ... I suspect there were some screwy things going on in their childhoods that didn't resemble love at all.

I see unconditional love as a blueprint for successful parenting, a good place to start, but there is a lot more to it than that. It's a hard job, you're constantly second guessing and fine tuning (at least I am) but if, at the end of the day I can look at my kids and say "I really like this person, I want to spend time with them" then I figure I'm on the right path.

Incidentally, I really dislike the concept of "Love the sinner, hate the sin" because it is so often applied to sexual orientation. and I just so dislike the whole moral overlay of "sin."

Tabba said...

After reading slouching mom's comment, I got to thinking about the other end of the spectrum.

What about unconditional love from child to parent? What about the child who is abused vs. the child who is not abused?

I'm also reminded of a story I heard during the aftermath of the Tsunami....a mother was in the water. Holding both of her children. A 6 year old in one arm. her infant in the other. And she couldn't hold on to both anymore. She let the older one go. come to find out, he was rescued and brought back to her safely.
How does that fit in here? Or doesn't it?

As far as "Love the sinner, hate the sin"...I don't consider myself over religous, but that's what came to mind. I guess I was trying to say what others said so well....there is unconditional love just not always unconditional acceptance of behavior.

Emily said...

I love my kids unconditionally, which is why I make sure they know their actions have consequences. The bigger one will listen next time I tell him if he keeps whining about his chocolate ice cream, we are leaving the restaurant. I bet Paris's parents never did that.

ewe are here said...

I wonder about unconditional love myself sometimes. I love love love my wee ones unconditionally. Absolutely, I do.

But I wonder, in the back of my head sometimes: could this change? What if one of them hurt the other one? What if they hurt us? How would I feel about them?

Questions that will never come into play in my lifetime I hope...

Lex said...

Interesting question. I think I believe in unconditional love, but I don't think everyone should get it from me.

To me, unconditional love means that if I care about you, I will continue to care about you, even when you do something awful. It doesn't mean that I will support those awful decisions or encourage or condone awful behavior, though. I think that loving someone unconditionally means telling them the truth, regardless of the circumstances, and that means, at times, having to say, "No, you are dead wrong."

I believe leaving my husband was the most loving of my options.