Unconditional Love

S


ome time ago a mother shared her overwhelming experience in a Reader's Digest article. At the time she was involved in a church program when she was called to the telephone by her daughter, Katie, who was gasping for breath. "Mother, it's Katie. Come quickly. I've taken sleeping ... sleep ...."

There was a crash. Then silence.

The parents called for an ambulance and rushed Katie to the hospital. In torment they grappled with the question, "Why did she do it? She was always loving, popular, and intelligent. She was 'perfect' in every way," they said.

Fortunately Katie's parents got her to the hospital in time. But when she revived, she screamed out curses and vulgarity. In her anger she lashed out and punched an intern in the nose and bit a nurse on the wrist.

The doctor tried to explain to the confused parents: "Katie is a very upset young woman. She doesn't think much of herself. That's why she took the sleeping pills."

"But she's always been a wonderful girl," the distraught mother declared. "Surely she knows this."

The doctor remained calm. "She knows you thought so. She tried to be and felt she had to be what you thought she was. She didn't want to disappoint you and didn't want anyone to think she wasn't as nice as they all thought she was. We all want to be loved, you know. Katie thought acting nice is what made people love her—even her parents. She doesn't think she is a person, so dying doesn't matter."

Love: With eternal patience and
tireless regularity, it gives itself.

Katie was afraid that if people knew her as she really was—human with imperfections—she wouldn't be liked or loved. So in order to gain the love and approval she so desperately needed, she pretended to be somebody that she wasn't. As a result her deeper needs weren't being met and she almost destroyed herself.

We are all creatures of need. That's the way we were made. Our basic needs aren't excessive but if they aren't met, we are in trouble. We need food, water, air, clothing, and shelter. We need something worthwhile to live for and, above all, we need to love and feel loved.

Without giving and receiving love we limp along in the shadows of life and can become physically and mentally ill, or die before our time.

Time magazine reported that "health studies have long shown that single, widowed and divorced people [who are lonely] are far likelier prey of disease than married folk. Some examples: the coronary death rate among widows between 25 and 34 is five times that of married women in the same age group. At all ages, the divorced are twice as likely as the married to develop lung cancer or suffer a stroke."

In other words, we simply cannot live without love and loving relationships.

One of the dilemmas with human love is that it is often conditional. That is, "If you do what I want you to do or be what I want you to be, I will love you. If not, I will withdraw my love from you."

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