I don't—or haven't yet met—anyone who wants their love quantified or qualified.
No one wants to hear, "I love you, but..." "I accept you if only you will..." "I love everything about you but are you going to change...""I love you as a person but..." and so forth. Love, though at times complicated, is pretty simple. Either you love me or you don't.
The Sassover Rebbe said that he learned the meaning of love from overhearing a converstation between two villagers. One asked the other, "Do you love me?" The second replied, "I love you deeply." The first asked, "Do you know, my friend, what gives me pain?" The second protested that he could not possibly know. "If you do no know what gives me pain," lamented the first, "how can you say you love me?" (Rabbi David Wolpe, "Making Loss Matter", 1999)
I don't understand, and at times it has caused a lot of internal turmoil, the many facets of conditional love—it baffles me. People are complicated, messy, incredible human beings and because of this they love out of fear, passion, desperations, a need for connection, to leave a legacy, for romance, and so much more. Even the hardest and darkest of heart want to feel whole and accepted.
Years ago I was dating an incredible guy and things were going really well. We hadn't dated that long and he asked if he could come over and take me for a walk outside. I was excited and thought it was a romantic gesture (boy was I wrong). We held hands and walked for a while sometimes talking and sometimes just walking in silence. I loved it and thought that things were just as they should be.
He, on the other hand, was thinking about other things entirely different. At one point he stopped and we sat on a park bench or something and he launched into this diatribe about how he had been talking about me to his dad and thinking very seriously about us...I thought that was a bit intense (remember how we hadn't been dating very long). And then I had one of those life changing-turning point moments.
He said something like this, "Kylee, I really love you and I can see myself marrying you but there are a just a few things about you that I'm wondering if they are going to change?" I braced myself and actually thought, Kylee, don't shut down, listen, maybe he will be spot on about some things you need to work on and this could be good for your relationship. After taking a deep breath I said, "okay what things are you wondering about?"
He had a list—let's just say that it's never, ever, a good idea to have a list about someone else's faults. He started asking me if I was always going to be so happy (unrealistic in his mind), loud, talkative, optimistic, passionate about life, empathetic to everyone (he didn't like how much time I used to listen to other people's problems—and this was before I became a therapist), need to be the center of attention, etc.
It wouldn't be until years later during the movie, "How to Train Your Dragon" that I would get the right words to describe how that moment felt. I wanted to say to him, "You just gestured to all of me." How can you love me and yet want me to change all the things I value about myself. I looked up at him and he was serious. I said, "I am clearly not what you are looking for." Then I walked home by myself.
I thought a lot about what he had said. I was too talkative, too loud, to gregarious, spent too much time listening to others, and so forth but I was working on those things. God was aware of the desires of my heart. Him poking at my weakness and strengths hurt but it also allowed me to dig deep into who I wanted to be and it gave me a change to really think about love.
Since that moment I have had many dear friends change the dynamics of our relationship. Some have left the Mormon church, come out as gay, become Mormon Feminists, had severe depression, anxiety, bi-polar, gone to prison, etc. Each time I have thought to myself, does that change the way you feel about them or love them? and each time without fail the answer comes resounding back, no! you don't love them for what they do, how they change, how you met—you love them for who they are at their core.
And so tonight I want to be more like Lucia in Max Lucado's book, "You Are Special" where the dots and stars (the marks or qualifiers people place on us) don't stick. Where I am free to be loved, all of me, and in return I am welcome to love others, all of them.