Unconditional Love - Yeager Anderson Photography

Have you ever been in a situation when you did something nice for someone and then expected a “thank-you” but didn’t receive one? How about buying someone a drink and waited patiently to get your pickle tickled only to end up losing $13? Have you ever told someone that you loved them only to receive deafening silence?

How did these moments make you feel? My guess is that they made feel pretty shitty. You put yourself out there only to be rejected and left feeling dejected.

I’m going to tell you something you’re probably not going to like: it’s your fault. That’s right. You put yourself out there, got hurt, and it’s your fault. “How can it be my fault? This fuckface hurt my feelings!”

You see, when you give someone a gift with expectations, it’s no longer a gift; it’s a transaction. I’ll buy you dinner so long as you sleep with me. I’ll love you so long as you stay with me forever. I’ll have kids and take care of them so long as they reciprocate that care when I’m old and weak.

When this happens, and whomever you’re trying to bargain with decides to bow out before the curtain falls leaving you with your dick in your hand (either literally or metaphorically), you’ll blame them. And since you were hurt while being so vulnerable, you’ll start building walls to shut out people and experiences in an attempt to not get hurt or embarrassed in the future.

On the surface, this might seem like a good idea. After all, who likes having their heart broken or made to look like a fool? Ultimately, however, this comes at the cost of sabotaging your mental health and self-esteem for the sake of “protecting” yourself. You might think that over time the right person or experience might come along and know just what to say or do to break down your walls and rescue from this castle—a castle I will remind you— that you built. But then, like clockwork, that knight in shining armor decides to bounce because they realize that a castle feels a lot like a prison if you never leave.

So how do combat this? How do you move through life in such a way where you can love deeply and quickly, be vulnerable, honest, true to yourself, and withstand a tumultuous existence that is the byproduct of being…you know…alive?

The answer is simple: give unconditionally. Give your love, give your time, give your money, give your scars, fears, and pains openly and without conditions. This is simple, but not easy.

If you truly love someone, then your love for them is not contingent upon them reciprocating those feelings or even choosing to stay with you. You just love them. Period.

If you want to buy that cute girl across the room a drink and get to know her, then that’s all you need to do. If you want to sleep with her, but you’re too afraid to tell her out of fear of being rejected, then you don’t have anyone to blame other than yourself. And not only that, she could say yes and you two could go at it like rabbits. Or she could say no. But if you sit there passively out of fear of coming across as a creep or being rejected, you only hurt yourself. Because instead of prioritizing your wants, needs, and desires, you prioritize your reputation and how others will perceive you. And who gives a fuck about what other people think?

Sure, shitty things happen, and negative experiences might make you feel jaded. Getting a cosmopolitan thrown in your face doesn't feel nice either. But if you’re always reaching for the spackling to start building that pain-free fortress, you’re going to miss out on some fantastic experiences.

When I spar in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I have no idea if I am going to win a round or lose. In fact, more often than not, it’s a matter of “how” and not “if” I get my ass handed to me. But I love it, and I am thankful for the opportunity to learn something new about myself and those with whom I fight.

This is how you navigate your life: with unconditional love and no expectation for success. I’m not saying that you should move through life fearful that someone is going to hurt you or that you’re going to fail. I am saying that you must go through life KNOWING that people are going to hurt you, and more importantly, you must love it when they do.

You must love the shitty moments when you get kicked in the face and the great moments when you walk away unscathed. It’s not about winning or losing. You’re going to lose. But are you going to smile, appreciating the chance to learn something and grow? Or are you going to lock yourself up in a tower and swallow the key?

If what’s important to you is winning—getting what’s rightfully yours—then you’re going to fall hard when you lose. It’s the sunk-cost fallacy. We think that because we’ve invested time, money, and energy into a relationship, a craft, a degree, etc., we’re entitled to a reward. And in an attempt to get what’s ours, we irreparably damage the thing that we had tried so hard to achieve. That’s ego, baby.

But if we prioritize growth over satiating our egos, then we realize that rejection and failure are just opportunities to learn, grow, and become the people we hope to be.

The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would describe his formula for human greatness as amor fati—a love of fate. “That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.”

When we accept what happens to us, after understanding that certain things— particularly bad things—are outside our control, we are left with this: loving whatever happens to us and facing it with unfailing cheerfulness and strength. So go forth and get hurt—and love it. Love it with all your heart.

When we accept what happens to us, after understanding that certain things— particularly bad things—are outside our control, we are left with this: loving whatever happens to us and facing it with unfailing cheerfulness and strength. So go forth and get hurt—and love it. Love it with all your heart.

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