Unconditional Love — An excerpt from “Grounded Spirituality“
The following dialogue is an excerpt from a fictitious stream of conversation between myself — “JB” — and a questioner named Michael — “M” — in my new book, “Grounded Spirituality.” “JB” reflects myself at this stage of my development. “M” is based on a tapestry of various ungrounded spiritual seekers I have encountered, and is also a direct reflection of who I was at prior stages of my journey. I have taken the liberty of engaging “M” in a deepening dialogue, one that invites us to cover a broad range of material over a series of regular sessions.
M: But, again, what about unconditional love? One of my gurus said that it would heal the planet. I believe that if I just unconditionally love them, it will be a healing balm that will transform them.
JB: Unconditional love is a beautiful thing, as long as we don’t use it against ourselves. I can love all of humanity, but that doesn’t mean that I will put up with all of humanity. The boundary, for me, is set at healthy self-regard. When my unconditional love for another undermines my self-respect, the fence goes up.
Not because I don’t believe in their possibilities, but because I have come to realize that there is no value in sacrificing my actuality for their potentiality. I make a distinction between human potential — which may well be infinite; and human actuality — which is often quite finite, particularly in those who choose, over decades, to remain asleep.
Yes, they may well awaken, but we should never postpone any part of our own life waiting for that to happen. We should never hold back our own potential. Unconditional love begins at home, with the protecting and honoring of our own unique journey.
M: I feel that somewhere inside myself, I have the capacity, skills, and abilities to fix other people’s dynamics and patterns.
JB: I understand you want to hang in there during difficult times, but you need to recognize that there are people that you will never win with, no matter what you do. I call them “The Impossibles.” The ones that always leave you feeling somewhat diminished. I have known many.
Often they are members of our own family, but not always. These are the ones that we must avoid, and yet are often the ones who are the most difficult to avoid. If we continue to make an effort to connect, we are left feeling weighted, like our light has been slightly dimmed.
If we disconnect altogether, we are left feeling guilty, selfish, perhaps responsible for their isolation. Often we blame ourselves for the state of the connection, even though we rationally know that we would have remained heartfully connected to them if they had been respectful. We would have found a way, if there was a way.
What gets lost in the shame shuffle is the fact that some people are truly impossible. Not just difficult, not just requiring boundaries, but impossible to maintain a healthy connection with.
And their impossibility is not lodged in our actions, or choices, or behaviors. It is not a consequence of our imperfections, decisions, or missteps. It is lodged in their own issues and limitations. It is lodged in where they are at. They are simply impossible. And the sooner we face that, the sooner we can live a life of unlimited possibility.
M: So, while we are on the topic, let me ask you something else. One of the things that perplexes me is the spiritual adage, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” I interpret that to mean that if they’re in my life, they must be part of my soulpod. After all, I drew them in.
JB: Not always, Michael. Let’s come back to earth. Sometimes your vibe attracts your tribe, and sometimes your vibe also attracts sociopaths, lite-dimmers, and border-crossers that come to steal your thunder.
If you needed a specific lesson, then I suppose it’s okay to call them part of your tribe for a time…but if you didn’t, then it’s fair to say that your vibe also attracted an abuser. I have known many who bought into this ill-conceived New Cage quote and let the wrong people through their door.
Perhaps a grounded reframe would serve us: “Sometimes, your vibe attracts your tribe. Sometimes, your vibe attracts that which doesn’t serve you. And sometimes your vibe has nothing to do with any of it. Sometimes a sociopath walks through the door, one who can fool anyone.”
M: I hear you, but I don’t want to become an armored person again, especially after doing all this work to open my heart…bridges, not walls, right? This is something very relevant for me to consider, in the path of sacred purpose I am about to step into, which I suspect will be far more relational.
JB: Healthy boundaries aren’t walls or barbed wire fences. They are gates, portals that we selectively open when it is safe and life-enhancing to do so. Sometimes we do have to wall others off — to heal, to get a taste of what it feels like to be protected after an abundance of suffering — but eventually we come into a sacred balance.
Here, we make conscious decisions as to when to open, when to close. I think of it as the art of selective attachment. Rather than responding from a patterned place, that is too open or too closed, we assess each situation on its own merits. We keep the gate closed, when it is unsafe to open it. We unlatch the gate, if there is a healthy basis for connection.
Healthy boundaries are situation specific, evolving and clarifying as we grow. We sift connections through an intelligently discerning filter, only opening the gate to those experiences and individuals that enhance our sacred true-path.