I’m a daddy, and I wrote a letter to my little girl. I wanted my daughter to know she is always worthy of interest, because the best way to be interesting is to simply be herself. I was angry when I wrote it, and a bunch of people—mostly men—got angry when they read it. They said loving girls unconditionally is a recipe for a world of entitled princesses, spoiled brats, and selfish women…
The letter had been circulating for about a month when I found myself sitting in the soft, green grass of May, watching my son’s soccer practice. My daughter—my little bundle of heart and soul and vibrating life—was sitting on my lap.
I nestled my chin into the crown of her head, and my mind wandered to the angry comments from a world of wounded, angry men.
And it made me angry all over again. Not angry at the men, but angry at the idea with which they have been wounded.
Has Love Really Failed?
I sat next to a soccer field, and I got angry at the belief that unconditional love is bad for people. I got angry at the idea that every bit of goodness and kindness we receive from others must be earned. I got angry at the idea that our most sacred relationships should be treated like a transaction: you do this for me and I will give you love and attention and belonging. I got angry at the idea that anyone should be expected to trade anything for a sense of worth.
But mostly, I got angry at the bogus assertion that we’ve collectively tried unconditional love and it has produced a generation of entitled princesses.
Really, men? You think we’ve tried unconditional love? You think we’ve been overflowing with grace and mercy and charity and the big love experiment has failed?
Because I look around the world and I see conditions for love in every nook and cranny of this crumbling planet. Conditions everywhere:
You’ll be good enough when.
You’ll be worthy of love if.
You’ll belong to me under this or that condition.
Women, you’ll be good enough when you get your make-up just right or hit a particular number on the scale or figure out just the right time to bring us a beer. The world of a woman is ripe with subtext: I will love you on the condition that you find just the right ways to stroke my ego, just the right moves to make me feel like I’m good enough.
But I’m not just picking on men, because men don’t have it any easier. Job, money, achievement, strength, dependability, purpose, power, unflappability. The implicit conditions of worthiness for men are completely unachievable. No wonder men are so pissed off.
We need to call this idea that the unconditional love experiment has been tried and failed exactly what it is: a bogus lie.
And then maybe we can get clear about something, okay? Selfishness and entitlement aren’t created by unconditional love and an abiding interest.
The reality is, selfishness is actually created by a latent sense of worthlessness.
People who have a deep and unwavering sense of their worthiness—the very sense of worthiness that comes from being loved unconditionally—are free from all of the ego needs that produce entitlement, selfishness, and narcissism. Children who have been mirrored well and affirmed of their worthiness are far more likely to spend their lives caring for others than obsessively caring for themselves, because they have already been cared for well.
And adults who receive that kind of love for the first time actually have a chance of being transformed by it.
Princess, Monster, or Sister?
As my internal tirade calmed down, I realized, like most anger, it was defending something much more vulnerable. I realized I had doubts myself. As I hugged my daughter close and gazed out upon the field of shin-guarded kindergartners, I thought, “I’m putting all my eggs in this basket, and what if I’m wrong?”
What if I’m loving my daughter right into becoming a monster?
What if my interest in her turns her into a princess and she treats the world like her kingdom and she expects worship everywhere she goes?
What if? What if? What if?
In an attempt to get unstuck from the swirl of thoughts, I leaned over and I asked my little one, “Do you want to go to the playground now?”
She didn’t take her eyes off the field, but she responded quickly and assuredly, and her answer did more to restore my faith in love than could any philosophy.
She said, “No, Daddy, I want to watch my brudder. Because he is an awesome boy.”
I’m Betting on Love
I’m going all-in on unconditional love.
I’m betting on the power of attentiveness.
I’m betting on the power of empathy.
I’m betting on the scandal of grace.
I’m betting on a world held in the unconditionally gentle hands of love.
I’m betting when we see the reflection of our beauty in the eyes of love, we will be delivered into a deep, steadfast sense of worthiness. And I’m betting when that happens, we will want to become mirrors for every man, woman, and child within reach—reflections of the beauty we witness in everyone around us.
I’m betting on it.
I’ll be honest, though: I’m not living it. None of us are. We’re all falling short of a radical love. But that doesn’t mean we can’t chase after it like a dream upon waking. That doesn’t mean we can’t dig for it like buried treasure. That doesn’t mean we can’t have faith in it and live our way into it.
One day at a time.
One child at a time.
One lover at a time.
One world at a time.
Question: Are you betting on unconditional love? How are you living your way into it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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Preview: Next Wednesday’s post is tentatively entitled, “Why Would Anyone Get Married and Have Poopy Kids?”
Disclaimer: This post is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association.