Are friendship and love unconditional?

At first glance, you’d be tempted to say that true friendship and love are unconditional. Think deeper.

Situation 1: unconditional friendship

Imagine you are the head of a family; you have a nice position in the society, a marvelous wife, and happy kids. Your best friend has just stepped in and confessed to you that he committed a crime. You are his best friend, so he doesn’t know where else to go.
What do you do:

  • a. tell him to leave your house immediately, because you don’t want to be an accomplice
  • b. call the police to inform them, and never get in touch with him again, because a murderer cannot be your friend
  • c. invite your friend in and try to figure out a solution together

Situation 2: unconditional love

The same as above, but with your marvelous wife playing the role of the confessing murderer.
How does it feel like now? What would you do:

  • a. the same thing as you would have done in Situation 1
  • b. choose a different answer

Situation 3: just unconditional

Now you expect me to replace the wife with one of your kids. Instead of that, I suggest you ask yourself something else: is there any person in the world for which you’d preserve the same feelings after the murder confession?

If your answer is YES:
Congratulations, you are really capable of unconditional love! Your friends and your beloved ones can rely on your support no matter what.

If your answer is NO:
Congratulations, you show a higher understanding of love and friendship, you know that a person is the sum of her values, acts, thoughts and feelings. So if a dramatic change occurs, your friend/lover becomes another person, which you can no longer relate to.

What do YOU think? What is your definition of unconditional love and friendship?

17 Comments

  1. The answer is always (c.) Invite them in and try to figure out a solution together.

    I don’t think I would give up on someone because of something they did. “Unconditional” doesn’t mean that there may not be some change to the dynamic of a relationship – not to my mind, anyway. But we can still be there for someone.

    Your article makes it very difficult to see where you stand on this question, although If your answer is NO:
    Congratulations, you show a higher understanding of love and friendship…
    gives some indication.

  2. Thank you Rory, for stopping by. The article does not show my bias on purpose, because I did not want to influence the readers. Actually, my friendship and love do not depend on actions of people around me. I would never give up a friend because of that. Yet, I had a contradictory discussion with somebody who is very dear to me and who said that if I murdered somebody I would no longer be his friend. I was puzzled about this, so I wanted to see what other people think about that. Thank you so much for giving us your thoughts.

  3. Thank you for the warm welcome, Simonne.

    It’s curious: Do you feel as if the very notion that your dear friend even made this statement possibly changed the dynamic of your relationship? No murder necessary.

  4. Interesting. I just had something similar happen with two different people coming to tell me things about themselves.

    In both cases, I completely reserved judgment until hearing their entire story, about an hour or more in both cases. One involved an extremely serious child-related sexual offense, in which case he only revealed at the very end that he had been exonerated legally. Glad I didn’t rush to judge!

    The other was a conversation with friend that is fond of making frequent anti-gay remarks, unaware that I’m gay. One thing led to another, and he basically admitted to “experimenting” when he was young.

    Taking the time to listen was important. By the time I finished talking to him, I know he was a lot more comfortable with who he was, and where he had been in life. We’re much closer friends. And, I didn’t even have to bring up a word about my own life.

    Keeping an open mind is always important. Why rush off to judge and even worse, to sever a friendship or get law enforcement involved, without hearing the entire story?

  5. @Rory: no, it didn’t change the relationship dynamic. It was just the fact that neither of us expected the other to think that way. We shared similar opinions on so many things, and it was strange to discover that difference in such a major topic.

    @ chg9398: thank you for sharing your experience with us. I think you are wise and open minded. Too bad that many people jump into conclusions before having the whole picture.

  6. First of all, that is one of the cutest feed icon I have seen! 🙂 We need more smiley faces to show sincerity where it is needed, instead of seriousness.

    Now, onto the topic: this is a very interesting and powerful topic. True friendship is both conditional and unconditional.

    However, with the situations you provided, I am thinking many people may confuse the concept of unconditionalism. Let’s forget what they teach us in textbooks and instead look at the very definition of unconditionalism. Does unconditionalism imply that we will do everything for someone else, or that we will do anything they want us to do for them.

    I can have unconditional love for my friend or even someone I am in any other sort of relationship with, but when it comes to a topic like murder where someone else has been affected, I can still have unconditional love for that person, but I will have to weigh in my unconditional love for the lives of innocent people with the unconditional love I have for my friend or the person in question.

    Imagine the same friend running into my house and screaming “I just killed a mass murderer or a serial rapist!” One of my focuses at that time will depend on who my friend is from the inside. The question then falls into my court, not on the concept of conditionalism but on whether or not I am willing to go ahead and participate in a mass event in the universe [ever death is a mass event] which was planned or executed without my presence, and by someone else.

    Unconditional love does not mean someone else can do anything bad and always expect me to support them 100%. Every persona reacts differently, and a person has to figure out whether or not I am with them all the time. If they also loved me unconditionally, they would have told me “Hey, I saw this serial killer and no one knows, I will go try to catch him or kill the bastard!!!” Sure, trying to justify having your own justice may seem like a good idea to many, but you have to factor in a lot of things. Why did the serial killer kill? Who did he kill? Why is my friend or the person I love interested in approaching or harming the killer? Is my friend being rational and willing to have a backup plan, like turning himself in to the authorities? I can ask these questions and a million more even when I find out what happened for the first time, and if it is already too late.

    This is my test of unconditional love, for my own self when it comes to others: how far and how much sacrifice I am willing to make for someone else in order to make them happy. Now, you can tie your question into my concept also, by saying how much I am willing to do to hide a friend’s guiltiness or crime.

    Imagine this scenario: a friend of mine comes to me saying she was raped by a stranger and while running away, she accidentally stabbed the rapist and got away. Now the rapist is dead. Will I hide her? That is a personal question where my answer is a secret, and many of my close friends will know the answer.

    Now, will you hide her? That is a tough question, since saying a lot of things does not mean we will do them. Your friend can tell you “I love you” to get your full trust, and I am sure everyone hears the word “love” directed at them a lot. Most people will even “stop loving” someone if the “sex” factor was removed from a relationship, as if love was something that could be started and stopped easily. Therefore, being completely unconditional is something that is always expressed, but rarely exhibited.

    To the scenarios you presented, some people may get scared “OMG! YOU KILLED HIM????????” and some people may go “WHAT? WHAT HAPPENED? TELL ME”, some others may even respond otherwise. That reaction may have nothing to do with their love but how they grasp things, and how they feel the current situation may affect their life, and maybe the life of their friend. For me, a time limit of an hour or more is irrelevant; it may work for chg9389 above, but for me, I never revolve essential things to me around non-controllable things. I will not revolve someone else’s life around the time frame of an hour or even two hours, but I will revolve my entire life around that person’s life to help them if they are completely innocent and see what can be done. Of course, the concept of being innocent is a topic that deserves its own universe, or maybe a post.

    To answer the question simply, a person has to prove actual love when the time comes, no matter what their decision is. People can tell you a lot of answers to those questions since they simply want to comment on this post, but when it comes to actual scenario, everyone will react differently. Theorizing a scary scenario while sitting in a comfortable chair and a keyboard is easy, but when inside the actual scary scenario, reactions and thoughts may be different. The basis for many people’s decision should show whether they are being fully unconditional or whether they are trying to protect their own rights or life also. Now, protecting your own life or interest is not bad, though that is also topic for another day.

  7. Hey, Bes, thank you very much for your thoughts. I like the way you see this. Indeed, one cannot know how he/she would react in the event of such a scenario coming to life. I would be tempted to say that, yes, I would hide my friend. But I don’t know if life will prove my statement or not.

  8. Hi, as a recently broken heart, when I discovered the unfair conditions of my lover put, while she was still calling it unconditional love. In my opinion, the real and true love should be unconditional but also not to exceed the green lines, but when you get engaged just to put and creat new unfair conditions then it is not even love at all, it is type of killing love in hearts. In brief, I’m here just to tell there’s no unconditional love except in our drams, since we consider “Yes” and “No” as final answers for our friendly questions. I can easily also say that it was my first and last real love all over my life.

  9. Thank you too for your prompt reply. Let tell you one more thing about the internet (or electronic) love and friendship. 99.9% of the these cables and wireless relationship are dead in advance. I’m sorry to tell you that not a single relationship remains more than days or maximum months except for 001% only. The problem is not in the internet or electronice because we made it, but the problem of users and their unforeseen goals.

  10. Thank you, BenAzouz. I agree that putting unfair conditions cannot be called love. I’m sorry to hear your sad story, but “never say never”: you might encounter real love again, who knows?

  11. hi
    want to ask a question, when a friend, has been unjust and has offended you and you tried to defend yourself, but he still thinks he was right, then , what.. i dont think an aggressive attitude on anyone s part is healthy for any relationship so dont you think that a condition of respect in future should be made? i mean, a real unconditioned friendship love can only last under the condition of mutual respect. so shouldnt conditions be made?? regards

  12. Hi Ruth, thanks for your question. This is a difficult one. You are right, being aggressive is not good for any of the parties, nor for the friendship. However, being offended by a friend, I would try to put myself in his shoes and see how he judged that situation. Maybe we have different values regarding some life aspects, thus the misunderstanding. If this makes my friend happy, I would let him think that he was right. But each situation has its own characteristics, so I wouldn’t judge from an outsider position. The involved parties know better. And sometimes an old friendship may be more valuable than being right.

  13. Unconditional love…an interesting concept indeed and one I have given beaucoup thought energy of late. Regarding relationship-based romantic love, to pass the test of unconditionality (a word i just made up) would it not have to continue unaltered even if the loved partner has since left and married another? IS that possible?

  14. You know, Fred, scientists say that the more we are exposed to certain stimuli, the stronger the correspondent connections between the neurons are. Yes, one can still love his wife who left, but in time, those connections in his brain will fade, and he’ll find himself one day wondering how was it possible to love that cruel woman. It’s strange, but it seems that brain is really a smart machine.

  15. Unconditional love and friendship is a romantic myth. Loving and liking also often confused: liking is irrational, totally emotion driven, while loving is deeper and active, wanting and doing the best for others, some instances even for those we are not fond of but who are innocent and in need or in strife. In healthy loving heart and brain are engaged, realism is not put to sleep and self protection is also practiced. Mature loving is what we strive for, and naturally it is conditional. It depends what are the conditions. Good conditions are the ones that enhance the other person’s growth, security, happiness. Promoting to be the best person she/he can be. It is a gift. Bad conditions are selfish, game playing, exploitative and cruel an abuse of the other who are desperate, addicted to us, or needy. Being good and being nice also often confused. Intentional friendship and intentional loving is what I would call relating to others serving them but not being stupid. Newer an accomplice but a support if there is something that can be supported. Sometimes it is not possible.
    Be well!
    joseph

  16. MY SECOND POST 14/7/09

    In my earlier post I ended my comment: some times not possible. I backed off (not backed out) of 2 friendships of 30 plus and 25 year duration. In both cases I gone into extraordinary length to help them to regain mental health in one, and effectiveness mananging homelife and work issues. It would make an entertaining and educational reading I intend to put on my weblog, but won’t do here as it also would look self-glorification. The story will show the risks I took thinking it will not be too often before my friend will grow to understand it it risky, irresponsible to keep going as he did. I took back a few times Monday mornings the utility my friend took home without authorization for th4e weekends from the tertiary educational institute employing him, worried he will be spotted I took it back and parked it at the allocated space. I am not sure if challenged would have helped him and I also would get into hot water. I decided the risk not worth it and I am only become an enabler. My friend was a victim, child abuse by institutional personel of a religious order, this impacted on him (not a “sob story”) but he did not want to learn the skills enabling him to operate effectively. So eventually I backed off realizing he after talking to me and get relief back home argued with his wife who castrated him bigtime in my presence, but instead aserting himself used me as a virtual battering ram. His wife quickly recognized and told him: “you spoke to Joe again”… Both still pains me but I realized my support ended up me becoming only an enabler, an accomplice maintaining the statusquo
    I could not accept, worse: I did not want to accept. All my faculties, assets were used to support these friends to regain control of their health and their relationship issues. I was and still is passionate about human misery, injustice and predatory officialdom. So I also advocate for those can not look after themselves. While qualified in the mental health field I “minister” to those falling through the cracks, my special approach allows to connect with those who are either scared of therapy or can’t afford the fees. But with friends my idea is: lets deal with the obvious problems and we enjoy the rest of each other’s company. The other friend battling mental illness eventually got comfortble when the new generation neuroleptic medication became available that netted negative health results. Obese, high blood pressure, diabetic, has emphysema, smoking, by him unrecognized evidence of warning signs I wittnessed of impending stroke or heart attack to name a few. Offered to go with him on brisk walks, took him to a doctor (for a second opinion he agreed to visit to shut me up) was told the imminent danger, upon leaving he apologized what he put me through over tge years resisting and combating me, how he now realize what a friend I am. 3 days later he said he does not have emphysema, tobacco is his true friend who never leave him, not like me… few weeks later he told me he never said those words after leaving the doctor’s office…he does not recall saying them anyway… I don’t write an essay here, only say I decided as I told him before I support him in his effort to improve his helth but I don’t agree that he has the right to harm himself and indirectly some others (secondhand smoke). His doctor makes medical practitioners a bad name and I have seen a few. But around the corner is convenient and he tells me: why bother with diet and exercise when there is an easy way: a pill? Why worry now when things don’t hurt yet, can walk and breathe, why waste energy? The time will be when things hurt or really at chrisis point THAT IS THE TIME TO PULL OUT ALL STOPS! 25 years of my support, caring ended up making him comfortable now. I don’t believe anyone has the right to become or remain sick, conduct a detrimental lifestyle while society pays for this free ride. So I stepped back. He sent me books on unconditional friendship. Sentimental nonsense.- But I am the bad guy generally who drew the line. ” A fiend would not act like you”.-
    I just shared these vignettes to educate others. I keep going with the pain I
    b my heart of good people so stupid or lazy going to waste…
    Be well! joseph.

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