Unconditional love is a concept that means showing love towards someone regardless of his or her actions or beliefs. It is a concept comparable to true love, a term which is more frequently used to describe love between lovers. By contrast unconditional love is frequently used to describe love between family members, comrades in arms and between others in highly committed relationships. It has also been used in a religious context to describe God's love for mankind.
Some secular authors make a distinction between unconditional love and conditional love. In conditional love: love is 'earned' on the basis of conscious or unconscious conditions being met by the lover, whereas in unconditional love, love is 'given freely' to the loved one 'no matter what'. Conditional love requires some kind of finite exchange whereas unconditional love is seen as infinite and measureless. Unconditional love should not be mistaken with unconditional dedication: unconditional dedication refers to an act of the will irrespective of feelings (e.g a person may consider they have a duty to stay with a person); unconditional love is an act of the feelings irrespective of will.
Harold W. Becker, author and founder of The Love Foundation, Inc., defines Unconditional Love as "an unlimited way of being." From his book of the same title, Becker goes on to say that "the greatest power known to man is that of unconditional love. Through the ages, mystics, sages, singers and poets all expressed the ballad and call to love. As humans, we searched endlessly for the experience of love through the outer senses. Great civilizations have come and gone under the guise of love for their people. Religions have flourished and perished while claiming the true path to love. We, the people of this planet, may have missed the simplicity of unconditional love. ...Simply stated, unconditional love is an unlimited way of being. We are without any limit to our thoughts and feelings in life and can create any reality we choose to focus our attention upon. The qualities of love are endless and the expressions are infinite. The power of unconditional love is within each of us."
unconditional love is something special and it does not fail. It goes through to the end.
Unconditional love within marriage
Psychotherapist David Schnarch compares traditional views of unconditional love versus 'conditioned' love in marital relationships. He believes that genuine love, as he understands it, in committed relationships requires conditions. He questions the idea that unconditional love is indeed 'true' love within intimate relationships. He calls for a kind of 'rising in love' where each lover establishes conditions vis a vis the other lover that improve (or end) the love relationship. This differs from the more conventional constructs of love where people 'fall into love' unconditionally. Schnarch focuses on passionate love as essential to committed sexual relationships and paradoxically as a condition for personal growth as well.
In this kind of analysis much depends on what the author or his subjects regards as "true" love — there is no universally agreed definition. Lady Heather Mills in replying to accusations that she was "a gold digger" in marrying former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney said that she "fell in love unconditionally" as well as highlighting her charitable work.1
Unconditional love as a tool for authoritarian control
Authors Kramer and Alstead assert that the concept of unconditional love, is false, misleading, and a pervasive cause of authoritarian control in religion, relationships and families. They believe that unconditional love, along with what they perceive to be the closely related religious concept of 'unconditional forgiveness', are false concepts used to perpetuate ongoing cycles of injustice and abuse. To them, the entire concept of Christian unconditional love is embedded within one of the "most authoritarian, thus conditional, structures on the planet" and is therefore far from condition-free.
They note "that in order to get Christ's love, one has to believe in him; in order to be forgiven, one must not only repent and plead for it, but one must acknowledge the authority that designates what the wrong-doing is." In their view, Christ's love depends upon obedience to his authority. Therefore, to them, Christ's love is, in fact, highly conditional despite being called 'unconditional'.
They make a similar analysis of so-called unconditional forms of love and compassion in Eastern 'Oneness' religions.
In Christianity the term is commonly encountered but vaguely defined. It may be used to indicate God's love for a person irrespective of that person's love for God. The term is not explicitly used in the Bible and advocates for God's conditional or unconditional love, using different passages or interpretations to support their point of view, are both encountered. It may be considered to be closely associated with another non-explicitly biblical, but commonly encountered and vaguely defined, saying: "God loves the sinner, but hates the sin". Once again people have argued, based on variant interpretations of biblical texts, that God does not love the sinner nor the sin.
Whilst the phrase has never been used in its official teachings documents the then head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II was recorded as saying during a homily in San Francisco, in September 1987, that God "loves us all with an unconditional, everlasting love". He explored issues touching upon this theme in his work Dives in Misericordia (1980) in which the parable of the Prodigal Son becomes a framework for exploring the issue of God's mercy. The civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted as saying “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality”.
Neopaganism in general, and Wicca in particular, commonly use a traditional inspirational text, Charge of the Goddess , affirming that the Goddess's "law is love unto all beings".