By Tammy Graham
What is conditional love? It’s a love that is given dependent upon how you feel at that moment, it’s circumstantial; limited. We all display this kind of love. I have showed this kind of love when I’m involved in something and a child gets hurt. I get upset at the interruption of my task. I display impatience, selfishness and irritability. I quickly comfort the child and send them on their way so I can again focus on the task at hand. I’m giving them power over my thoughts, feelings and actions. That is conditional love. I’ll help/love you because it gets me what I want. On the other hand, unconditional love is not limited in anyway. It is giving of ourselves without abandon, because we value them as a person with hopes and needs of their own. It is the kind of love Jesus Christ displays.
I become what I think I am. How I respond to others and how they perceive that response affects a great deal how they see themselves. If one perceives that you are thinking critically of them, they feel bad about themselves. We have all experienced this. It reminds me to be Christ-like in my thinking of others and in my actions towards them. Showing confidence in a person’s ability to accomplish something strengthens that ability. When my husband was building pouring concrete for our porch steps he wanted help from my dad. My dad had a hard time not helping him but allowed my husband to figure it out on his own, and he did. The control I have in the success of my loved ones is my attitude towards them.
For years I treated my husband as a bad provider, an unmotivated, undirected man. All those years I should have been treating him as though he is the man I want him to be. If others are treated as if they were dumb, incapable, slothful, etc. they respond to us that way. Since I’ve been treating him like he’s successful, motivated and very capable I’ve seen him become more so.
While pregnant with our 4th child, I was overcome with despair over the state of our finances. I coerced and manipulated my husband into reading the book “How to Get the Job You Want in 30 Days.” Then I looked for jobs for him, made cover letters, re-did his resume and had him check everything before I sent them on to potential employers. I was full of many negative feelings towards my husband, including resentment. I was frustrated and exhausted. I felt like I had no control over my situation and the only way I could gain control over our finances was by controlling my husband. I was using love as a tool to coerce him to do what I wanted him to do. I didn’t want to take responsibility for our finances, change, or consider other options. I had no right to influence him by force, coercion and manipulation. In using unrighteous dominion over him I alienated him from me. This is how Satan works, by force.
So, what can be done to affect change in others? Pray to be instruments in the hands of God. He is the agent of change, he has the larger view and knows what others need. Be an example of things that we value. Love, teach, have faith and pray for our loved ones. Share with them. Do everything we do unto God. For example, when we make that special gift for our loved one, do it because you love the person, but more so because you love the Lord. Trust that your efforts will not be in vain no matter how they are received. Be humble, and diligent, having the prayer of faith as, stated in Doctrine and Covenants 104:78-79. Take time to be truly present with those we love doing things they enjoy. Listen without judgment. Lastly, remember that we cannot violate another’s free agency.
Let us love and treat others in Gods way, loving unconditionally. Let us put our energies into being a loving person and let the Lord worry about changing their hearts. Do something everyday for each child and spouse that shows unconditional love for them. Do something without expectation of appreciation, validation, acknowledgment. Do it because you want to be a good person. Put happiness, forgiveness, and beauty out into the world and that will be reflected back to you. As Gandhi said “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”