Love is the most powerful force there is because it brings people together in a way that nothing else can. Without it, humanity could not survive. Fortunately, the world is blessed with many different types of love. There is the romantic attraction shared by two people. There is the affection that results from deep friendship. And there is the deep and abiding love that dwells in a family, particularly parental love for their children. All of these produce intense feelings that create a willingness to focus on someone else’s needs.
However, the most powerful form of love is when it’s unconditional.
In the world of intellectual challenges there is absolutely nothing more important than unconditional love. Whether it is a developmental disability, a traumatic brain injury, dementia, a brain tumor, a stroke or some other kind of disease or disorder, these individuals can be vulnerable and at risk. Their welfare, out of necessity, is usually entrusted to family members who do everything in their power to ensure the lives of their loved ones are fulfilling and meaningful, and that they are treated with dignity and respect.
The true potential of unconditional love is evidenced by all of the positive benefits it provides to another person. It ensures that they are cared for, valued and appreciated. It supports and nurtures them so that their lives are richer and more rewarding. It transforms attitudes and beliefs which can erase negative feelings and heal broken relationships. This form of all-encompassing devotion provides assurance that there will always be someone they can count on when they feel alone, excluded or forgotten.
Being loved unconditionally gives a person a feeling of self-worth because it allows them to freely express who they are without the fear of rejection. It gives them a sense of belonging, by allowing them to experience acceptance. There is no need for them to pretend to be something they are not. It’s okay to be real, to feel insecure and to experience fear and uncertainty. It lets a person know they can fail without being considered inferior. It embraces the individual no matter what their flaws. They are not forced to live up to arbitrary expectations, because unconditional love is not based on what someone can do, it is based on who someone is.
The intense desire to be loved unconditionally cannot be measured. It is craved for the beautiful way that it forgives and does not hold a grudge. It is treasured for its ability to comfort as it envelopes an individual with understanding instead of judgment. It is coveted because of its power to remain steadfast in good times and in bad, standing shoulder to shoulder with a person no matter what the circumstances. It is embraced tightly because it is eternal. Unconditional love never waivers, and it never gives up. It is life affirming, sharing hope and encouragement in the darkest hours, and providing warmth against the cold harshness of reality.
To be the recipient of unconditional love is to receive one of life’s greatest gifts. But, unfortunately, many are not so fortunate. There are those who desperately need that kind of attention and acknowledgement, but it is never offered. They go through life without ever experiencing the joy and peace that comes from knowing that somebody cares deeply about them and will always be there for them. When that type of relationship is not present, it creates an emptiness that is impossible to ignore. There is always something missing, and a person does not feel complete.
On the other hand, many people, at one point, had someone in their life that showered them with unconditional love, but death tragically swept them away. That kind of profound loss creates a level of grief that hurts the very core of our being because we not only miss the person’s physical presence, we also miss the way they made us feel.
Unconditional love is demonstrated in countless ways, however, the purest form is when it’s shared without the expectation of having it returned. When someone in your life has experienced a traumatic brain injury and no longer recognizes those who were important to them, the love you have for that person is unconditional. When a parent has a child with an intellectual challenge who does not interact with those around them, there is the possibility that their love may never be returned in a demonstrative way. When someone cares about a person who is in the grips of dementia and no longer remembers the people they were close to, the love they feel for them may no longer be returned. In such cases, the love is not based on the condition that it be visibly reciprocated, but rather the commitment that is shared is total, complete and without end.
On both an intellectual and emotional level, the profound life changing quality of unconditional love transcends our ability to fully understand it.