Love Without Conditions by Paul Ferrini

🎧 Podcast version

“One who loves without conditions places no limits on his freedom nor on anyone else’s. He does not try to keep love, for to try to keep it is to lose it. Love is a gift that must constantly be given as it is asked for in each situation. Love takes no hostages. It makes no bargains. It is not compromised by fear. Indeed, where love is present, fear with all its myriad conditions cannot be.”

I wish I could remember how this book came into my hands. Because it was pivotal, and I’d send a lovely gift basket to say thank you, if I knew where to send it.

But I don’t, so oh well.

“Learning to give love to the wounded person within begins to reverse your belief that your self-worth must be based on how others respond to you. Slowly you retrain yourself to value yourself as you are, here and now, without conditions. No one else can do this for you. People can assist and encourage, but no one can teach you how to love yourself.”

First, this book is a little… weird. I guess that’s the best word to describe it.

It’s written from the perspective of Jesus—that is, it is written as if Jesus is the one writing, and he is talking directly to you, the reader.

Second, the timing on this book was key for me. I don’t know if it would have worked for me at any other time or situation.

“Don’t try to live without fear. To try to live without fear is the most fearful proposition you can imagine. Just acknowledge the fear and move through to the other end of it.”

It came into my hands as we were questioning a whole lot of shit in our lives, including our religious beliefs and the church and the Bible and pretty much everything else that had seemed foundational. I was reeling and unsure, but also unable to ignore what I was learning. It’s weird to be learning things you don’t want to learn, to see things you don’t want to see and then can’t unsee. And then you’re stuck with that, and have to figure out where to go from there.

“Accept the simple grace of being alive. If you are seeking a greater meaning in life, you will be disappointed. Beyond the dance, there is no meaning. All conditions open of themselves to the unconditional. Simply be open and present, and you will fall into the arms of God. But resist even for a moment and you will get caught in a needless tangle of your own making.”

Most of the people I grew up with who ended up leaving the church and/or Christianity did so because of some breaking point, some hurtful experience that led to anger and disillusionment and a kind of reactionary pulling away. That’s not true for everyone, of course. And it wasn’t true for me. I wasn’t angry at the church or anyone in it, or God, or religion in general. I think that would have made things easier. Instead, what I felt was mostly confusion and a huge amount of grief. It felt like a kind of death. I guess it was.

Enter this book. I don’t really know how to describe what this book gave me. But you know I’m going to try.

“If you would know “reality,” you must remove your judgments from it. This can and must be done with every situation in your life. Do not decide what something means. Just let it be and dwell with it, move with it, breathe with it. In time, insight will come.”

It gave me a way to see Jesus as someone who could be—and is—still real for me, still important, but who could be real and important for me outside of the context or limitations that the Christian church gave him. That seems kind of basic, and I wonder why I couldn’t see that for myself: but I couldn’t. Jesus had always been wrapped up in Official Church Packaging, and to start tearing away the packaging and rejecting it felt like rejecting all that was good in it, too, all that had actually meant something to me.

This book helped me differentiate between Jesus—the I AM, Christ in me—and Jesus as packaged and presented and promoted by the church. It helped me see that there was genuine and good spirituality outside of what I’d been given as faith. And it helped me understand that faith is not the same as belief, at all. Faith is not upholding a set of doctrines as true. Faith is not any kind of certainty, at all. Faith is something different, something that helps you walk in the uncertainty. Faith isn’t having your hands around the light, steady and sure of yourself. I think faith is more like hoping and believing that there is light, and moving toward it best as you can, even when everything around you looks like darkness.

“All of you have come here to learn to love without conditions.   When you can love yourself unconditionally, it is not difficult to love others. When you can accept others with all of their faults, it is not difficult to accept your own.”

And it gave me a picture of someone I wanted to be. That was important, really important, because when your foundational morals and beliefs are shattering all around you, you start to question — well, everything about who you are, and who you’ve tried to be, and what it’s based on, and whether it’s worthwhile, and what’s real and true about it, and what isn’t.

Ferrini painted this beautiful picture of a person who loves without conditions, and blessings on his head for using the female pronoun, because it made it that much easier to see this description as something I could become, maybe, one day.

Here’s what he said:

“One who admits her mistakes is a beacon of light to others. She has shed her cloak of darkness. Light shines through her, for her mind is transparent, a clear channel through which truth flows without effort. Others immediately know that she can be trusted and they reach out to take her hand. Having forgiven her own sins, she can extend that forgiveness to others. Her authority does not come from outside, but from within. She has been ordained by no authority of the world. Yet each person who comes to her recognizes her, trusts her, and confides in her.”

That became an important picture to me, a picture of the kind of person I want to be. It still is. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten close, at all, but it reminds me of what I’m aiming for, and it reminds me that faith is a way to walk, not a set of beliefs to carry.

‘The path home is never what you think it is. Yet it is never beyond your own ability to intuit the next step.”