I Want To Love Like My Dog
I’ve been watching the Netflix series Grace and Frankie lately and a recent episode struck a chord with me. Jane Fonda plays Grace, a cold, detached, retired CEO of a cosmetic company. In this particular episode, she comes to terms with the fact her family never viewed her as a mother/wife that showed unconditional love to them. It’s a sobering moment for her as she realizes what she deprived her family from feeling. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own ideas about love and what it means for it to be unconditional.
My first real understanding of this type of love was after a conversation I had with my mother when I was about 10 years old. I’m not sure how the subject came up, but during our talk, my mother told me there was nothing I could do or say that would make her stop loving me. She said it was unconditional. As my ten-year-old brain tried to comprehend that, I immediately had some questions to see if this deal really held water. I asked, “So, if I said really mean things to you, would you still love me?” She said yes. “OK, what if I stole a bunch of stuff from the store?” “Yep, I’d still love you” she said. Thinking I would stump her, I said, “Ok, what if I KILLED someone? Then would you still love me?” There was a brief pause, and I was certain I had blown up the whole argument. Then, very calmly, she said “Well, I would be very sad and come visit you in prison, but I would still love you.” I remember being somewhat shocked she could be telling the truth. I knew my parents and others loved me, but surely there had to be some conditions to receiving that love.
As I’ve gotten older and had children of my own, I understand so much more about what my mom was saying. It’s not about condoning or accepting bad behavior while still loving someone – it’s about loving no matter what the circumstances are. It also isn’t dependent on being reciprocal either. That gets pretty rocky sometimes because we tend to expect something in return for what we give.
If you follow me on social media you know Owen (above pic), my Executive Assistant. He also happens to be my dog, but he (and most dogs I’ve met) exhibit a great example of unconditional love. It doesn’t matter what kind of mood I’m in, or how I’ve treated him. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been gone two weeks or twenty minutes. There are literally no conditions that need to be met for him to love me. Now that’s pretty amazing.
As a Christian, I think about God’s unconditional love for us. I never had to ask Him to love me. I didn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. He knows all the good, bad and ugly about me…and He still loves me. He just does. For some people I know, that’s an easy concept to digest. Nothing in my faith walk is that easy. As humans, we want to be able to talk, touch and feel. My family and friends are able to tell me they love me … audibly – show me with their actions and affection. Owen follows right beside me wherever I go. He lies down under my feet wherever I sit. He jumps up on the couch with me and puts his head on my chest - lets out a long sigh, as if to say, “OK, this is where I’m supposed to be.” With God I have to trust and believe that He is always with me … maybe not laying His head on my chest, but always in my chest.
I have been very fortunate to feel unconditional love from many people in my life. I know folks that have never felt that kind of love.
That hurts my heart.
What if we all started trying to love more like God? Since it’s hard for many of us to wrap our heads around Omni-everything, what about like Owen? Check that - if you’re going to do it exactly like Owen, be prepared for some push back on the invasion of others’ personal space. I’m not suggesting you model a dog’s behavior precisely, but we can learn a lot from them.
What would this type of love and behavior do to our current relationships?
What would it do to how we interact with those “not like us?”
How would it shape our views of the world around us?
Let’s find out.