The Punishment for Unconditional Love

Love is one of the most unique things that exists in our world. Think about it. Everybody wants to experience it. Regardless of your color, creed, or culture, you want to experience love. It’s the one thing that’s unanimous among all people, the one thing that connects all people. Now I admit, love is a hot topic. Everybody wants to talk about it, everybody has their thoughts and opinions on what love is and is not. The weird thing about this topic is that even though everybody wants to experience love, we cannot all come to an agreement on a universal definition of the word. Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. Like I said a few sentences ago, a lot of people have their thoughts and opinions on love, and this post is just my perspective on it. Well, at least a part of the subject. I don’t think it’ll be quite possible for me to write a singular post on the entirety of my thought on the topic. Instead what I aim to write today, is narrowing in on one aspect of love and hopefully causing the reader (that’s you) to just think about this point of view. I really don’t care if I change your mind or if you agree with me, that’s not my goal. But if you think about it, mission accomplished. Today, I’m focusing on the conditionality of love. That was a convoluted way of saying I’m talking about conditional and unconditional love.

In order to talk about conditional or unconditional love, we must have a clear definition of what those phrases mean. While I’m fairly certain that you have a good idea of what they mean, I’m just going to simple define the words here for the sake of clarity. Fair warning, this isn’t a dictionary definition or a scientifically researched definition: it’s just the culturally accepted definition of the phrases.

Conditional Love: Love that is given based on something. In other words, conditional love is earned. You have to do something in order to be loved.

Unconditional Love: Love that is given without asking anything in return. In other words, unconditional love is free to the recipient.

We could go deeper into the philosophical discussions of these definitions, but that is not my intent. We can more or less agree that these are the culturally accepted definitions of these phrases and that’s enough to convey my message for this post.

The title of this post is “the Punishment for Unconditional Love” which should make you infer that the gist of this message will be centered on unconditional love. As you read on, most of what I’ll be saying about it will be things you’ve probably heard in the past. But I want to encourage you to read till the end and see a different approach to this subject.

Unconditional Love

One of the hardest things for human beings to do is to love someone else unconditionally. Why? Unconditional love by definition means loving someone without borders. Unconditional love means putting someone else before you. It means being unselfish, it means being a servant to the other, it means putting the needs of the other before you, it means listening to the other person, it means caring for the other person regardless of what they believe and regardless of how different they are from you. Unconditional love means loving someone even though they might hate you. See, the thing that makes unconditional love difficult is not understanding the concept. All of us know exactly what it looks like to love someone unconditionally. The thing that makes it difficult is the fact that we as a people (again, regardless of color, creed, culture) are a selfish people. We want something in return. Regardless of who you are, when you love somebody, part of you (and me) expects something in return. The parent who loves their child wants obedience in return, the teacher that loves their student might want good grades in return, the master that loves his servant might want good service in return, the child that loves their parent might want a later curfew in return etc. We can boldly claim that we actually don’t seek for those things when we love other people, but can we really back up those claims? When a friend calls you in the middle of the night because they need you and you go and help them out, that is evidence of you loving them, but when the tables are turned and you ask them for help and they don’t reciprocate, isn’t your first thought, “did you forget the time you needed me and I was there?” Intentionally or not, our selfishness makes it difficult for us to love others unconditionally, regardless of how well the illusions of our unconditional love might be.

The Punishment for Unconditional Love

Am I making the claim that it is impossible for us to love unconditionally? No. I definitely think it is possible to love unconditionally, I just think in order to do so, you need to be conscious of your actions., i.e. I do think it is impossible to love unconditionally unconsciously. To better explain it, let me replace the word “unconditional” with “sacrificial.” Unconditional love is sacrificial love. Sacrifice, by definition, is the act of giving up something valued for the sake of something (or someone) else – regarding them as more important or worthy. What do we sacrifice, then, if we are to love sacrificially? This is where the “punishment” comes in. While it may not literally be a punishment we are enduring for sacrificially loving someone else, it can feel like we are being punished. Because what we have to sacrifice for loving someone unconditionally is (I apologize for how dramatic this might sound) everything.

When I say everything, I’m being quite literal. We have to sacrifice literally everything. Our time, our work, our mind, our bodies, our hearts, you name it, you put that behind the needs of the person you are loving unconditionally. That friend you have that never bats an eye your way when you need them, but you put everything on the line whenever they need it – to the point that it feels like a punishment every time you care for them, that’s the cost of unconditional love. That boy or girl who has consistently broken your heart, yet you are still there whenever they need you, making sure that they are safe and taken care of and it feels like torture, that’s the cost of unconditional love. Every night that you go to bed, having spent the entirety of your day, week, month, etc. giving yourself to other people caring for their needs, their desires, making sure they have all that they need, and you have gained nothing back, not even a word of gratitude or a sign of appreciation, that’s the cost of unconditional, sacrificial love.

To truly love unconditionally, you have to accept the constant pain that comes with it. You have to take it and let it go. The moment you start desiring for someone to take notice of what you are doing, it no longer is unconditional love. Unconditional love is consistently painful and rarely gratifying.

You have a choice. Either love unconditionally and endure the pain that comes with it while being conscious to it every waking moment (because remember what I said earlier, you can’t love unconditionally, unconsciously) or love conditionally and enjoy the perks that come with it.

Conditional Love is Love (sometimes)

I’m sure many of you have heard the phrase (or even said it yourself), “conditional love is not love.” I know I’ve banged that drum plenty of times. And there is meaning to that. The gist of it is that you love someone regardless of who they are. If you love somebody only because they have a certain skin color or lifestyle, that’s conditional love and that’s not cool. That ain’t love. That’s not what I’m arguing against when I claim that conditional love is love.

Rather, I’m looking deeper into how love is practiced in everyday life and the necessity of conditional love. First off, the kind of person who can truly love unconditionally, dealing with everything I described above is few and far between. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone like that (except maybe Jesus, but I’m not talking about religion in this post). But conditional love is all around us, and sometimes it does suck but sometimes it’s kind of a must. It sucks when parents withhold their love to the children until they get an A in class. It sucks when a friendship is broken because one of the people in the relationship doesn’t want to pull their weight. But crap like that has to happen for people to remain healthy (emotionally and physically). If someone decides to put their emotional health before the other person, yes, that means the love is conditional, but I’d rather have that than a worse alternative. We need to make sure that when we say, “conditional love is not love” that we are putting it in the right context. Humans are not superhuman. The things that we sacrifice for others can take a toll on us and if the “lovers” are not taken care of, the outcomes can indeed be fatal. So, yeah, conditional love is love. And just because the individual is asking (either in her heart or through her lips) for a small reciprocation of her love – making her love conditional, she should not be chastised. She should be loved as well. She deserves to be loved, even though her calling (just as the calling of us all) is to love unconditionally.

Here is another angle (and this might piss off some of you). Romantic love is conditional. In other words, you cannot be in a relationship unconditionally. Let me break it down. For romantic love to exist, there has to be a mutual agreement on the expressed love. Take Matt and Jane, for instance. Matt and Jane love each other. They would do anything for each other, including lay their lives down for each other. But the relationship that they have, and any other romantic relationship, is based on the condition that the love is reciprocated. Does that make sense? Matt can love Jane all he wants and he would do anything for her. However, for the love to be romantic, Jane would have to love him back. And sure, the ideal scenario is that Matt and Jane love each other unconditionally, but even then, that is under the condition that the other will reciprocate that love. If you truly want to know if they unconditionally love each other, ask Matt and Jane (and as yourself), would you care for them if they broke your heart? Or would you care for their needs if one of them doesn’t love you romantically? Be honest with yourself. There is nothing you can do to change the fact that romance is conditional love. But like I said earlier, conditional love is love. If you want to know if you love them unconditionally, simply ask yourself if you would put the other person before your needs if the romance was not there. Let me emphasize that point: you have to put the other persons need before yours. Which means, if Jane wants space – Matt gives Jane space. If Jane doesn’t want to ever see Matt again, it doesn’t matter what Matt wants, he lets Jane go. It’s the same if the roles are reversed.

Now what?

Now nothing. Just think about what you’ve read. Let me know your thoughts. Look, I’m not trying to make you question your life. I just want you to think about some of the assumptions you hold about life. Maybe look at it the other way. If your point of view changes, great. If not, just as well.

Also, is it possible that I’m just full of crap and not know anything that I’m talking about? Absolutely.

Until next time.

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What is #WeeklyScarlet?

I’ve been working on a resolution since the beginning of this year. Some of you may know of it and others may not. I wanted to share with you today the story behind my longest sustained resolution, #WeeklyScarlet.

As 2017 began, there were the usual talks that you hear at the beginning of every year. Talks about resolutions, talks about making life changes, and similar conversations that, as it happens every year, died off after a week. Growing frustrated with the lack of perseverance in keeping resolutions, I decided to pursue one that I wanted to stick to, at least for one year. So, I figured if I was going to start one, it had to be about something I cared about, something that matters, and something I enjoyed. It had to be a resolution where I would force myself to go above and beyond to make sure I don’t miss it, even if the risk was too high.

Thus, #WeeklyScarlet was born.

The resolution is a fairly easy one to understand. There is a bakery in the city I live called Scarlet’s Bakery. Before I explain what the resolution is, I’d like to tell you more about the bakery itself.

First, every product that I have had from the bakery has been of the highest quality. Believe me when I say that. I was born and raised under the shadow of a 5-star hotel and I’ve been around 5-star food my entire childhood. Scarlet’s products are of the highest quality and that is because of the love and care each baker and team member puts into each product. Whether it’s their Famous Cinnamon Roll or their rich Red-Velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing or their amazing macaroons, each product is treated with an amazing amount of respect that we don’t see in a lot of restaurants these days.

The second thing you needs to know about Scarlet’s Bakery, I’ll let them tell you. Here is a part of their story from scarletsbakery.org:

“We’ve spent thousands of hours developing our story- a story of restoration. We’re moving into a building over 100 years old- a huge renovation! Many of our recipes are passed down from our families and we’ve restored old ones into new and exciting treats. Most importantly, our employees get a second chance at a new, exciting career path. We hope you enjoy our work as much as we do!”

To provide you with context for that paragraph, go to scarlethope.org. Simply put, Scarlet Hope is an organization that exists to serve the women coming out of the adult industry by sharing the hope and love of Christ with them. Not only does the bakery provide excellent products, but the cause behind the organization is even greater.

So, what is my resolution? It’s pretty straightforward, actually.

Go to Scarlet’s Bakery once a week, take a photo of what I’m having and share it online. When #WeeklyScarlet was created, my original goal was simply to share my love for the bakery and make people envious of what they were missing. And hopefully get themselves to the bakery, because I believe that more people need to experience Scarlet’s Bakery.

It’s interesting and amazing to see how it’s grown. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a small scale project I’m doing for myself, but with each passing week, I’m having more and more people wanting to join me (which inspires me to seek others to join me as well). But let me share the coolest thing to have happened in this journey.

It has been 13 weeks since I’ve started this resolution (if you are doing the math, you’ll probably realize I did not begin on the first week of January. Trust me, I know). For much of those weeks, I’ve been doing it by myself. And that was cool. Sitting in a quaint little bakery, knowing the amazing story of restoration behind it… it’s an amazing feeling. Then, this week, I was joined by a friend. The rest of this paragraph might sound a little confusing but stick with me. One of the things you should know about me is that I love to hear stories. I love stories. And I’m a firm believer that every single soul walking this planet has a story unique to them. Which means, there are approximately 7.4 billion stories around us. I want to know all of them. I realize the impossibility of that desire, but I’m not one to simply allow the impossibility of something refrain me from attempting it. Anyway, going back to being joined by a friend this week… we were having a good conversation and we were learning more about each other’s stories and when we were done, and I found myself reflecting back on the conversation. There was this moment of… I don’t know what word I’m looking for… but think of the feeling you get when you drink a cup of hot chocolate on a cold, snowy, winters night. There was a moment of feeling that feeling. Why? Because we were sitting in a bakery with an amazing story, sharing our individually unique stories with each other, creating a moment which has become its own unique story.

I’m excited about this for a few reasons. One, this was the beginning of many stories yet to be created. Two, I get to enjoy consuming the stories of others. And three, my resolution, #WeeklyScarlet has evolved to become a platform where with every story shared, the story of Scarlet’s Bakery will be a part of it.

Maybe I’m just being sappy. But hey, it’s a good story.

We Live. Until We Don’t.

Yes. I’m writing about death.

This is going to be a slightly awkward post, because I am talking about death. With humor.

When I turned 17 almost 6 years ago, I got stuck with a birthday present for life that sucked (that’s actually a pun-y statement because the birthday present is slowly sucking the life out of me). I got a diagnosed with diabetes. I’ve never talked about my diabetes on such a public platform, but I figured if I was going to talk about death, context would probably be important.

The thing about getting diagnosed with a disease when you’re 17 is that you really don’t take it seriously. Or maybe you do, and it’s just me. You think you are invulnerable. You believe that you can beat anything. I really believe that having that mindset is helpful since it keeps your optimism up which helps you cope with the fact that you just got screwed by life. Unfortunately, we live in a world with people. And one of the things people do – intentionally or not – is remind you that you have a disease that could kill you. They remind you that they knew someone who passed away that had the disease you got diagnosed with. Happy thoughts.

Having spent the last 6 years being reminded on the regular about my imminent death, at some point, I was forced to face the reality of death. And so I did. And here we are.

The two things that every living creature have in common, regardless of when you think life begins, is that these living creatures live (thanks Captain Obvious). Then they die. There you go, I’ve finally helped you figure out what you have in common with butterflies (and spiders, you’re welcome).

Look, I’m not aiming to talk about death in a spiritual fashion. Maybe slightly philosophical. But mainly, the biology (I don’t know if that’s the right word) of death fascinated me. Think about it. Regardless of who you are, rich or poor, black or white, whether you prefer coffee or you’re wrong, at some point we are going to end up in the same place, death’s arms.

How can we understand something like that? I don’t know how to talk about death – physical death – because I’ve never experienced it. And those who have, don’t live to tell the tale. I could talk about anything I’ve experienced first-hand and describe it to you, because I’ve lived it. I can even talk to you about a spiritual death, because I’ve experienced that. I can tell you that cockroaches freak me out because I’ve seen those vile creatures. But death… I don’t know. People say they fear death, but how do you fear something you haven’t experienced (this is obviously pointed to those who haven’t had a literal life and death situation). I’ve used the term “scared to death” metaphorically, but I think a statement like that disrespects the permanence of death. If I was scared to death, I’d assume I’d permanently be scared.

Speaking of permanence (again, NOT speaking spiritual so don’t respond spiritual), what else is permanent in the world except death? Even life, which is the opposite of death is temporary. I mean, that is power. If death was a person, I have to imagine that it is the most powerful person. Because every creature kneels to it at some point.

I respect death (again, physical death, not spiritual. Whole different conversation). I don’t fear death. But that isn’t a statement of courage. It’s matter of fact. Why fear something that is inevitable. I’m in Starbucks right now and I’m surrounded by diverse group of people who are all going to die. This isn’t the pessimist or cynic in me talking. It’s, quite honestly, the realist. If death is going to come regardless of how life is lived, why not live a life of content – and when death comes knocking, invite him with open arms? Now here, I do have to consider spirituality. “Life of content” is different for different people. I may be suffering for my faith, but it’s still a content life. What your definition of content is, that’s up to you.

I enjoy cake. I love a happy slice of apple pie. Sometimes I indulge myself. As a diabetic, that’s not always (actually not ever), healthy. I’ve had people who truly care about me remind me that with my disease, and the way I’ve lived my lifestyle, I’m going to die at 40. My response, “Crap. I was going for 30.” Totally kidding. But seriously though, I get it. I do. I’m disease ridden and the way I live my life can lead to an untimely death. Truth be told, death is going to come anyway. So, who cares when? I’d rather have lived 40 happy years than 70 years of following a set of rules that’s simply boring.

The counterpoint to that mindset is that, what if you have a family who is dependent on you. Do you really want to leave your wife and child, a widow and fatherless? Honestly, I hate that argument. I truly despise it. Why? Because I don’t see myself having a wife and kids. Am I saying that won’t happen? No, I’m not. I can’t tell the future. But consider the person who is telling you he’d rather die happy at 40 than bored at 70. It’s a single, male, who other humans are not depending on (in a familial manner). The context that I see myself now is the same context I see myself when I’m 40 and when I’m 70. Single, with no dependents. This tune of my song could change tomorrow, if the context of my life changes. I don’t know if it will, and frankly, I don’t care. That’s an ocean to cross then.

Today, I’m 22 and no longer a fool of a teenager. I’m still diabetic and I’m taking it more seriously than I did back then. Why? Because, I’m smarter than I was back then and even if I only live to 40 I don’t want that time to be painful. But death, still will come. And I’d rather go with him knowing I didn’t let a disease dictate my life. Instead, I enjoyed life to its fullest. And for those who still are alive, I’ll ask death if he could do y’all a solid and also take decaf coffee away.

– αß

Write What?

One of the most frustrating things as a (wannabe) writer is not knowing what to write about. The unfortunate thing is that there is a ton to write about. Look around you. With the insanity of the racial tensions in this country, with the circus that has been created of our political system, and with the continual existence of decaffeinated coffee – there is a lot of things to write about.

The problem for someone like me is that I’m not well read enough in most of these things to warrant having an actual post about them (well, the decaf coffee problem is something I have words for but not right now).

Sure, the solution is fairly simple if you consider it. I can spend some time looking at whatever issue is plaguing the country, think about it, write about it and in doing so resolve every problem that exists and then be hailed as the champion of the people (step aside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).

The problem isn’t necessarily that there isn’t anything to write about. Rather its wanting to write about everything that is going on. The hard part is categorizing what to share my opinion on right now. Is the issue of racial tension more important than the political disaster that is our election season? I don’t know. Being a man of color, I have my thoughts that I want to share. But at the same time, this year I became a citizen and that means I get to vote. Which means I want to talk about politics (though I really hate politics. But with this election season being more of a circus I can enjoy writing about it).

These two examples are only the ones that majority people are talking about right now. There are many other things that I think I want to write about.

Being a Christian is one of the most important things in my life. However, there are issues within churches that I see on the regular that I need to write about (though this is more for me venting, rather than expecting change). Sure, there are also great things that happen within the church that is worth writing about. But the cynic in me prefers talking about the negativity. That’s a me problem.

One of the topics I know I want to write about is relationships. I cannot express to you how much I want to write about relationships. Unfortunately, (#spoilers), what I write on relationships is, as far as I can tell, going to be cynical and mean. The problem with that is, (and I really wish this didn’t worry me) most of the people who I do know are in relationships and they may not take lightly to me mocking their current life status. However, once I get over that worry, writing about it is going to be fun.

From what I’ve seen other writers do, they write about the events going on in their lives. While that is a legitimate idea, my life really isn’t too eventful. You’d have more of an exciting time reading War and Peace rather than reading about my everyday life. That’s not to say that things don’t happen to and around me that’s worth sharing. Occasionally, I have a squirrel talk to me or someone serve me decaf coffee and I make them cry – those events are worth sharing and I will. But on a regular basis, my life isn’t that eventful. At least for now.

Regardless of the struggle of finding something to write about, I do want to keep up the habit of continually writing. There are a few reasons for this. One: I want to be a better writer. That’s a given. Being the academic that I am, I have to write a lot. But academic writing is usually boring. Instead, writing for fun and hopefully growing as a writer might help me in other times where writing is mandatory. Two: I want to learn how this website works. I’m working on a website for an organization and I’d rather not have their website be where I make mistakes as I learn. Keeping up this website can help me learn the ins and outs of WordPress and then what is learned can be applied to the other. Three: Hopefully, as I continue to write on current events, I can become a better comic and a social commentator. One of the things I’m thankful that we are blessed with in this world is humor. What I want to do is use humor intelligently. I’m not clever enough to be witty about current events on the fly. I need to think about it and writing helps. This is probably the only time I might want whoever reads this blog to think. Most of my posts are going to be simply humorous for the sake of humor. If it makes you smile or laugh – it’s done its job. But there may be a few posts here and there that’s my take (cynical as it may be) on what is currently happening in the world. While these are going to be written from a comic’s point of view – I do hope they can get the reader thinking.

Essentially, this blog is going to be like my Facebook statuses. But longer. If I can actually decide what the hell to write about.

– αß