You know what the difference is between Santa Clause and the rest of us? Red clothes and a white beard! Ho! Ho! Ho!
Just kidding. It’s unqualified love.
Well, except for those who get coal in their stockings.
Dogs never get coal in their stockings. Know why? They give unqualified love. “He’s just a dog”, a lot of people say. But dogs don’t have that attitude toward us. They hang out with us, guard us, comfort us when we’re down, play with us when we’re happy. They even eat really crummy food. Would you eat dog food after a hard day at work or play?
I rest my case.
Humans aren’t as forgiving as dogs or Santa. We’re constantly qualifying each other. “That person is fantastic!” we think. Then, after getting to know them better, “Oops, a flaw! Disqualified.”
That’s why there are so many divorces.
Happy marriages (and families) require and are nourished by unqualified love.
You know who loved without qualification? The guy whose birthday we celebrate this week, Jesus Christ. He came up with a really novel idea: instead of vengeance, he said, “Turn the other cheek” and “love thy neighbor”. It was a very cool idea for the time, kind of like the Internet in today’s world.
Leaders of other religions had similar ideas, but he’s the guy whose birthday we’re celebrating, so I’ll go with him today.
He loved people with all kinds of flaws, small and large: from leprosy to thievery to torture and murder (including his).
He was a little extreme, of course. I don’t think most of us would love the people who killed us. But I think he did that to set an example of unqualified love.
I have a friend whose dog just died. She’s sadder than some people are who lost a human. I think it’s because her “Jackson” loved her more than most people love each other. Unqualified love can do that.
Dogs and Jesus. I wonder if, when we leave this earth, we’ll see a dog at the pearly gates.
“Whoa! Is that you, Philo?”
“Yep. And I still love you even though you made me wait hours just to take pee.”
“Can I come into heaven?”
“Well sure. But I’m going to pee whenever I want. And you? You’ll have to wait until I take you out.”
I’ve been to a couple of funerals recently: the national one we all went to (on television) for President George H.W. Bush, and another one in Columbus, Ohio. They both were “Celebrations of Life”. Both people were highly accomplished and had long marriages, flaws included. Both services included a lot of stories and jokes about loving without qualification.
We tend not to talk about people’s flaws after they die. It makes sense, in a way. Focus on the happy memories. But it doesn’t make sense in another way. Humans aren’t perfect. And our flaws help make us who we are. They frequently inform our virtues.
A virtue in one situation can be a flaw in another.
H. W. took part in the Iran-Contra scandal, for example, but saved Kuwait – patriotism was there in both cases. The woman in Columbus led and started a number of highly successful non-profits at the same time she was raising four kids. Her secret? She did not – how should I put this – suffer fools? A flaw? Sometimes, but also a reason she accomplished so much.
The flaw/virtue combination happens a lot. Hard work can be a virtue; being a workaholic a flaw. Sensitivity can be a virtue; oversensitivity a flaw. Speech making in public can be a virtue; speech making at home a flaw. Making a point once: a virtue, repeating it a…. (OK. I’ll stop)
Which takes us back to the notion of unqualified love. We all want it, but it’s kind of hard to get from other humans.
So here’s my plan for 2019: we all make lists of our flaws and lists of our virtues. Next we simply eliminate the flaws (those that aren’t also virtues). And Presto! We’re shoo-ins for unqualified love. From everyone, including Santa!
Pretty cool plan, huh. I wonder why no one thought of it before?