Womanist Wisdom: The Missteps of Unconditional Love

I am a womanist, which means I incorporate religion and spirituality into my feminist principles (along with a host of other differences). I am also a non-denominational Christian, so deciphering scripture has been pertinent to my spiritual adventure.

One of the scriptures that I adore and refer to often is the popular 1 Corinthians 13-4:8 scripture on love. It reads:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

The Biblical definition of love regards it as an all-encompassing concept that represents all of the positive characteristics in people. God is love, love is God and we are to love our fellow (wo)man as He loves us. When love is defined so purely and without conditions, it seems so much easier to exemplify in our daily lives. But because love requires us to shun our human impulses and embrace each other instead, it is much more difficult to embody than it appears to be.

Two women that seem to have conquered love are Alice Walker and Iyanla Vanzant.

As an activist, writer, and compassionate woman, Walker is a firm representation of what love encompasses. Though she is prone to human fallibilities as we all are, Walker seems to have mastered the art of balancing logic and emotion; she loves when it is time to love, but realizes when a relationship has reached its end and separates without burning the emotional bridge. Based on the sexual exploits described in Evelyn C. White’s biography of her, Walker doesn’t love often; but when she does, it is unconditional and is entrenched in the deep recesses of her heart.

Dr. Vanzant, a spiritual coach and star of OWN’s “Iyanla Fix My Life,” has built an empire of self-help literature and workshops on channeling the love of God into our lives. She has said that hurt is caused when we are separated from God and that love is the healer. Her life is the purest example of love, forgiveness and redemption.

I have not reached this plateau where love exists without conflict, hurt, and regret. I’ve been involved in several relationships, both platonic and intimate, and when those relationships end, the love is replaced with anger, bitterness, or sadness. It never maintains that purest form of love, which then distorts how I view our happier memories and times together.

I do not believe that I have loved as Walker has. No love has given me the conviction to pursue it amidst the strife present in 1960’s Mississippi. I have not found someone who I love so much that I will travel to Eatonton, Georgia, fearful for both of our lives, but willing to make the trek regardless of the danger. I have limited who I love as Walker has, but in times of strife or turmoil, as was awaiting her in Mississippi, I have not found love.

I’ve sacrificed. I’ve cried. I’ve been heartbroken. I have loved. But I have never loved that hard. I will go to war to and for the people that I love. But I’m still working on loving without conditions. It’s difficult, but I’m pushing through the angst.

I was reminded of the importance of holding on to love this afternoon when Tbj and I found ourselves at a crossroads in our relationship. There are hundreds of miles separating us, but the distance is more tangible now than it has ever been. I can hear the weariness in his voice and I know that he is as exhausted as I am.

Have you ever penciled in a relationship? That’s what we’re doing. Between his flight schedule and my travels, freelance assignments, homework and internship applications, our relationship isn’t harvesting. I can sense the shift from optimism to a glass half-empty … and it’s taking a toll on me … on us.

In times like this, I can remember the wise words of my mother, who once told me that love is worth holding on to.

“Evette, when the butterflies are gone and the hard times set in, real love will come forth. And if it doesn’t, it wasn’t meant to be. But in that worst moment, when it seems like you can’t hold on another day, another hour, if you can keep holding on, it will get better.”

Since she’s been married to my father for 23 years and has endured the scariest storms to reach the kingdom of happiness and peace, I know that her wisdom is perforated with life lessons.

This time I hope she’s right. Because these missteps of unconditional love ain’t easy.

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3 thoughts on “Womanist Wisdom: The Missteps of Unconditional Love

  1. Have you ever penciled in a relationship? — this question hit me like a ton of bricks because lately I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing to my poor husband. It’s so important that we make time for the ones we love.

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