Resilience also means discerning information.
I have heard recently in an interview with an HR person – speaking briefly about the origins of narcissism – that unconditional love (as with neglect) can lead to a child becoming narcissist. My eyebrows lifted into question marks, but as they kept talking I quickly realized where their argument went all wrong.
They made a tally between unconditional love and spoiling children. By spoiling they meant buying and giving everything to a child that they want.
It seemed for me unconditional love is often misunderstood, so I think it is worth defining it so we can avoid later confusions.
In a nutshell I see unconditional love as loving someone regardless of their actions.
Loving unconditionally means we love them for who they are, while we can still strongly disagree with what they do.
Loving the person and not affirming their actions are not mutually exclusive. It is part of resilience.
This is how parents should treat their children. Loving them to bits but not approving of or affirming their bad behaviour or wrongful actions.
No question, it means a lot of confrontation – but this is how children learn how to handle disagreements, how to set up and keep boundaries.
They do not do what we parents say, but they do as we do.
We are being watched all the time by them, and
they learn how to live life by examining the concordances and discrepancies between our speeches and our acts.
They learn what is important and what is not, whether we do as we say, or not. I see this as a huge responsibility of adults – not only of parents, but aunts and uncles, grandparents, teachers, and coaches.
More importantly, this is when and where the children develop a solid inner foundation of their identity, which they can rely on when facing challenges.
This is when
they learn they have the right to say no.
They’ll learn it also means having the option of walking away from any situation they feel is uncomfortable, and that others’ opinions about them are not necessarily objective reflections.
This is the time when children
develop their identity of “who I am”,
so we can save them the hard part of re-establishing themselves from “what I am” to “who I am” in their later years. It is a gradual process, the older they get the more they should start setting up their own boundaries, so they can practice protecting themselves – physically and mentally.
So by the time they step out into “life” they have learnt to say no and not be afraid to stick to it, or be shaken to the core by any negative feedback, and hopefully identifying attempts of manipulation and dodge them – because they have carefully set up their boundaries.
Boundaries are essential parts of life.
If we do not have any boundaries, at the right distance, or firm enough, we easily take on undesirable impacts from outside which can cause huge damage to us.
How to reconcile love with boundaries?
Just think of parenting – if a child faces no boundaries in their upbringing how hard will they find life, which is full of them, e.g. what age one can start driving and under what conditions, having a job means getting to work on time, not when it suits, respecting others, obeying police officers, and countless other situations.
I strongly believe a child brought up without being taught about boundaries is yet to experience true love.
So reflecting on the topic at the start of this article, unconditional love does not mean the lack of boundaries.
Love without boundaries is not love.