Unconditional love. Is there any command more challenging than this? Growing up near the city (San Francisco, and now Minneapolis), I was exposed to the reality homelessness and drug abuse, as I saw people living on the street, begging for money. I learned young not to give money to the homeless people because they might use it for drugs. Sensible.
But, as I learned more about drug abuse, I started to wonder – what makes drug abusers any less worthy of my gift than another? Drug abuse is a disease – would I withhold support to someone with any other physical or mental illness? Even drug abusers need food, shelter, clothing. So now my choice to give or not to give is a little more difficult. Here’s a difficult reality – if an addict is suddenly left without their drug of choice, they could very easily die from withdrawal. So, here’s my choice – I can withhold my gift and risk their withdrawal and death. Or I can give my gift and potentially enable the continuing of an addiction. Wow! Tough choice.
How about this? I cannot solve the problem of people who are so deep in their addiction that they are living on the street and begging for money and food. When I’m faced with the opportunity to give, all I can do is decide on the spot if that is the right move for me or not. I can, however, do something about the addicts in my own life. I can love them without enabling them. I can love them while I let them experience the consequences of their own choices (without saving them from themselves). I can love them and offer them professional help. I can love them and not judge them (don’t I have my own failings?). I can love them and let them go if holding on to them is bringing me to my knees. I can love when loving unconditionally is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
(To learn more about remaining healthy in the face of a loved one’s addiction, go to Al-Anon.)
Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”