This morning I came across a quote on Facebook that perplexed me. Troubled would be too strong of a word to describe my initial feelings when I read it. The quote simply nagged me; it hung on my mind like a piece of dead skin that can't naturally turn loose. So I finally dealt with it by analyzing the point being made and came to the conclusion that I disagree. The quote, unattributed, said:
"Some people mistake unconditional love with unconditional approval."
I think just the opposite is true. Unconditional love IS unconditional approval. If you unconditionally love someone it means that you unconditionally approve of that someone. Approval is defined by Websters' as "the belief that something or someone is worthy of your acceptance."
I think the author of the quote meant, "Some people mistake unconditional love for a person with unconditional approval of that person's actions." If that is what the quote actually said, I would agree. But that is not what the quote says. The object of the love and the object of the approval does not change from person to actions in the quote. For this reason I can't agree with it.
The trouble, in my opinion, is people don't understand that unconditional love of a person is unconditional approval of the person.
I know a father who did not approve of his seventeen year old daughter dating an older man. The relationship, from the perspective of the father, was unhealthy for his daughter. The father unconditionally loved his daughter and unconditionally approved of his daughter, but the father neither loved nor approved of the actions of his daughter in dating this man. The father gave his daughter two weeks to break up with her boyfriend and told her that if she could not, he would break off the relationship for her. After two weeks the daughter was unable to end the relationship, so the father went to the man and told him that he was forbidden to have any contact with his daughter, and if he violated those boundaries, he would be answering to the father. The father was gracious and kind to the man, explaining that this decision to break off the dating relationship was for the good of his daughter, whom he loved unconditionally.
Upon arriving home and telling his seventeen year old daughter what he had done, the daughter flew into rage. She yelled at the top of her lungs, "I hate you" over and over again. The father calmly, and gently told his daughter that he loved her even though she felt hatred toward him. He explained that even if she continued to feel hatred and expressed it verbally to her father until the day she died, he would always love and approve of her as a person. He intervened in her dating relationship because he loved his minor daughter and disapproved of his daughter's actions.
"But what if I run away and marry this man without your approval. What then?"
"Oh, please don't misunderstand sweetheart!" said the father. "You will always have my approval as a person, even if you run away and marry him. The fact that your mom and dad will not financially support you in your decision, assist you in continuing the relationship, or be a part of any wedding plans does not mean that we don't approve of you. On the contrary, it means that we love you. We see your relationship with this man as unhealthy, and if we didn't love you, we would not intervene! We will always unconditionally love you, and if you choose to bear the consequences of running away (the loss of financial support), we will love and approve of you just as I am doing right now while you are filled with hatred for me. Your actions never change our love and approval of you as a person. We unconditionally love you and accept you--period!"
The relationship the daughter had with the young man ended. In time, the girl met another man, the "man of her dreams," and she forgot all about her old flame. The one thing that did linger with her, however, was the feelings of being unconditionally loved by her father that day as she yelled "I hate you!" to him. Years later she would explain to her dad that his warm embrace and tender love for her as a person, even when she was a hate-filled daughter, taught her what genuine love and personal approval was all about.
Love for the Person in the Midst of Sin
Unconditional love--love that is independence of one's performance (agape love)--is THE mark of genuine Christianity. It is by this love that people know we are followers of Christ. Too love like this is a gift of grace. This love is magnetic and transforming. Once experienced, it changes you. Once it changes you, others are changed around you. Unconditional love of a person is unconditional approval of that person. That doesn't mean that you approve of all the actions of the person you love, it means that because you love that person and always approve that person, you will consistently do what is best for that person in the midst of his or her sin. You expose sin, never cover it. You call an action immoral because it is. You turn a person over to police because of a criminal action. In other words, you abhor that which should be abhorred--the action, not the person.
BECAUSE unconditional love is unconditional approval of that person, you find ways to communicate your love to that person in the midst of immorality, while helping to escape from it. You hang in there loving that person, even while turning the person over for his crimes, and even though the criminal makes life very uncomfortable. You risk being hated as you help the one you love identify, expose, and forsake sin. The unwillingness to allow any immoral or criminal action to drive you away is the sign you truly love and approve of a person.
Everybody of sane mind is sickened and revolted by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky. I've been wondering the last couple of days who in this world has really loved and approved of Jerry Sandusky the person. I'm not expecting you or me to love Jerry Sandusky; we don't even know him. I'm just wondering who the Sandusky in my life is?