On many occasions people have asked me how you can love somebody despite their being angry, or selfish, or stupid, or whatever.
The problem here is typified by the use of the word “despite.” If I claim to love you despite your flaws:
- The word “despite” openly declares that I judge YOU to be defective, not just to have some flaws. I’m saying there is something WRONG with you. Proof? Suppose you give me your car as a gift, maybe because you’re buying another one. Would I say, “I love the car despite the fact that you’re giving it to me for free”? Or, “I love the car despite the fact that it still looks really good—nice paint job, good condition of the leather interior”? NO, because those things—free gift, good condition—are universally recognized as GOOD things. I would say “despite” only about something WRONG, like, “I love the car despite the fact that it has no engine, and I’ll have to get one installed.”
- Loving you “despite” your flaws is clearly judgmental and unloving, which makes neither of us happy.
- Loving you “despite” is effortful. Over and over, I have to judge you defective, carry that judgment around with me, and decide whether I can stand living with that. It’s work.
- You won’t feel loved. You will sense my judgment, so our entire exercise in “loving” is futile.
On the other hand, if I love you WITH your mistakes or flaws:
- There is no judgment of your value. I just love YOU, and you happen to have some flaws. I love the entire package of you.
- It’s relatively effortless. I can notice your flaws, but I don’t have all the work of judging, controlling, and more.
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