Unconditional love



Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

1 Corinthians 13 48  



If I say I love you unconditionally it means that I will never reject you.  

Socially, this presumably means for life.  In a cooperative situation, it means for the duration of the project.  

Unconditional love is a form of reciprocity.  In “classical” reciprocity – “tit-for-tat” – then the way I behave depends on the way you behave.  In unconditional love, then I will love you and accept you no matter what your behaviour is.  

We can see that there can be “degrees” of conditionality – a spectrum.  For each relationship, there may or may not be a point past which we cannot be pushed and remain unconditional in our acceptance.  


Stakeholder Principle

We can imagine a situation where person P helps person Q through their normal behaviour: what they were going to do anyway.  .  

Loyalty consists of affection and commitment.  Quite possibly, the position of Q’s loyalty towards P on the spectrum of conditionality depends on the stake that Q has in P’s well being – essentially, how much Q needs P’s existence.  

In other words, if P is essential to Q, then person Q has reason to love person P unconditionally, and the stake that Q has in P is 100%.  The benefit of P is essential to the survival of Q.  Accordingly, Q is normally willing to expend a great deal of resources to help P in return.  

If the stake that Q has in P is less than 100%, then there may come a point where Q will reject P if P’s behaviour becomes unacceptable compared with the benefits given to Q by P.  

If person P helps person Q through their normal behaviour, or otherwise, then person Q will feel towards person P:  

  1. a sense of debt and obligation (through the instinct of fair exchanges, tit-for-tat reciprocity);
  2. a warm positive regard.  

As the stake that Q has in P’s well being approaches 100%, i.e. as the benefits of P towards Q become large, Q will also feel an increasing sense of loyalty and commitment towards P.  


Two kinds of helping

There are two kinds of helping involved in unconditional love:  

  1. “unintended consequences” where person P helps person Q just by existing.
  2. “helping in response to need” where person P helps person Q in a deliberate fashion targeted at person Q’s needs.  



Characteristic situations  

Tit-for-tat reciprocity is found in impersonal business relationships and impersonal relationships in general.  

Unconditional love is mainly found in two types of context: personal, and cooperative.  

  1. The personal can be either being related by family, or through some historical reason to feel endlessly grateful or loyal (such as being married, or because someone has saved your life, for example).  
  2. If people are collaborating together towards a common goal then there is unconditional love – “I will never reject you” – for the lifetime of the collaboration.  

Both situations make defection unlikely (breaking the deal), because in 1) family is always family, and the past cannot be changed; in 2) it is in each person’s interests not to defect because all are working towards a common goal.  



Characteristic behaviour  

Tit-for-tat is an impersonal, businesslike form of reciprocity that can be seen as heartless in some circumstances.  

Behaviour from tit-for-tat cooperation / reciprocity includes: “you have to earn it”, punishing, blaming, rejecting, strategic self-interest.  We see this justified distressingly often from religious people, which probably stems from the impersonal environment (large anonymous groups) in which organised religion began.

Behaviour from unconditional love / cooperation includes: self-sacrifice, patience, understanding, empathy, educating, helping to succeed, forgiveness.  These come from the idea of a long-term relationship of shared goals and destiny, so, “what’s good for you is good for me”, “it’s in my interests to help you”.  But we don’t have to be in an unconditional relationship to employ this kind of behaviour – actually, it costs nothing and is very beneficial.  It was the norm for most of the history of human evolution, when we lived in small groups.  We can also see this behaviour exalted as the highest good, by Jesus etc.  



Unconditional harm  

If the unconditional love end of the spectrum corresponds with cooperation, unconditional harm belongs with competition.  

In unconditional love, the benefit is given freely by P to Q.  

We may distinguish two kinds of unconditional harm:  

  1. “unintended consequences” where P takes what they like from Q without caring about the effects on Q, through force, manipulation or deception.    
  2. “hurting in response to need” where P deliberately targets their harm just where Q needs help instead.  



Human evolution and instincts  

In most of the history of the human family tree, from approximately 2.5 million years ago until around 12,000 years ago, when cities and agriculture began, people lived and survived together in small groups.  This means that each person’s stake in their group-mates was personally almost 100%, and so, unconditional love for the people around us was the norm for most of human history.  

We know from archaeological evidence that warfare was almost non-existent, and that the weak and disabled were taken care of, probably because everyone wanted to live in that kind of situation, and because we can gain a good reputation from caring for the weak.  

When small groups began merging together to make larger city states, the social situation became much more anonymous, and businesslike tit-for-tat reciprocity would have become dominant in most people’s lives.  We believe that this was the time when organised religion began.  



Human rights  

Human rights are a form of unconditional love, since it means to treat someone unconditionally as a human being with regard to the rule “the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to them”.  This is reminiscent of our evolutionary past when each person would have been seen as important.  

Kenny and Butters (South Park)