Unconditional Approval?

We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart.

–Henri Nouwen

This reflection from the Henri Nouwen Society grabbed my attention. It’s just so true.

How often do people fall into the trap of thinking someone isn’t loving them unconditionally simply because that person disapproves of their actions?…I know I’ve done it. 

Most parents will tell you that they don’t always approve of their child’s behavior but they still love them unconditionally. Interestingly those same parents very often will turn around and accuse a spouse, friend or family member of not loving them “unconditionally” because that person doesn’t agree with or approve of their own selfish actions. Why the inconsistency?

The root of this is obviously the wound of original sin. Our flesh cries out for self-justification. We want to be seen as doing the right thing. And when someone doesn’t approve of our sinful (selfish) words or deeds we often interpret that disapproval as rejection and “feel” unloved. But the reality is this: The true expression of God’s unconditional love through another person will never show approval of  my sin, but will always love me the sinner. We all know there is a difference. But, when it comes to applying it to ourselves our wounded flesh can’t always make that distinction. Instead we must see with the eyes of the spirit.

So, the next time you’re “feel” unloved by someone who disagrees with you ask yourself:

What am I really seeking, their unconditional love or their unconditional approval?


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