What Is Radical Love?

Updated December 20, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Love has many names and faces, and few can claim that they are immune to its effects. Different types of love are ascribed to different kinds of relationships and different seasons of life. Radical love is simply love that is unconditional.

Radical Love: Love Itself

Everyone Is Worthy Of Unconditional Love

The term radical is used to describe something that is whole, complete, and thorough. A radical change, for instance, is one that completely overhauls existing standards. Radical love, then, is love that is not fractured in its expression or experience. In more common terms, radical love is unconditional love. Unconditional love is considered to be the pinnacle of love because, as Shakespeare described, it does not “[alter] when it alteration finds.”

What Radical Love Isn't

Radical or unconditional love may be construed as "too forgiving" or "too accepting." This, however, is a misunderstanding. Or someone can be loved unconditionally despite manipulative behavior without the lover giving in to the manipulation. Unconditional love doesn’t mean being a doormat and compromising your mental wellness; rather, it means loving without requiring anything in return, including a certain level of behavior or performance.

Radical love is not, however, a free pass. Loving someone unconditionally does not entitle the loved one to behave in ways that are harmful to themselves or others. Radical love endures no matter the reason or season, but it may also prompt people to speak the truth to those they love. Radical love does not mean staying silent and sitting idly, nor does it mean ignoring underlying issues when change is necessary.

Radical Love In Religion

While some may think of each religion as having its own distinct personality with its own prescription for peace, joy, and happiness, there are some commonalties among religions. Radical love is one of those common threads that seems to appear in more than one religion. It is the kind of love displayed in the Old Testament by Abraham’s love of God and in the New Testament by Jesus Christ. Radical love is also spoken of in Islam, particularly in Islamic poetry and mystic works. And radical love is embraced too in Eastern religious traditions, including Buddhism, where love is considered the ultimate expression of wholeness and understanding.

Radical Love In Relationships

Radical love spans all types of relationships, too, from the love of a parent for a child to the love of lifelong partners, as well as individually in your own path toward mental wellness. Radical love does not require a certain framework to survive and find joy; instead, radical love emerges from the idea that all people are worthy of love, regardless of their backgrounds, behaviors, or merits.

In relationships, as in religions, radical love can be equated with grace. Grace exists when mistakes are made, or hopes are dashed, and love is still given. Where self-centered love gets angry, throws tantrums, and makes demands, radical love endures.

Radical Love In Parenting

Parenting is arguably one of the most important places for radical love to exist. Much damage is done to children when conditional love is the norm, including emotional and mental challenges and even personality disorders. For many people, the scars of childhood trauma run deep and can lead to a lifetime of crippling anxiety and depression. Radical love in parenting means that love is not used as a reward in response to certain behaviors but is offered without any sort of expectation.

In parenting, radical love means offering support, kindness, and consideration always, as well as prioritizing your child’s mental and emotional health over personal disappointments. This is not to say that children should never be reprimanded; instead, it is the way in which children are called out that matters. If your child has hit someone, for instance, conditional love might focus on what is wrong with the child (the child is bad or wrong). Unconditional love, on the other hand, focuses on teaching valuable lessons about what is wrong with the behavior (hitting is wrong). Patience, love, learning to accept yourself and others, and a level head are key aspects of radical love in parenting and family life.

Radical Love In Romance

As compared to love between a parent and child, the dynamic in a romantic relationship is usually that of two equals. Radical love in romance often means setting expectations for yourself and creating boundaries with your partner. In romance, both partners have needs that can be met by one another and needs that must be met elsewhere. Identifying these and creating a framework for your relationship demonstrates that your love is not one that is dependent upon what your partner can give you or you can give your partner but is instead created out of a mutual respect for each other as whole, separate humans.

Radical Love In Friendship

Friendship, like romance, is typically a relationship between equals. Radical love in friendship means showing up for one another, even when it is hard or uncomfortable. People make mistakes and they need to know that they can rely on the love of a good friend no matter what their failings. Close friends often see each other both at their best and worst, and they can have incredible insight into one another's lives. Friends are often the people most likely to be able to speak truth or identify the areas in which you are struggling or stumbling. These types of conversations require radical love on the part of both friends.

What Is Radical Love?

Radical love is unconditional love, unmotivated by the possibility of reciprocation or reward. Radical love is a love fueled by humanity, compassion, understanding, and a yearning for a meaningful life of gratitude. Radical love is the kind of love that can be felt for all of humankind; for everything on earth, alive or not, seeing everyone and everything as interconnected, and vibrant.

Radical love can be traced to virtually all religious traditions. From the Judeo-Christian tradition to Islam to Eastern religious practices such as Buddhism, radical love is espoused by each. Radical love is the type of love, too, exemplified by the leaders of those religions: Abraham of the Old Testament, Jesus of the New Testament, the prophet of the Quran, and Siddhartha of Buddhism. Radical love is the ultimate expression of wholeness and contentment and is the truest form of love in existence.

Everyone Is Worthy Of Unconditional Love

Online Therapy for Couples

Online therapy is a way for couples looking to embark on an emotional health journey to receive mental health counseling. A recent qualitative study of 15 couples receiving online counseling found impressions of the experience to be overwhelmingly positive, with clients commenting on how immersed they felt in the therapeutic process. Some couples reported that, to their surprise, feeling a bit more “distant” from the therapist gave them a greater sense of control and comfort. Ultimately, couples felt that the online process enhanced the therapeutic alliance, which is the single greatest predictor of therapy success.

The Benefits of Online Therapy

Online therapy is a convenient option for couples wanting to improve their relationships and mental health, especially as it can be difficult to find time in two busy schedules for in-person therapy. This is where BetterHelp comes in. Online therapy offers lower pricing than in-person therapy because online therapists don’t have to pay for costs like renting an office. And it’s been proven just as effective as in-person therapy. BetterHelp’s licensed therapists have helped individuals and couples with relationship issues. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“Yvonne helped me hone in on the root of the issues I was dealing with and helped provide me with tools to improve my outlook and self-esteem. She helped me realize the ways of thinking that were not serving me and take steps to overcome my fears and insecurities. She's also been great at providing me with perspective. I have loved working

“What a wonderful human! Sarah listens intently and always gives me another perspective to consider. Not right or wrong, just a different way to think about my concerns. She is delightful and insightful.”

Takeaway

Radical love is unconditional love. It is given without conditions or expectations, and it is not contingent on anything. Radical love is often contrasted with conditional love, which is love that is given with certain conditions attached. For example, a parent may tell a child that they only love them if they get good grades. Studies have shown that conditional love can be harmful to relationships. It can lead to feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and low self-esteem. In contrast, radical love tends to have better relational outcomes. That’s because it’s based on trust, respect, and acceptance. If you’d like to ensure your expressing or experiencing love in a healthy way, therapy can help. Get started today.

For additional help & support with your concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started