Every relationship in my life lately has been an experiment of the idea of unconditional love and freedom. Byron Katie says egos can’t love; they always want something. Whereas the soul can love unconditionally and expect nothing in return. Wide open heart. Zero conditions.

But this week, I finally really got a critical piece of this puzzle. Here’s my epiphany. It’s totally possible to offer unconditional love plus absolute freedom with no conditions. But ACCESS is completely conditional. (LIGHTBULB!)

Brene Brown says the most compassionate people on the planet are the ones with the highest boundaries. Now I get it! For so long, I made the mistake of thinking that unconditional love and freedom meant forgiving people over and over again when they hurt you or betray you. Giving people permission to break your heart. And that’s part of it. You can’t walk around guarding your heart all the time. When the gates of your heart are closed, you may be less likely to get hurt. But you’ll also be incapable of giving and receiving love.

I’ve spent years learning how to love without conditions. It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But perhaps, even harder, is loving unconditionally while setting appropriate boundaries.

What Is Unconditional Love?

I now realize that unconditional love means you live in a state of acceptance and appreciation and gratitude for this person you love. You expect nothing and are willing to live from the heart. It also means you have zero tolerance for your own victim story if you don’t like how someone behaves. You are the scriptwriter and director of your own movie. You own your part in everything, rather than blaming, shaming, and judging someone else.

Unconditional love means you resist grasping or clinging or projecting onto someone else. You don’t require that they abide by any rules in order to earn your love. The love is a gift, like grace. You give it freely—just because.

Conditional Access

But access to your inner circle is completely conditional. If someone can’t treat you with the love, nurturing and respect you deserve, you put them in your outer circle—or eliminate them from your circle altogether—with a wide open heart and not a lick of judgment.

If access to your heart, your email, your phone, and your physical being lives on a scale from one to ten, with ten being complete inner circle access, those who are tens require what Brene Brown calls “a full jar of marbles.” In other words, they need to have earned your trust. If the jar of marbles gets half full because of betrayals of trust, access needs to go down—not necessarily all the way to one, but maybe to five or six. Maybe they don’t get to call you every day or sleep in your bed or spend Christmas morning with you.

That way, if someone isn’t treating you with impeccable respect, you simply limit access without making up a story about it. No point becoming the exploding doormat. That’s not enlightened either. Your heart stays wide open. The boundaries close up though.

Unconditional love, absolute freedom, conditional access. @Lissarankin (Click to Tweet!)

Then it’s not someone else’s job to treat you right. It’s YOUR job to treat you right with appropriate boundaries that limit access based on whether or not someone is deserving of complete inner circle access.

Finally . . . I understand.

How Vigilant Are You About Protecting Your Access?

Are you good at treating yourself right with appropriate modulation of your inner circle access? Are you good about enforcing the boundaries you do set—with love?



Lissa Rankin, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine and the upcoming The Fear Cure, is a physician, author, speaker, and founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, a training program for physicians and other health care providers. She is on a mission to merge science and spirituality in a way that not only facilitates the health of the individual; it also heals the collective. Lissa also co-teaches teleclass programs about spirituality, such as Medicine For The Soul with Rachel Naomi Remen, MD and Coming Home To Your Spirit with Martha Beck, PhD. Read her blog and learn more at LissaRankin.com.