I shared an article on my fb page, which I won’t link to here, because I don’t want to give it any more attention. It’s one of those previews for an upcoming book; it’s full of hypocritical nonsense and regurgitated popular mis-statements about spirituality, pronounced by a non-practitioner, looking down his nose at practitioners “doing it wrong,” through the purported omniscience of intellectual “scientific” study. Vomit. (I have lots of respect for science; my faith isn’t anti-science, but when science gets into the business of directing spirituality… it never ends well, nor wisely.).
But I want to talk for a minute about something the article states as a given – the supposed spiritual ideal of “loving kindness for all” and “unconditional positive regard for all,” which show up very often in spiritual discourse.
We are told often, coming out of Buddhist doctrine primarily, but with some Christian versions also, that we must give loving kindness to all and hold all people in this “unconditional positive regard.” That is supposedly the highest state of consciousness, and the goals of spiritual practice, and also the standards by which spiritual people must be judged. (We must be nice to everyone, kind to everyone, good to everyone, no matter their character, it seems. If you are assertive, or even aggressive, in the face of a provocation by a toxic person, that is judged as not-being-spiritual.).
This is wrong. It is a misapplication and naive misunderstanding of how spirituality operates. Unconditional positive regard for all is not a virtue. It is an idealized projection, a fantasy virtue, arising out of the narcissist/codependent dynamics.
A narcissist imagines that a holy person, sometimes it’s projected onto God also, ought to love them unconditionally, approve of them unconditionally, condone everything they do; never holding them to account for anything. A narcissist only ever wants unconditional positive regard, no matter what they do. They hate the idea of a God, or other spiritual authority figures, who might have discernment and get angry, who might judge them for their destructive acts or the harm they cause.
When a narcissist parentifies their child, they hold the child to this same standard, they teach the child this – “you are only ever allowed to regard me with unconditional positive feedback” – you are never allowed to criticize, hold them to account, mirror their flaws, or even suggest that they’ve done something wrong.
A child internalizes this standard, and then reinforcing this “unconditional positive regard for all” applies it to everyone, evil people included, enabling harm and abuse, turning himself into a “holy” martyr. Continuing to take abuse, and meeting it with unconditional positive regard, feeds his sense of goodness. We will see this again in an example later, with a therapist who teaches us to “love narcissists more.” When a person’s egoic understanding of goodness means “tolerate abuse and treat the abuser with unconditional positive regard,” he was endlessly martyr himself, without ever asserting boundaries, standing up for himself, or calling the narcissist out on any of his behaviors.
The narcissist loves holding up this standard for others, and the codependent loves behaving in accord with that standard. It is a dysfunctional immoral nightmare.
You know who suffers in this idiotic deal? The victims who want to name reality, who aren’t in denial about abuse, who aren’t in denial about evil, and who seek validation in their meek perceptions. Those whose conscience says “no, this is wrong, and this person is being cruel.”
It is immoral to hold evil people in unconditional positive regard, not to mention that it’s delusional.
Imagine it in real life. Take someone you hate, someone objectively awful, an animal abuser of some kind, and go talk to someone who holds that person in “unconditional positive regard.”
“He is evil,” you’d say. “Something must be done to stop him,” you’d say. And that supposed holy person, who only sees the “good’ in others would gaslight you, by saying “oh, i don’t know. I only see the good in him. He was probably just stressed that day. He probably didn’t mean to kick and beat and starve that dog to death…”
See? It’s absurd in practice. It’s not a workable standard and it’s certainly not virtuous, in any sense of that word.
You might say that “unconditional positive regard” is what kept the Church from admitting the pernicious sexual abuse of little boys and young men – those priests didn’t really mean it, they are “good” people after all.
Or a more pressing example, when Trump told us that there were “good people on both sides” of the nazi march a few years ago. (There is some dispute about the statement and who he was referring to, I know). On its face though, unconditional positive regard for nazi hooligans doesn’t feel good to our sense of morality, right?
Unconditional positive regard for all, without discernment, is itself evil. It is forced blindness and ignorance. It is an unwillingness to see what is true. It is an escape from reality, from pain, from the difficulties of life, all under the guise of “goodness,” which is exactly what enablers believe and teach.
Now, as you’ll see here on these few pages, there is a higher wisdom teaching about evil. There are practices and perspectives that see evil operating in service to growth. It’s absolutely true, and more advanced practitioners put this into valuable use regularly. (They even come out feeling grateful to evil for having offered them all the opportunities. In this way, they grow to love their enemies, over time, and with lots and lots of significant work and practice.).
But that work doesn’t operate in denial of evil. It doesn’t hold evil people in unconditional positive regard. It discerns evil immediately and ferociously. (And if my intuitive power is to be trusted, more on that later, confronts that evil assertively with truth, destroying the lies that create the harmful manifestations.). It doesn’t coddle evil. It doesn’t ignore what is true. It doesn’t participate in the enabling.
If you hold “unconditional positive regard for all” as the highest spiritual ideal, I urge you to look deeply at where that arises from, and what stake you have in maintaining that projection.