Sometimes a movie inspires you and to be a change maker.
I am talking about the documentary movie about Fred Rogers Won’t You be My Neighbor.
It is well worth seeing.
And not just if you are a Mr. Rogers fan, but if you think this world needs a little more kindness. A little more love. A little more encouragement.
You will leave inspired, wanting to spread these three things a little more.
Fred Rogers had a simple message: I love you just the way you are. You are special and matter. I want to be your neighbor. Kindness and love change the world.
Nothing to complicated. But it was a radical message for kid’s television.
Still a radical message.
Most of us don’t have a Fred Rogers in our life.
How many people have told you, “I love you just the way you are?”
Probably not many. Maybe none.
How many people have you told, “I love you just the way you are?”
That doesn’t come naturally. Come on, you don’t really expect me to say that!
Maybe this is one reason people didn’t understand Mr. Rogers. I mean, who goes around telling imperfect little children, (who clearly are selfish, throw fits, and probably didn’t even eat all of their breakfast cheerfully) that they are loved just the way they are?
Besides Fred Rogers?
Don’t these children need a life of striving and improving and growing before they are getting even half way close to becoming something worth writing home about?
What accomplishments do they have to their name?
How are they better than everyone else?
What special gifts or talents are they using to change the world?
What awards and contests have they won?
Right now, they are dependent on their parents for everything. They are not bringing in any income, cleaning their messes, or leading a support group.
And if those children are told that they are loved and special just the way they are, won’t that make them want to sit down and quit trying? Quit growing? Stop changing? Because we all know, children are far from perfect, no matter where they are in their growth spurt. Big or little. Tall or short.
If there is one thing that children need, it is improvement.
Loving Unconditionally. Why this message is important.
If you watch the movie, you will notice the deep connection Mr. Rogers has with children. He gets on their level right away. In a few sentences he gains their trust. Children tell him things they would not tell other adults. Scary things. Funny things. Hard things. Emotional things.
He listens. Acknowledges them and their feelings. The children leave lighter.
His message is simple. You are loved, and you matter.
Isn’t that what we all want? To be loved and to know we matter to someone.
We want to be acknowledged. To know someone sees us and loves us.
Mr. Rogers helps the children feel this.
He explains big scary things like death, divorce, anger, and controlling our emotions using simple words. He encourages us that we can do hard things, like discuss our fears. He reminds us we count right now. Just the way we are.
Acceptance and love ooze from him. And the audience of kids soak it up.
We all want to be accepted. Loved. Right now. Without jumping through hoops or doing complicated things. Or waiting to grow up.
Unconditional love defined. What does I love your just the way you are mean?
Towards the end of the show, Mr. Rogers is giving a commencement speech and he tells the audience that people have asked him what he means when he says, “I love you just the way you are.”
He said it means you don’t have to earn it. You are loved without making your bed. You are loved during your bad day. You are loved without accomplishing anything and before doing anything.
Wow! Who doesn’t want to be loved without having to earn it? Without doing and accomplishing?
Wouldn’t you savor being loved:
When you first wake up and haven’t even gotten dressed.
In the middle of your mistake riddled and emotional rollercoaster day
While your boss is telling you all the improvements you need to make.
In the middle of your temper tantrum.
When your house is a mess and the clothes you are wearing are dirty.
When your kids are screaming, the dog is digging up your flower bed, and your neighbor is not mincing words about your cat attacking his cat.
When nothing on your to-do list is crossed off at the end of the day.
When you feel to tired to even try to get out of bed, try to be cheerful, or live a good life.
When you are at your worst. Your dirtiest. Your lowest point. Your most unlovable period.
Yes! We all would.
We all have our hand in the air asking for this kind of unconditional love. This love that is not dependent on us. Our actions. Our doing. Our emotions. Our accomplishments. Our striving. Our earning. Our age or health. Our future or past.
Did you get that?
This kind of love is unconditional love. It is not dependent on anything we do or don’t do. Unconditional love loves us no matter what. It loves us in all circumstances and possibilities. It doesn’t suddenly evaporate or grow because of anything we do.
Unconditional love. This is what we as adults. We as children. We as humans desire. Crave. Thrive under.
But this kind of love is rare. Hard to exhibit. Hard to understand.
Conditional love versus unconditional love. Why we feel nervous saying this to others.
We grow up nervously trying to please others. Forming our self into something acceptable and wanted. We strive and earn. We accomplish and do, so we can accept our self and so others will accept us.
We compare. Tweak our self a little.
Judge others. Tweak our self a little more.
Compete in the game of life. And tweak our self a little more.
We all know that no one is perfect. That no one has yet arrived and is the best they can be.
That everyone has room for growing and changing.
And we take all these ideas and apply them to love.
People need to earn our love, we think. They need to do something for us to love them more.
Maybe not at first, because we love a baby just because it is ours, but soon we expect more.
We tell our kid we love them when they bring home an A. Hit a baseball out of the diamond. Make us proud. Win an award. Do their chores. Delight us in some way.
We tell our mate we love them when they remember our birthday. When we feel loving towards them. When they clean the kitchen. During that sunset stroll on the beach.
We don’t want to have conditional love, but so often our love is conditional.
And one very hard thing for us to say to those we love, is, “I love you just the way you are.”
Yup. Right now. Right here.
And what’s often harder still, is saying that to our self.
Have you ever looked yourself in the mirror and said those words to yourself and believed them?
The rub is this. These words are probably hard to say because we see a good number of imperfections of the person we would say this to. Yes, we love the person, but we also see and know many of their imperfections, flaws, and areas they need some improvements in.
And when we say, “I love you just the way you are,” we think we are saying to the other person that they are perfect. Have arrived in life. Can sit back and stop growing or trying.
The reality though, is that we are not saying they are perfect. We are saying, “I love you as the flawed human you are. You don’t need to jump through hoops to earn my love. Because my love is not dependent on what you do. My love is dependent on who you are. On your worth as a human. A child of God.”
You are saying, “I accept you and love you flaws and all.”
“My love does not waver and come and go. My love is unconditional.”
You are saying, “You don’t need to take a shower, read a self-help book, solve your fears, heal your anger, get dressed out of yoga pants, or put makeup on for me to love you. I accept you the way you are.”
If I say I love you unconditionally, will the other person know what I am saying?
Tell your child, mate, or friend, that you love them just the way they are.
See what happens.
When we feel secure in the love someone has for us, we are more vulnerable. We quit pretending and act more like our self. We want to try harder and do better. We release a huge sigh of relief. We feel inspired to do more and accomplish more. We quit hiding the true us.
Put away your fears. The last thing we do is sit down and think we have arrived and are now perfectly content to do nothing for the rest of our life in the manner of improving our self or growing.
Because we as humans, and from a very early age, know we are not perfect. We know that we have improving and work to do on our self. Our most recent mistakes spring to mind. Our flaws and self-doubts fill our mind.
Listen. Someone is already saying I love you unconditionally to you.
Do you know that someone already loves you unconditionally?
Without that shower and with your morning breath.
With all your flaws. Your lack of new achievements. Even with your bad attitude that is still hanging on from yesterday.
He loves you just the way you are. Right now.
Even with your messy desk, rough patches of skin, and lack of matching socks.
You don’t need to change yourself to get his love. His acceptance. His help. His grace.
You don’t need to try harder, mold yourself into good enough, or try to earn his love.
His love is not something you earn. It is a free gift. Freely given.
God loves you just the way you are right now. You don’t have to do anything to earn his love. You don’t have to produce and do to have the right to be allowed some of his love.
His love is unconditional.
His love is waiting for you. Just receive it.
Loving someone unconditionally. Now Pass it On
If someone said, “I love you just the way you are,” what would you say? Feel?
How could it change your life a little?
And what if you said it to those around you? How would it change their lives? Your relationships with them?
It doesn’t have to be there exact words. But something like it.
See what happens. How the person responds.
Then do it again and again until they begin to realize you mean it. That you love them unconditionally. That they don’t have to earn your love. Or change to get your love.
Say it until they believe you love them faults and all. Bad traits and all. Horrible day and all. Quirky smile and all. Unsightly toes and all. Plus, all their wonderful and charming personality and bits thrown in. You love them kit and caboodle.
And while you are at it. Say it to yourself. And mean it. Now say it again. Again. Replace those lies and critical tracks playing in your mind with the truth.
Listen and hear God saying to you every day. Because he is. His unconditional love is a daily gift. Always renewed. Always available.
Now pass it on to those around you.
When we feel loved, truly loved, we don’t sit down and stop growing. No, we grow in ways we can’t even imagine.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.
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Join the Discussion: What are your thoughts on unconditional love?