When I was 7, my grandma came from China to help raise me since both my parents were working full time jobs. As part of our daily routine, I would walk home from school during lunch and we would watch Mr. Rogers together over whatever delicious meal she prepared. Neither of us knew English well enough to understand what he was saying, but even kid me understood that Mr. Rogers was saying something important when he looked at the camera and sang, “I’m glad that you are the way you are.”
Adult me had completely forgotten about that idea until I heard it again in the recent documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
That film got me good. I was inconsolable after finishing it, mainly because they included a snippet of Fred Rogers’ 2002 Dartmouth commencement speech.
Seriously watch the whole thing, but if nothing else, the most important line for me was:
You don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.
It’s not about not having to change for anything because we are ‘perfect the way we are’. I’m not perfect, you’re probably not perfect, there was one perfect guy and we literally crucified him for it so… there’s always room for improvement.
I can verbalize now why I want to be a nice person. It’s because I believe that people have intrinsic value just for existing. That a person isn’t more or less deserving of respect or love due to their physical, material or psychological qualities, but that love is an unconditional part of being human because we are made in the image of love. So this is why I can say with so much certainty….
I hate it when people tell me that I’m perfect the way I am, because I’m not. So I won’t say that either. But eligibility for happiness and love and basic respect isn’t something that needs to be earned, and you deserve all of it because you’re alive. It’s like a really great participation trophy, except it’s the only trophy worth getting.
Anyway, this is a blog about what I’m thinking so I’m gonna stop breaking the forth wall and get back to me.
I feel like I can understand what this part of loving people means. It’s about respecting others even if they suck, because we are all human and sometimes we suck too. This is something I’ve tried to embody for a really long time, but that empathy part gets really hard when my life gets really hard. I am a sucky person when I am stressed, and I know it and feel bad about it. When that happens, I think back to this Socrates quote:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
It’s kinda cool that Socrates and Jesus agree on that point, which means it’s one of those super obvious common sense goals that I incredulously cannot reliably meet. I’ve settled on “Be at least neutral, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” for now. If I can’t be nice, I can at least not be mean. 😉
(That aside, I am really struggling with even being neutral towards some types of people. Sometimes people are just objectively horrible and do horrible things, so how can someone so awful deserve respect? Is it possible? Does respect mean something else when applied to shitty people? IDK, let me know if you know the answer.)
The other part is hard though. Loving myself.
I’m absolutely not lying when I believe that people deserve to be cherished by virtue of existing. Though my actions don’t always match my words, I do my best to respect everyone I meet. It’s just really hard to flip that statement to apply to myself as well.
When my parents fought, the general reason was that the other person was narcissist who loved themselves too much to care about anyone else. Naturally, kid me stopped trying to love myself at a pretty young age, and I guess I kinda forgot how to do it. I focused that energy on learning how to put others before myself, but like previously mentioned I mess that up a lot too. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I want to believe in Mr. Rogers, but I know that believing isn’t enough. I want to learn how to like myself, but it’s hard because when does that become conceit?
Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about recently.