By Kim Scott, LMFT
Last weekend I went to see the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”, a biographical documentary made by Morgan Neville. I was riveted and moved. I didn’t realize that Mister Rogers was a philosopher, child development expert and lifelong advocate for children. I was 10 years old by the time his show was being aired on national television, so I didn’t really know much about him. Truly, when I thought of Mr. Rogers, I remembered the jokes and parody that Eddie Murphy did of him on SNL. However, after watching this documentary I realized that the parody bore no resemblance to this remarkable man.
Fred Rogers began his career in children’s public television when he came home from college on a break and viewed television for the first time. He saw people degrading each other in the name of humor by throwing pies in each other’s faces, and other such meaningless activities. He decided that he wanted to go into television and create programming that truly talked to, educated and helped children. He was in divinity school at the time and took a break to pursue this passion for helping children.
Fred Rogers’ aversion to the pie-throwing kind of humor may have also stemmed from some of his childhood pains, like being taunted by bullies who called him “Fat Freddy.” Fred Rogers used his childhood scars to help future generations of children feel heard, seen, and understood.
His shows were “simple and deep”, and moved at a pace that children could assimilate. They were aimed at a preschool audience but in viewing them as a therapist, I realized that the wisdom of Mr. Rogers is exactly what so many of us need to hear to heal our “inner child.”
Following are some of Mister Rogers’ wisdom:
“Anything that is human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people that we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
So true! How many times have we held in hurt and abuse because we felt ashamed? Yet the longer our pain stays locked inside, the bigger the shame grows.
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
So often we just need to feel heard. Listening can truly be love.
“The greatest gift you ever give is your honesty.”
“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And, hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”
And, learning about who we are can be a lifelong journey. So often people come to therapy because they are afraid to show or admit who they really are. They are afraid that they are not good enough. Mister Rogers tells kids otherwise.
“Whether we’re a preschooler or a young teen, a graduating college senior or a retired person, we human beings all want to know that we’re acceptable, that our being alive somehow makes a difference in the lives of others.”
“Who we are in the present includes who we were in the past.”
“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”
And, even in our modern society, little girls are often taught not to show their anger (it’s not ladylike) and little boys are taught not to cry and not to show fear. Unfortunately, many of us still carry these parental and societal dictates, and in essence, learn that it is not okay to be real.
“Deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.”
“I like you just the way you are.”
The Mister Rogers show demonstrated kindness, love, and goodness. He also showed children that it is okay to talk about tough and big feelings.
Another wonderful documentary on Fred Rogers is entitled Mister Rogers and Me: A Deep and Simple Documentary, written, produced and directed by Benjamin Wagner. This documentary can be screened through Amazon Prime.
I hope you find the wisdom of Mr. Rogers’ as meaningful as I did, and that you can apply some of these messages to your own lives and to the lives of others who you care about. In therapy, this is exactly the atmosphere I hope to create for my clients. To begin your inner child repair and self-esteem building, I am here to help. You can reach me at 818-309-7780.