Fred Rogers never set out to become a cultural icon or celebrity. Mister Rogers launched a children’s television show in 1968 because he disliked the way most programs talked down to kids and avoided real-life issues. His show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” aired for four decades, along the way earning four Emmy Awards, with Rogers’ himself receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
Recognizable in his ubiquitous cardigan sweater and sneakers, he was revered for the tenderhearted way he related to children. Even now, fifteen years after his death, his example of gentleness and respectfulness continues to resonate. In fact, his life and work are celebrated in the recent documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
It’s a safe bet that Mister Rogers never offered dating advice per se—but he shared countless insights about the nature of genuine love and what makes relationships thrive. His wise words apply to all relationships. Mister Rogers believed that . . .
1. It’s much more compelling to be thoughtful and genuine than superficial and sophisticated. Whether in work or relationships — keep it real. As Mister Rogers’ said, “I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.”
2. In love and life, what exists down deep within a person matters most. “It’s our insides that make us who we are, that allow us to dream and wonder and feel for others. That’s what’s essential.”
3. Showing sincere kindness is the best path to thrive and flourish. “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”
4. Loving someone is an active, ongoing process—and sometimes difficult. “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like ‘struggle.’ To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
5. The people we trust bring out the best in us, if we let them. “The people you love the best are the people you learn the most from.”
6. Winning is good—helping others win is better. “Deep down we know that what matters in this life is much more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”
7. Uniqueness–in ourselves and others–should be celebrated and encouraged. “There’s only person in the whole wide world like you. . . . There has never been and never will be another person like you.”
8. Self-acceptance enables us to accept others as they are. “When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong along with the fearful, the true mixed in with the façade, and of course the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.”
9. Appreciate that you’re not perfect, even as you strive to be worthy of love. “Being perfectly human means having imperfections. All the same, most of us strive mightily to be perfectly lovable in the eyes of those we love.”
10. It’s essential to recognize your own giftedness—and recognize the gifts of others. “We all need to feel that we have gifts to give that are acceptable and valued.”
11. The willingness to be vulnerable connects two people. “Nobody knows what you’re thinking or feeling unless you share it. Whatever we choose to imagine can be as private as we want it to be. No one can know what it is unless we tell someone about it.”
12. Each person in the world has a profound longing to be loved. “Deep within us—no matter who we are—there lives a feeling of wanting to be lovable, of wanting to be the kind of person others like to be with.”
13. There’s a reason—and a remedy—for feeling shy. “Shyness is not something that just children feel. Anybody can feel shy. And one reason we feel that way is that we’re not sure other people will like us just the way we are.”
14. Listening brings comfort and closeness. “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.”
15. Unconditional acceptance bonds people together. We have to end with Mister Rogers’ most iconic phrase: “I like you, just the way you are.” If you say this to someone you’re dating—and mean it—you’re sure to deepen your attraction and love.