Being Loved, Just For Who You Are

As a small child, I can remember watching “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” every morning. For me and millions of other children, Fred Rogers was the best friend we had.
But besides the lessons we received on how to tie our shoes or the many imaginative trips we took to the “Land of Make Believe,” there was a message we were being taught every episode; there is someone who likes us just the way we are.

Even though most people know Fred Rogers for his red cardigan sweaters, blue sneakers, and his slow and comforting voice, most people don’t know about the life he lived off camera and his deep personal faith. And even though Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was not a religious television program, Fred Rogers did his best to share Christian principals to children through his show. On each episode, Rogers sought to teach children about the importance of love, forgiveness, hope, and understanding and accepting one another.

But if there was one message that was most important for Rogers to convey to his television audience, it was the idea of there being someone who loves them just the way they are. This is why at the end of every episode Rogers would close by saying, “You always make it a special day and a special week for me, by just your being you. There’s only one person in this whole world like you; that’s you yourself, and I like you just the way you are.”

Fred Rogers once said, “The more I think about it, the more I wonder if God and neighbor are somehow One. ‘Loving God, Loving neighbor’ — the same thing? For me, coming to recognize that God loves every neighbor for who they are is the ultimate appreciation.”

While the message of God’s love is at the very root of the Christian faith, it’s a message that despite hearing it often as children, we seldom hear it as adults. Particularly, if we are told God’s love is only given to us if we met certain conditions in related to what we believe or how we identify ourselves.

Even though Mr. Rogers passed away in 2003, the message he taught us as children about love being unconditional is a message that we now as adults need to be reminded. The message that love from God is unconditional and everlasting, regardless of who we are, what we believe (or not believe), or how we identify ourselves.

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like a struggle,” says Mr. Rogers. “To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now. Everybody longs to be loved and longs to know that he or she is capable of loving. There’s only one person in this whole world like you; that’s you yourself, and you are loved just the way you are.”

Christopher L. Schilling is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), hospital and Air Force chaplain, and a freelance writer.