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The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember


It’s Joanne Rogers’ wisdom that starts The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember.  Written the year of his death, his grieving wife was able to share her vision of Fred Rogers in a way that no other could – except perhaps Fred himself.

Courage, Love, and Discipline

These are the words that Joanne used to describe her husband.  Courage is too often reduced to a fearless movement forward, but that’s not Rogers.  He reportedly did have fears – but he chose to move forward when he felt them, demonstrating true courage.  (See Find Your Courage.)

Love is complex.  Certainly, he loved his wife (eros), but he also had brotherly love (philos) and worldly loving kindness (agape).  (See The Four Loves for more.)

Discipline is something that’s often overlooked with Rogers.  He produced – on a shoestring budget – a striking 65 shows per year for most of his career.  He rose at the same time, prayed, and swam.  He reportedly never waivered from his 143-pound stature as an adult.  There was a discipled, committed quality to him as he served his post as a Presbyterian minister through Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Truth About Ourselves

“Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort.”  You’d think you’d know yourself by now.  You’re the only one who knows all of your stories, yet the truth is often that we don’t know ourselves as well as we’d like to believe.  It’s true that we know all the stories – but it’s equally true that we couldn’t enumerate them if we tried.  The truth is that we’ve got tacit memories that haven’t been and likely can’t be converted to explicit memories.  (See Lost Knowledge.)  More than that, our memory isn’t one long stream of information from beginning to end.  As a result, we need cues to get back to our stories – and they’re not always forthcoming.

Our morality isn’t the result of a single conscious decision but is instead the aggregation of our experiences.  (See The Righteous Mind for the foundations of morality.)  Similarly, by evaluating the sum of our experiences, we may – or may not – expose the basic motivators that Reiss identified in Who Am I?  Dan Richo in How to Be an Adult in Relationships speaks of the five As – attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing.  Developing these for ourselves can take a lifetime of reflection.


Dr. Orr, a mentor of Rogers, said, “There is only one thing evil cannot stand and that is forgiveness.”  This simple statement exposes the truth that it took evolutionary scientists decades to discover.  Robert Axelrod in The Evolution of Cooperation explains how tit-for-tat is an effective strategy for winning.  The simulation he ran pitted two programs against each other in a game called the prisoner’s dilemma.  The best state is cooperation; the worst state is when the other party defects and you don’t.  This provides incentives to defect when your opponent won’t – and to cooperate when they will.

In the first round of Axelrod’s competition, tit-for-tat won against a mixture of other strategies.  However, there was one strategy that would beat tit-for-tat.  In tit-for-tat, the approach is simply to be cooperative on the first round and then do whatever the other party did on the last round.  The better version occasionally (but not always) “forgave” a previous transgression and operated cooperatively.

It seems that not only evil cannot stand forgiveness but also that forgiveness provides for a better evolutionary basis.

Learning and Loving

John Gottman calls it “attunement.”  (See The Science of Trust.)  It’s present in the couples that are the most successful in maintaining their relationships and those who are happiest.  It’s simply learning and responding to the other person.  In Rogers’ world, learning about others is loving them.  Whether in a romantic relationship or a friendship, the more that you learn about the other person, the better you are demonstrating your love for them.

There is no loving – caring – for others if you’re unwilling to learn what is important to them and how they view the world.

Comparing Love

There’s an oddity in mathematics where two infinities cannot be compared to one another.  They’re large – infinitely large – but their sizes cannot be compared.  If they show up as the runaway result of an equation, you know you’ve reached a terminal point where your analysis must stop because you can’t compare one infinity with another.

Love has the same incomparable quality.  “Love you more” is a common statement in our family, but one that’s intended to convey the maximum intensity of love without literally comparing the love we feel for one another.

As a corollary not shared in Rogers’ world, grief, too, has an immeasurable quality about it.  No two events can be compared, nor can any two reactions.  (See The Grieving Brain.)

Our Talents

There’s a parable in the Christian bible that always confused me.  Matthew 25:14-30 speaks of a master who is leaving and who entrusts different numbers of talents to his three servants.  The problem is that the word “talent” in this context is a sum of money.  However, we’re all given skills and talents in our lives – which aren’t money.  There’s an important question about what we do with these skills and talents.

Even Rogers occasionally wondered if he was using his talents best.  He was a driven man – who understood rest – but he wondered if he was doing “enough.”  Of course, enough is a dangerous word.  (See I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t).)  He was a talented musician, puppeteer, producer, and performer.  He used these talents to create the world we know as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  He used his talents to create The World According to Mister Rogers – at least in the confines of the show.