Mister Rogers was a kind and gentle soul, a Peaceful Warrior, if you will.
When Fred Rogers first saw television, he was mortified, he felt it was a terrible use of a powerful media that could be used to change lives.
I got into television because I saw people throwing pies at each other's faces. And if there's anything that bothers me, it's one person demeaning another. That really makes me mad.
Fred Rogers in Mr. Rogers & Me
So what did Fred Rogers go off and do? Well he made it his life's mission to create a safe and nurturing environment on television for children. For over 30 years, Mister Rogers did exactly that, producing over 1,000 episodes and writing some 200 plus songs. Fred Rogers succeeded in building a neighborhood of his own, all while wearing sweaters that were knitted by his mother.
Mister Rogers was the real deal. No scandles or drama. He didn't back down when the government tried to cut funding to public brodcasting.
Like few others in the public eye, the man and his television character were one in the same. Still, with everything he accomplished, perhaps his greatest legacy was the simple, but profound message he delivered to generations of children–
“I like you just the way you are.”
Time and time again Mister Rogers let kids know, “You are special just by being you.” Powerful words. And yet, something is missing!
Why? Because believing you’re special isn’t enough. You must also be brave enough to share what makes you special. Mister Rogers understood that.
“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is[…] It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”
The World According to Mister Rogers
Like the Mister Rogers said, once you figure out what makes you special, you must get to work developing it. Share your ideas, speak with your voice, develop your style, your movement, your values. Speak your mind. Make your stand. Live your life.
Great advice. But there’s still something missing!
Because the more you express yourself, the more you will attract critics. Yes, you’ll attract friends and fans, too, but it’s the critics who will make you doubt what makes you special and hold you back from sharing it.
Even worse, some people will mock and attack what makes you special. These are the bullies of the world. While Mister Rogers did a great job of helping me learn how to deal with my emotions he never told me what to do when confronted by bullies who wanted to do more than make me feel bad, the ones that wanted to hurt me.
Mister Rogers was a Reverand, and thus a godly man, and while his advice to ignore bullies and forgive them by "just keep being you" works great when people are not trying to hurt you physically. After all, that’s what he did when people made fun of him.
But that’s not enough. Life can be a lot more trying than just being laughed at or called names. Which is why I have always wanted to add something to his great advice.
I want to tell every child in the world they are worth fighting for.
I want to tell every child they can fight back against bad guys and still be a kind person. And I want to say the same to the child in you.
Because you are special.
Yes, you have the right to step up, stand up, and speak up. If someone harms or abuses you, you have the right to fight back. If someone abuses someone you love, you have the right to stop them.
Never let bullies make you forget you are special. And never let them stop you from sharing what makes you unique. Your humor, your stories, your knowledge, YOU.
But here is where the real highest level of martial arts practice comes in, don't forget about knowing and showing mercy. Yes, you have the right to stop an individual from harming or abusing you or others, but you don't have the right to deal retribution or seek vengence. Show the bullies of the world that you understand that they are special and worth fighting for as well by knowing what mercy is, and by extending it to them, once you have become safe yourself.