Example of Rogerianism in the News

Blog post by Jeffrey Thayne on March 4, 2013
8Comments

Here’s an article from KSL this morning that illustrates Rogerianism in action: http://www.ksl.com/?sid=24264159&nid=1010&title=when-your-child-rejects-your-religion-dos-and-donts&fm=home_page&s_cid=queue-4

Basically, the impression I get from this is that mothers shouldn’t even cry when their children depart the faith, because that’s not unconditional love. Borrowing from the verbiage of my friend Kristopher, What happened to the time when children would dread to commit sin, for fear that their mothers would weep if they knew it?

There is a lot of good in this article—but the final, overall impression I get is that parents should be entirely unaffected by and almost indifferent to the choices of their children. Indifference is not love, and God weeps when His children sin and depart the faith. So why shouldn’t earthly parents?

8
comments so far
  1. I am not familiar with Rogerianism. However, I agree with you and Kristopher that there is a lot of foolishness flying about. I think what we need are good old fashioned spankings.

  2. Am I missing something? I read the article but I am not seeing your take-away in there. I did not even understand how that was even implied from the article. The focus was on unconditional love for the child, not disaffection or indifference. Also, the argument that “God weeps” doesn’t hold water for me here. When a child of God “sin[s] and depart[s] the faith”, who is to say he weeps? If he knows us better than we know ourselves, why do we assume he weeps over every little ‘damning’ choice we make when he also knows whether we have much learning and repenting opportunity as well? I think you are taking for granted what it really means to unconditionally love a child as yourself, the way I read the article.

  3. Dallske,

    First, some background. The term “unconditional love” is a modern relic. It isn’t in the scriptures (unlike the term “unfeigned love”), and it wasn’t used much at all before 50 years ago. It’s grown in popular discourse dramatically over the past 50 years, and this is in large part due to the work of Carl Rogers.

    Carl Rogers believed that parental disapproval of children’s actions is stifling of the individuality of children. He argued, essentially, that parents should never express disapproval of their children’s actions. He called this “unconditional positive regard” (positive regard being the opposite of disapproval/disappointment). Over time, Roger’s acolytes dropped the term “unconditional positive regard,” and shortened it to “unconditional love.”

    The consequence of this is that “love” is being defined more and more in contrast to “disapproval” or “disappointment.” We are told more and more frequently that if we truly love, we won’t express disapproval of someone’s choices, or express disappointment in their behavior. It’s simply a false definition of love. Elder Russell M. Nelson expressed concerns about this usage in his 2003 Ensign article called “Divine Love,” where he emphasizes that the term “unconditional love” is simply unscriptural, and—where defined in contrast with disapproval of misbehavior—spiritually dangerous.

    Not all of us use the term “unconditional love” in the Rogerian sense. So when I see the term, I have to discern, “Is this a colloquial sense of the word, or a Rogerian sense of the word?”

    It seems absolutely clear that the article is use the term in the Rogerian sense. The author even defines love as “focused on honoring, edifying and validating the other person,” which, in the context of the larger article, I take to be exclusive of expressions of disapproval, disappointment, or hurt because of the other person’s actions. For example, the author says, “Don’t say anything negative about his choices. Don’t criticize his ideas.” In context, this implies that expressions of disapproval are incompatible with love itself.

    I personally believe that a parent’s first reaction to hearing about their children leaving the faith they cherish is going to be a deep sadness and possibly hurt. That is a reaction born of love. To suppress that reaction in the name of *appearing* loving (according to the Rogerian metric of love) to me seems to be more of a feigned love than a love unfeigned.

  4. Jeff,

    I understand how some could take the ideas in the article and apply them in ways that work against God’s plan. I know I’ve expressed some of these points to you elsewhere and they seem fitting here, as well.

    1) I pulled out Rogers’s Way of Being and On Becoming a Person and didn’t find anything to suggest that Rogers disapproved of disapproval of others’ behaviors. “Unconditional positive regard” refers to the regard for the person not the behavior. In fact, Rogers is very clear that parents and society MUST disapprove of certain behaviors. We disapprove and punish behaviors all the time. But behavior does not equal a person. Do we misunderstand this because we use the term “worthiness” in a way that is far removed from its meaning denoting a degree of worth?

    President Kimball taught that “Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings.”

    2) I see the article to focus on parental behaviors, not emotions. It doesn’t say “Don’t feel hurt or disappointment,” instead it seems to say “Don’t blame your emotions on your children.” Don’t confuse children with their behaviors. Elder Marion D. Hanks spoke very clearly about this distinction in an 1971 conference talk entitled “Love Unconditional.”

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1971/10/love-unconditional?lang=eng

    The key difference to me is the object of disapproval. In unconditional love or positive regard, we disapprove of behaviors. The problem is when we disapprove of individuals.

  5. “Rogers is very clear that parents and society MUST disapprove of certain behaviors.”

    If you could find me a quote, that would be helpful. I have not been able to find anything of this sort.

    ““Unconditional positive regard” refers to the regard for the person not the behavior.”

    Rogers does not make this distinction, and if he does, he doesn’t do so clearly or consistently. On many occasions, he talks about the harmful effects of evaluations of behavior, not just the person—and argues that unconditional positive regard means that we stop evaluating a person’s behaviors.

    ” I see the article to focus on parental behaviors, not emotions. It doesn’t say “Don’t feel hurt or disappointment,” instead it seems to say “Don’t blame your emotions on your children.” Don’t confuse children with their behaviors.”

    In typical Rogerian fashion, the article specifically warns against saying anything negative about the child’s choices or behaviors. I’m all for hating the sin but loving the sinner, but this article specifically warns parents against critiquing the sin.

    Imagine I said to my child, “We love you deeply, and care about you. Nothing will change that. You should also know that we are deeply saddened by your choices. You mother has had many sleepless nights praying for you. We feel that you are not being honest with yourself, and we hope you are willing to reconsider, and spend time reflecting on the testimony-building experiences you’ve had.”

    Would the author of the article feel as if I was expressing “unconditional love?” No—the author of the article explicitly warns against expressing any negative sentiments about the child’s choices, and basically cautions parents to let children’s spirituality be between them and God.

    You may think I read things too critically—I think you read things too generously. You say the author of the article was simply saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” when the author explicitly warned against even mentioning the sin. You are right that the article doesn’t say, “Don’t feel disappointment.” But it does say, “Don’t *express* disappointment.” I think that genuine love might require us to express sadness and disappointment when others choose wrong.

  6. Kevin L
    I would love to find the source of this quote:
    “Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings.”
    Could you post it?
    Thanks

  7. http://www.lds.org/liahona/1983/08/jesus-the-perfect-leader?lang=eng

  8. “Love” isn’t making people feel good about themselves – that’s “like” not “love”. Liking someone means it’s pleasant to be around them. Loving someone means to do whatever is in my stewardship to get them to achieve their fullest eternal potential.

    God both succors and chastises people based on what will maximize that person’s eternal progression regardless of whether that person finds His actions pleasant or not.

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