I, like so many of us, grew up watching the PBS TV Show Mr. Rogers, and recently went to see the movie It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers is such an icon of kindness, inclusivity, and emotional intelligence, and the movie captured that in so many ways, but there was one line in particular that stood out to me as such a profound exclamation of emotional intelligence. The line came towards the very end when Tom Hanks, who plays Mr. Rogers says, “anything mentionable is manageable.” I immediately started repeating these words to myself as a sort of mantra.
To me, this one line has so much meaning for our world today because it feels like we don’t talk anymore. We don’t have meaningful conversations, or discussions on difficult topics. It feels like we have this idea that whatever our belief is, is right, and anyone who disagrees is just wrong, an attitude that leaves no room for discussion. We don’t express our feelings and emotions, thinking we have to fight all of our battles internally. I think this comes from a fear of vulnerability as well as a fear of offending someone else, both of which are valid. But by not talking about or addressing certain topics, we are still sending an unintentional message. Silence on a subject is not merely silence on a subject. Silence is a message that every individual will interpret for themselves, which can subsequently lead to misunderstanding, miscommunication, and assumptions that are not necessarily based in fact or truth.
It takes strength to reach out and talk especially now when so much of our lives are online, but we are inherently social creatures, and we long for meaningful connection whether we know it or not. We’ve convinced ourselves that we don’t care about others, but that’s merely a mask. And any mask can be taken off. It takes vulnerability to address difficult topics on which there are varied opinions, but to me that’s actually one of the beautiful things about our world. If everything were the same it would get boring real fast. I think our differences are something to celebrate, and not something we need to feel like we have to hide.
Have you ever been struggling with something in your life that you felt you either couldn’t or shouldn’t share with someone else because you didn’t want to burden them? I certainly have. I’ve struggled with my mental health my entire life, and a lot of times was afraid to be honest about how I was feeling for fear of being a burden, however on the occasions I did open up, I noticed that what I was struggling with felt lighter, and I felt more capable of handling it. Simply saying the struggle aloud made it seem like it had less of a hold on me. I think the same can be said for having meaningful, open discussions about controversial topics such as abortion or the death penalty, as well as other sensitive topics, like using gender-inclusive language, systemic racial discrimination, and sexual harassment. Open, non-judgmental conversations are a way for everyone to be and feel heard. There doesn’t have to be an agenda, or even a definitive resolution. We can just talk for the sake of talking and connecting to support each other and lift the load we all carry every day. In my opinion, one of the reasons society is so divided is the aforementioned attitude of my way or the highway, automatically silencing anyone who disagrees, has a different opinion, and/or is open to working together to find a middle ground, thus perpetuating the message that silence sends.
I personally find this line so powerful because it is simple. Sometimes the most powerful things are also the most simple: One line. Four words. Thirty-one letters. “Anything mentionable is manageable.” And I’d like to add on that everything is mentionable, therefore everything is manageable.