The Michelangelo Effect: Sculpting Potential with Unconditional Love

How Michelangelo teaches us the power of unconditional love to reveal greatness in others.

Mar 22, 2024

In the late 20th century, John Watson had a brainchild called "Behaviourism”. The gist? Roughly, behaviours are acquired through punishment and reward.

Watson wrote a controversial book on parenting claiming that parents could turn any child into an expert in any field by carefully conditioning them. His secret? Only giving love if it's earned, as he argued unearned love makes people soft and dependent.

Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Imagine growing up in a world where every ounce of affection had to be fought for, earned, won. It's no surprise that this approach can lead to a whole host of psychological issues down the line.

Why do I bring this up? I think we can flip Watson’s theory on it’s head. What if, instead of conditional love, we gave the gift of unconditional love? I'd argue that this is the true key to helping someone become their best self.

Presupposing Value Through Love

When you love someone unconditionally, you're not just rewarding good behaviour. You're telling them, in no uncertain terms, that they are inherently worthy of love. That their value as a person isn't tied to their actions or achievements.

This kind of love creates a bedrock of self-confidence. It gives someone the strength to venture out into the world and become the best version of themselves. With this external support, they can take risks, chase dreams, and slowly build an unshakable sense of self-belief.

The Michelangelo Effect

The Renaissance master Michelangelo once said that he saw the statue of David (a symbol of perfection) trapped inside a block of marble. His job was simply to chip away until he revealed the masterpiece within.

We can do the same for the people in our lives. By seeing their inherent worth – the potential masterpiece within – we can inspire them to grow, to evolve, to achieve greatness.

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche

Be the one who hears the music in others. Be their Michelangelo.


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