Unconditional Positive Regard

Jehovah’s Witnesses are often judgmental and have a black and white view of the world. XJWs might carry on with these traits without knowing even it.  This will hamper their personal growth as well as their capacity to help others.  So let me introduce you to a concept in psychology called Unconditional Positive Regard.

The basic idea behind Unconditional Positive Regard is that of being accepting and supportive of a person regardless of what that person says, does, or believes.  You might notice that this is completely the opposite of how Jehovah’s Witnesses view the world. The love Jehovah’s Witness have for people is 100% conditional on adhering to their rules and worldviews. It’s also contrary to what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach about what God is like.  Agree with God or die is essentially what they teach.

Now to be clear Unconditional Positive regard is not the same as “liking” someone. Unconditional positive regard sounds simple by its definition but in practice, it can be hard to understand and practice for many people.

You might ask yourself how can I be supportive of someone who has political beliefs or religious beliefs are not the same as mine?  How could I like someone who believes such-and-such?  That’s the irony of Unconditional Positive Regard.  Like mentioned above it’s not about “liking” someone.  It doesn’t mean you agree with them.  It doesn’t mean that you approve of their behavior or beliefs.

Is your head spinning?  Don’t feel bad.  Unconditional Positive Regard is at the heart of many therapy styles but even therapists and psychologist may struggle with the concept. Some people even theorize that the capacity for Unconditional Positive Regard comes more naturally to some people.

So if Unconditional Positive Regard doesn’t mean “liking” someone then what the heck does it mean?  It means that you respect a person, a fellow former Witness or even an active Witness, as a human being with autonomy and you believe, regardless of how illogical what they do seems to you, that they are doing their best given their particular situation.

Unconditional Positive Regard is a philosophical viewpoint.  It also involves believing that every person has the right to self-determination.  That they have the right to make their own decisions and form their own life based on their experience.  This viewpoint varies from Witness belief in that witnesses believe that you must adhere to one way of life, there isn’t much leeway for opinion based on personal experience.  With Unconditional Positive Regard, you believe this and choose to support them even if their views and choices are different than your own.

It’s not about smiling and being pleasant during a conversation.  Rather it’s about developing this as a larger worldview and letting that viewpoint be reflected in your interactions with others. If you don’t believe the idea behind this worldview then you will never be able to have true Unconditional Positive Regard.

Let me know what you think.  Will you be able to use unconditional positive regard when interacting with others?  Can you apply this when dealing with fellow active and former witnesses?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Joseph, S. (2012, October 7) Unconditional Positive Regard. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-doesnt-kill-us/201210/unconditional-positive-regard

Published by Ryan David Tuttle

PhD Graduate student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, Addiction, Stress, Behavioral Economics, and Individual Differences. Former member Ministerial Servant and Pioneer in a Spanish speaking congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

One thought on “Unconditional Positive Regard

  1. I had to shut out my Aunty and now mum isn’t talking to me because I tried to put in a personal boundary around her unsolicited advice. It got messy. I tried to keep it civil but tbh she pushed me to the point of anger as it’s been going on for years and I feel disrespected. She used to be an elders wife and I don’t appreciate her contacting me to enforce cult values. Every boundary was considered an insult and she retaliated by saying I’m a nasty person, need to grow up, blame others for my problems etc. which is actually what she does. The whole thing was an annoying circular logic typical jw double speak ending with her turning my mum (her sister) against me because I refused to obey and dared to demand respect from her. Well I said respect me or don’t speak to me at all. Very annoying. I just can’t have upr for such a person/people. I think I’m better off without them in my life. although it’s sad because I relate they have been brainwashed by a cult when they were little girls and now they are old. They don’t want to do the work of healing so what am I supposed to do? I have to protect myself.


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