Today Pastor Miles interviewed Shaunti Feldhan, a Harvard graduate, author, and social researcher who has conducted several studies involving national surveys and random interviews from people all over the nation.
Thriving in life and relationships correlates far more to the way you treat other people than to the way you are treated by other people.
Shaunti’s background was conducting financial Wall Street research for the field of banking, but God has transformed her analytical skill set to use it in a new way, by studying the impact that intentional kindness has on lives and relationships. After conducting seven national studies, Shaunti began to notice a common thread that ran through all of her findings. She discovered that thriving in life and relationships correlates far more to the way you treat other people than to the way you are treated by other people.
This is scientific evidence confirming the very truths Jesus taught about how we should treat others. Listen with new ears to the “golden rule” of Jesus:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:27-35
When someone disrespects us, it is natural to feel upset. We may immediately stand up for ourselves or even demand the respect that we think we deserve. But here, Jesus is pointing out exactly those situations when we believe we are not called to be kind - situations of active injustice or active cruelty. Jesus says to us, “This person is being mean to you, so I want you to treat her in the kind, generous, grace-filled way that you wish she would treat you.” That is the heart of the golden rule. It’s not just a sweet sentiment for school children, but rather a difficult and high-calling for the followers of Christ. This is the gospel, the pursuit of displaying the Father’s love as He would and becoming more Christlike.
There are still situations where you must have boundaries. But there is a difference between being kind and being nice. Niceness is pleasant and surface-level. But kindness or loving kindness cares about what is best for the other person. It has his best interest at heart and is willing to confront things that need to be confronted. It’s not in another person’s best interest to continually destroy his emotional equilibrium by mistreating others, so you absolutely can confront that issue, but you must do it in a way that is speaking truth in love.
It’s so easy for us to think of other people who “need to hear this message,” but we often don’t realize that we ourselves are not as kind as we think we are! For example, when your daughter rolls her eyes, do you feel angry inside or say something mean? Do you mumble under your breath about your boss’ request? Do you say negative comments about your spouse to others? If so, you may be training yourself to be unkind and sabotaging your own feelings toward him/her.
There are seven patterns of negativity (such as exasperation, complaining, suspicion, sarcasm, catastrophizing, etc.) and we all have at least one of them in our thinking or behavior, regardless of personality type. These are activities of the evil one, the spiritual whisperers in our heads, and we may not even realize how often they affect us.
Shaunti’s book, The Kindness Challenge, is about choosing one person in your life with whom you would like to have a better relationship. Then for 30 days, you commit to examining your own behavior and words toward that person, focusing on three areas:
- Positivity - Don’t say anything negative about the person.
- Praise - Find something in the person that you can sincerely affirm. Tell him/her and tell someone else. This is putting Philippians 4:8 into action:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
You may think, “Why should I thank him for doing his responsibility?” but you may not realize the power of praise. Not only does God use positive praise as oxygen to the recipient, but He uses it as a catalyst to change your heart as well. Neuroscience has proven that you will see more of whatever you focus on, meaning that while it may be difficult to find positive things to praise at first, the more you focus on these things, the more you will find.
- Do a small act of generosity for that person. This could be bringing a cup of coffee to your roommate or as simple as turning away from your computer and giving immediate attention to the child who asks for it.
Results of the Kindness Challenge have shown that by doing these three things for 30 days, 89% of relationships were improved. Two-thirds of the thousand study participants said they themselves felt more loved, even though the efforts of the challenge were one-sided. This is because the biggest overall transformation supernaturally happens inside you. Shaunti says kindness is a superpower because its impact is just as miraculous as Jesus bringing sight to the blind. It can change your own outlook and have an impact inside of you every bit as much as it changes your relationships.
If you’re driving and waiting in a long line to exit the freeway but someone else zooms along the next lane and then tries to cut in at the last second, you have a choice to get angry or to be kind. If you get mad, you are handing that person the power to make you crazy and impact you. Imagine what happens when instead of cutting in close and refusing to let him in, you back off a little with a smile and wave and kindly allow him to enter the line. Picture how a load is lifted in your heart as the rude actions of others simply bounce off of you.
Shaunti shared a recent example of how science has backed up what God’s Word has said throughout the ages. A group of surgeons submitted Botox as a study to be used as a potential antidepressant because they found that their patients who were using Botox for cosmetic reasons reported feeling more emotionally healthy. Botox is an injection that smooths out lines and wrinkles by paralyzing facial muscles. Without the ability to frown or make a grumpy, negative facial expression, they actually felt less grumpy! So you can just skip the botox injection and focus on Philippians 4:8!
Shaunti suggested that when participating in the Kindness Challenge, it is very helpful to keep a little notebook or journal (paper or on your phone) about what you have tried and how the person responded. You’ll be amazed at how these small acts can change the tone of the relationship.
Shaunti’s book is available at all the Rock campuses, and if you text KINDNESS to 52525, you will receive encouragement and guidance for pursuing your kindness challenge. If you allow God into your heart and mind and are willing to let him show you how to be more Christlist, you will see changes in the way you view, think about, and talk about people, and in turn, you will learn to experience more love and joy in your own heart.