Kindness Makes a Big Difference
About the Guest
Are you at odds with someone and don't know what to do? Shaunti Feldhahn, author of The Kindness Challenge, dares anyone having trouble with a relationship to be kind to that person for thirty days. Not only will it soften the heart of the other person, but you'll find that your attitude has changed, too. Feldhahn shares how she's applied this to her own family.
Shaunti FeldhahnShaunti received her graduate degree from Harvard University and was an analyst on Wall Street before unexpectedly becoming a social researcher, best-selling author and popular speaker. Today, she applies her analytical skills to investigating eye-opening, life-changing truths about relationships, both at home and in the workplace. Her groundbreaking research-based books, such as For Women Only, have sold more than 3 million copies in 25 languages and are widely read in homes, counseling centers...more
Shaunti Feldhahn dares anyone having trouble with a relationship to be kind to that person for thirty days. It will soften the heart of the other person and you’ll find that your attitude has changed, too.
Kindness Makes a Big Difference
Bob: You think of yourself as a kind person? When was the last time you did something intentionally kind for someone else? Here’s Shaunti Feldhahn.
Shaunti: We’ve heard a lot about the Random Acts of Kindness movements.
Shaunti: A lot of us have done things—you know, you pay for the beat-up car in the drive-through line behind you. Those kinds of things are really important, and they’re good; but what we’ve found is that they don’t change you. Because, ultimately, what this is about is realizing: “I am not nearly as kind as I think I am.” I am somewhat deluded; right? And because I’m a little bit deluded, I need some sort of a boot camp to become more kind.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 31st. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk about your KQ today—your kindness quotient—and see what we can do to help all of us become a little more kind. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. The thing we’re going to be talking about this week is—it’s really a subject that, when I think of where this shows up in a family most often, I think of sibling rivalry. I think of the number of times we said to our children “Ephesians 4:32: ‘Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.’ Say that back to me: ‘Be kind…” You know, we just do that over—in fact, we were shouting it at them—that we were not kind. [Laughter]
Dennis: Or Philippians—I think Chapter 2—where it says: “Do all things—
Dennis: —“without grumbling or disputing.”
Bob: We are not naturally kind people; are we?
Dennis: We aren’t—I’m just going to start the broadcast just by cutting to the chase.
Shaunti Feldhahn joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Shaunti, welcome back.
Shaunti: It’s always awesome to be with you guys.
Dennis: She’s a best-selling author. She’s written a new book called The Kindness Challenge, which we’re going to be talking about right here.
But I want all three of us to answer a question. I know I’m asking myself a question that I already know the answer [Laughter]; but “Who is the kindest person you know, Shaunti?”
Shaunti: My assistant, Theresa.
Bob: And what is it that makes her kind?
Shaunti: She is constantly thinking of others above herself. I mean, she’s—everyone has issues. She has issues, just like everybody else, but constantly putting others first.
Bob: I have a moment that marked my life in this area. I was in the 11th grade. I was standing at my locker with Becky Voss. Becky was a senior / I was a junior. We were talking about something at my locker in between classes. There was a group of girls walking by my locker, and they said something mean about Becky—loud enough that we could all hear it. I mean, it was a classic mean-girl moment in high school—right? I heard it.
I looked to see who it was; and then I looked over at Becky, like: “What are you going to do?” because I thought maybe a fight was going to break out, there in the hallway. That’s always fun when girls are fighting in high school. [Laughter] But Becky—you could tell she was kind of stunned for a moment; and then, she looked over at me and she said, “You know, she’s probably having a really hard day.”
Bob: And I thought to myself, “Come on!” I mean, that was my thought, “Come on.” That feels a little like Pollyanna from the movies; remember? But that was Becky—she was the kind of person who gave, what I later learned was the judgment of charity to others, where you always assumed the best about other people rather than assuming the worst.
Dennis: And as I think about the word, “kindness,”—well, I had to go and look it up in the thesaurus—okay?—to see what the synonyms are for this word:
“Courtesy, gentleness, goodness, goodwill, graciousness, hospitality, sweetness, tenderness, understanding, charity, consideration and thoughtfulness.”
I can just tell you—after being in Barbara’s family for 45 years and knowing her mom—when I was given the opportunity to write a chapter in a tribute book that went to Barbara’s mom, that was the statement I made about her: “You are the kindest person, Jean Peterson, that I have ever known. And I have watched you up close and personal, in all kinds of settings, when our family invades/disrupts the farmhouse.” [Laughter] There is no farmhouse in America large enough for our family!—
Dennis: —14 adults; okay?—twenty-three grandkids. That’s what you’d call an alien invasion with your in-laws; okay? [Laughter] But I have watched her handle it, repeatedly; and she is the kindest person I know.
Bob: We’re talking about something that we obviously admire in other people. We’re also talking about something that, in our culture, seems to be in short supply. There’s a drought of kindness in our land; isn’t there?
Shaunti: No! Everybody’s so sweet today. [Laughter]
Bob: Stop it. Stop it.
Shaunti: It’s like—I mean, you can’t even—I can’t even watch TV anymore. I can’t even go on social media, because it hurts my heart too much—like: “This has gotten bad.”
Bob: Why do you think we have become so toxic and so absent of kindness?
Shaunti: To be candid, one of things—because this—the conversation today is all based on this big research study that I’ve done; right?—over the last number of years. One of the biggest findings to me is that we all think—everybody listening to this—we think: “We are kind. We are kind. It’s those other people who aren’t.” We don’t realize we are actually contributing to the problem, and that’s one of the biggest disconnects.
Dennis: And that would be my answer to the question is—I think the Christian community has failed to take the high ground. If anyone ought to be kind, it ought to be people who are headed toward heaven—who are forgiven by Almighty God, know that they have an eternal destiny, and they’re here to represent the King of King / Lord of Lords and be an ambassador for Him. But in my opinion, we have joined in the fray by, honestly, jumping in the midst of politics and talking negatively about the other party. And I’m not thinking of a party. I’m just thinking of how we, as human beings, love to target people who don’t agree with us—people who─
Shaunti: Those other people.
Dennis: ─other people who don’t think like us.
Bob: Well and take it out of the cultural for a second and let’s just zero in on homes and families—
—husbands and wives being kind to one another / children being kind to siblings. A family that is characterized by unusual kindness would be an unusual phenomenon in this culture.
Shaunti: Well, here’s the problem—we think / I can guarantee you every single person listening to this, right now, is going, “But I am kind.” Because we do value that and we just don’t realize—I mean, I will tell you—when I started this process, I thought to myself—we’ll get into this—but one of the elements of the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, which is what we call this thing that we were researching—is to not be negative / like not say anything negative about somebody for 30 days.
I thought, “Oh well, that one won’t be hard for me; because I’m not negative,”—I literally thought this to myself. I’m embarrassed to say this out loud. And then, I started studying the types of negativity. I realized, “Oh, I’m negative every single day,” because one of the types of negativity is exasperation; and I get exasperated with my kids all the time.
“Oh my gosh! I am contributing to this toxic culture and had no idea.”
Dennis: Well, let’s just listen to what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:29-32: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as it fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” And then listen to this summary here at the end: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another”—how?—“just as God in Christ forgave you.”
I think—without the Scriptures and without yielding to the Holy Spirit—I think all of us are given to being bitter/angry—taking it out on other people, especially those at home. And its why, I think, what you’ve written here, Shaunti, is so important—to give a bunch of Christian families, to begin with, a spiritual wheel alignment with their attitudes and their mouths.
Shaunti: Yes; all of us need it, and it is so powerful. Let me tell you—once you actually start doing some of this, your eyes are so opened to the fact that: “Oh my goodness! I was being unkind every day. I was modeling this for my kids every day.”
Bob: If a couple looks at their relationship and they would say, “You know, my spouse is really a kind person,” the chances of their marital satisfaction being high are almost 100 percent. I mean, who is married to somebody they think is kind and they’re not happy in their marriage?
Bob: The two go together, just inexorably.
Shaunti: Well, that’s one of the things we studied; and they do go together.
I can’t remember what the number is—I need to look it up really quickly—but it was something like 95 percent—it was a huge number.
Bob: Yes; so kindness—if you’re in a marriage where there is friction / there’s tension—you may need a kindness wheel alignment. You may need a 30-day challenge to try to get things back in shape. If kindness is present between the two of you, as a spouse, you probably are one of those couples that other people say, “How do you guys do it?”—right?
Shaunti: Yes. Well, and let me tell you—honestly, one of the things that we found is—even in a relationship where things are pretty good between the two of you—you start looking at this and trying this, and your eyes are opened to so many ways it will be even better; because you’ve suddenly seen—like me and my exasperation—you’ve suddenly seen something that comes out in so many areas of your life—not just in your marriage / not just in your kids. It comes out in all your relationships with people.
Dennis: So, Shaunti, give us an illustration of how you were unkind—
Shaunti: Oh no! [Laughter]
Dennis: —and how you were kind.
Shaunti: You know, part of the problem is that I struggle with exasperation—I really do. And that is one thing I’ve had to learn in trying to do the 30-Day Kindness Challenge. I had to do it more than once.
Dennis: Exasperated about what?
Shaunti: So perfect example is if Jeff and I are in the middle of an argument—like relatively recently we had a difference of opinion on something. I kept pushing and saying, “Honey,”—you know—“come on!” He’s like, “Okay; I can’t do anything right, right now; so I’m just going to stop talking.” I went: “Darn it! There it is again!”—like that same seed in me.
Thankfully, that has happened less frequently since I’ve been doing this 30-Day Kindness Challenge—multiple times—but unfortunately, it does still happen. So, if you’ve got Jeff on the phone, he would—in order to be honest before God—he’d have to confirm that it does still happen every now and then—but I’m better / but I’m better.
Dennis: Okay; good. Good. That’s good you can confess that.
Give us an illustration of something you did do that was kind—where you chose not to be exasperated and you chose to give him a blessing instead.
Shaunti: You know, one of the hard parts for me—probably like a lot of women is—honestly, if I see something that is done in a different way than I would choose to do it; right?—like—I mean, no man can appreciate this. This has never happened to anybody; but hypothetically, when somebody does the dishes—and then the wife comes along, hypothetically, behind that person who did the dishes and takes them out of the dishwasher and puts them in a different way—
Bob: —the “right way.”
Shaunti: —the “right way”; yes, of course. And to be able, when something is done in a way that your like, “But that’s not the way it works!”—to be able to go: “Okay; I’m just going to chill,” and “I’m going to resist that temptation to come along behind and say, ‘You did not do that correctly.’”
Even though I would never say those words out loud—to actually re-do it—and to sort of sit on my hands and go: “You know what? It’s fine. This is the way he’d do it.”
Dennis: Here’s where it comes out between Barbara and me—it’s packing the car / packing the back of the car.
Shaunti: Oh yes!
Dennis: Now, Barbara’s dad was a chief engineer of a US Steel plant, which means he could take the whole thing apart and have it rebuilt by tomorrow morning—the entire US Steel plant. [Laughter] Alright? She has that engineering bent within her, even though she is an artist, which is an interesting combination.
I have learned that, instead of getting irritated with her / exasperated—your word—you’re just naming my sin now. I’ve learned that I just start out, at the beginning, saying: “Okay; Sweetheart, where would you like me to put these suitcases? How would you like to put them in here?”
Shaunti: And “I’m going to stand here until you tell me”; yes? [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, and it’s really not in spite—it’s just realizing that, if I do it, it’s probably not going to be right. [Laughter]
I’ve now learned to cooperate from the beginning; and it does get packed a whale of a lot better, by the way.
Bob: What Mary Ann does—she just goes and sits in the passenger seat until the car is packed and then we drive off—so she’s not engaged in it. [Laughter] I can do whatever I want back there.
Shaunti: But here’s what’s funny about what you just said, Dennis. Seriously, is there are women, listening right now—and probably some men—but there are women listening, right now, who are going: “Wait; you mean doing it, otherwise, is unkind? You mean taking the dishes back out and redoing them—like, ‘You didn’t do this correctly,’”—or, you know, you packed the suitcases—“‘No, no—no. You don’t do it—here, let me do it again. Let me do it this way,’—you mean that’s unkind?”
It’s one of the things that is so built into us. There are all these different patterns—and somebody has this one and not that one—but for example, that criticism—you wouldn’t think of it as a critical spirit, but that’s kind of what it is. That’s another example of a pattern of negativity that we have to be willing to see.
Bob: So, it sounds like, if I am valuing other people, I am being kind.
Bob: If I’m devaluing other people, I am being unkind. I’m trying to kind of get to the core of what kindness is. If I esteem other people—Philippians says “…count others as more important than myself,”—that’s manifesting kindness. If I say, “No; I’m really the important one around here, and you’re less important,”—that’s unkindness.
Shaunti: Yes; it’s—basically, you are looking out in all sorts of ways—whether it’s verbally, whether it’s in your thoughts, whether it’s in your actions. You’re looking out for the best interests of the other person.
Bob: And you talk, in your book, about a difference between broad kindness and targeted kindness. What are those?
Shaunti: Yes; well, here’s the thing—this is where we have to deconstruct something that I think a lot of your listeners might automatically assume. We’ve heard a lot about the Random Acts of Kindness movements.
Shaunti: And a lot of us have done things—you know, you pay for the beat-up car in the drive-through line behind you. Those kinds of things are really important, and they’re good; but what we’ve found is that they don’t change you. Because, ultimately, what this is about is realizing: “I am not nearly as kind as I think I am.” I am somewhat deluded; right? And because I’m a little bit deluded, I need some sort of a boot camp to become more kind.
That comes in a targeted relationship—where I am going to look at this person I’m in the house with every day, or maybe I’m at work with every day, or maybe it’s my mother-in-law—whoever it is that I want a better relationship with. I’m going to do these specific things, every day, to try to train myself out of “Oh my! I didn’t realize I was doing that,” and into some really good habits that I didn’t realize I wasn’t doing as often as I thought I was.
Bob: And this boot camp that you’re talking about is something you’ve included in the book—
Bob: —but it’s also something that, during the month of February, we’re encouraging our listeners—you can take the 30-Day Kindness Challenge with Shaunti and with us. You can sign up for this; we’ll send you an email every day—a different email for the wives than for the husbands; right?
Shaunti: If you want to sign up to do it, as a wife, for a husband or vice versa, absolutely. But you can also just sign up to do it for anybody—or for your kids or whatever.
Bob: You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com—you sign up; and then, every day for the next 30 days, you’ll get instructions / you’ll get a little prompt that will say: “Here is your kindness challenge for today.” You do this for 30 days. It’s not so much the daily actions as it is the resetting of your thinking over a 30-day period.
Shaunti: Well, see, here’s what happens—and this is where I’d love to get into what the 30-Day Kindness Challenge actually is.
Because what we’ve identified is—if you do these three things for 30 days, it totally transforms your “Wow! I had no idea,” and you’re rebuilding a habit. It’s the same thing, every day, for 30 days you’re trying to practice.
Bob: What three things?
Shaunti: First is—you pick this person; right? You say nothing negative about them—either to them or about them to somebody else—
Bob: Okay; alright.
Shaunti: —because that’s where we sabotage ourselves; right?
Bob: The toxicity; right.
Shaunti: Just as a quick example—if I’m irritated with Jeff, I can kind of be polite to him if I’m trying to not be negative. But, you know, the common problem is—I might go to my girlfriends at work and be like: “Ugg! You know what he did?” I don’t realize it, but I’m sabotaging how I feel about him—and oh, by the way—I’m training myself to be an unkind person. I would not think of it that way, but that’s what I’m doing. So, the first thing is: “Say nothing negative about them”; and we’ve identified what those negativity patterns are.
Second thing is—every day for 30 days, find one thing that you can sincerely praise about them and tell them; and tell somebody else, every day, for 30 days.
So I can’t complain about something he did; but I’m looking for the stuff to praise—and I think, “You know, he came home early in order to take the kids to their activities.” I go to him and I say, “Thank you.” And then I go to my girlfriends, or whomever, and say: “You know what he did yesterday? He took the kids…” What I’m doing is, basically, Philippians 4; right? I’m thinking on “Whatever is excellent and lovely and worthy of praise…” rather than the stuff that’s worthy of driving me crazy.
Shaunti: And then the third thing—every day for 30 days—is to do a small action of kindness / a small action of generosity. You know, maybe it’s not Jeff; right? / maybe it’s not my husband—maybe it is my mother-in-law or my kids. Maybe—you know, one of the things I found, when I did this for my teenage daughter, is that an action of generosity to her, like most people, is little stuff. It’s like she: “Hey; I know you’re in the middle of something on your computer, Mom, but I found this funny YouTube video.”
It is a little action of generosity to take five/six/seven minutes and turn my attention and look at her, and engage, and watch the video with her and laugh.
It might seem so little, but what that does—is what all three of those things do—is it says: “You’re valuable,”—and it’s telling yourself that as well. What we found is—if you do those three things for 30 days, 89 percent of relationships improved—89 percent—which is huge. We don’t see those numbers in social research.
Bob: So, you can go to FamilyLIfeToday.com. You can sign up to take the kindness challenge; and during the month of February, we’ll see if we can improve 89 percent of our relationships—people listening to FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: I’ll tell you—we can bump it over 90 percent if you’ll memorize Colossians, Chapter 3, verse 12. It’s talking about—almost like you put on clothing before you leave the house in the morning—the Apostle Paul says—listen carefully to what he encourages you to put on:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.” That’s a pretty good list right there!
Bob: That is a pretty good list. That’s, again, Colossians, Chapter 3, verse 12 and following. It really goes to the heart of what you are calling us to live out—to walk according to the Spirit—to put off the old man, to put on the new man, and to live out our faith in how we relate to one another.
Shaunti’s got a book called The Kindness Challenge: Thirty Days to Improve Any Relationship. And if you’d like to take the kindness challenge, we’ve got an easy way for you to do that.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; and you can sign up to get an email, every day, from us that will prompt you to do something kind each day. There will be some tips / some suggestions. It’s a 30-day spiritual exercise. The month of February is a great month—given its Valentine’s month—great month for you to take a 30-Day Kindness Challenge and see if it doesn’t make a difference in your relationships—in your marriage or your relationship with your children.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and sign up for the free 30-Day Kindness Challenge. Get a copy of Shaunti’s book by that name. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order—1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the title of the book is The Kindness Challenge. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLIfeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, sign up for the kindness challenge and have the email sent to you every day that will prompt you on ways you can demonstrate kindness more regularly in your relationships.
And speaking of being kind, we want to ask you to do something that would be kind for blended or stepfamilies all around the country. We’ve got an event coming up in April. It’s the Blended and Blessed™ one-day event. It’s going to be in Charlotte, North Carolina; but it’s going to be live streamed to churches and individuals all across the country. When we did this last year, we had thousands of people who joined us for this one-day event, and we’re hoping to have even more this year.
Now, the cost to produce this event is significant; and so we’re asking you to help us and to help blended families in the process. Make a donation that will help defray the cost of producing the Blended and Blessed live stream event. You can do that by donating, online, today at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make a donation—or mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And on behalf of those stepfamilies and blended families, who will benefit from this event later on this spring, I just want to say, “Thanks for partnering with us to make this event a reality.”
I hope you can join us back tomorrow. Shaunti Feldhahn is going to be here. We’re going to continue talking about kindness—what it looks like and how we can be kinder people. That comes up tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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