Why your kindness to ONE person can change the world

Why your kindness to ONE person can change the world

Picture a cup filled with hot water. Now imagine taking a tea bag, dipping it in the water quickly, and taking it back out. The water is, for the most part, unchanged, with just a wisp of caramel color trailing through it. Now picture dipping the same bag back in the cup for thirty seconds. What happens? The water is still water, but it takes on a honeyed hue.  

Do it again, but this time leave the tea bag in for five minutes.  The essence of the water has completely changed. In taking on the characteristics of the agent of change – its aroma, color, and flavor – the cup of water has become a cup of tea.

Our Kindness to Others is Transformative

After years of extensive research for The Kindness Challenge, to explore the potency of true kindness, we’ve found that kindness is a lot like that bag of tea. It has a power to transform that is unparalleled in social science. The acts and attitudes of kindness change the essence of who we are…and then each of our relationships… and then everything around us. Like the submerged tea bag slowly but completely changes its world, your kindness changes the world you live in.

And can we agree that our world is in desperate need of change? We are becoming more harsh, more divided. We see a rise in “despair deaths” – alcoholism, drugs, and suicide. We’ve all bemoaned that incivility has reached epic proportions.

But our culture is not going to fix itself. Instead, we are sent by God to be that agent of change. He has given us his truth, his love, his kindness – and we are to be the potent presence that transforms everything around us.  

And that means being willing to be an agent of change with – here’s the hard part – one person at a time.   

There’s no such thing as engaging a culture. A culture is made of people. We engage with each individual person.  Which means accepting Jesus’ mandate to truly love that one person in front of us (the argumentative stepfather, the frustrating colleague, the needy friend) even when we really don’t want to.

It also means a purposeful effort to truly be in the world (engaging even the difficult situations) without being of the world (without ever being difficult ourselves).

And when we do this, according to our national research study, here’s how those one-on-one choices will change our culture’s deep patterns of hurt.

First, kindness transforms us even as we practice it. The most important aspect of intentional kindness is not what it does for others: but how it changes us.  We suddenly see our own “kindness blindness”—those areas we were impatient, irritated, sarcastic, defeatist or distracted that we simply didn’t notice before! Sometimes that blindness even extends to unkindness towards ourselves.

Second, as we become less critical and more grateful, others around us change. Because kindness has a way of becoming the salve for many wounds.

Kindness sets off a chain reaction. It replicates itself. It goes viral. In a beautiful, miraculous way, it spreads by transforming those it touches so they become carriers and pass it along.

We tested an initiative called the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, that has since spread around the world.  Many people described seeing the person they were being kind to suddenly become more gentle, caring, and attentive to others, themselves! They realized that they had become a sort of super-carrier: they were spreading kindness in all directions without really intending to.

Although popular culture is fascinated by stories of overnight success, isn’t it just the way our world works that monumental change happens as the byproduct of consistent small activity? Great canyons are formed by the persistence of tiny creeks. Masses of people wake up to great evils through the determined pursuit of justice by a few.

Water becomes tea because the tea bag simply stays in contact.

We’re all remarkably influenced by the culture around us, living and breathing certain attitudes that then become our own. We pick up certainly beliefs largely because of what others around us think. That is the power of influence.

Well, God says we have it too – with everyone we touch.

We are influencing others. We can subtly contribute to the subconscious negativity and dissatisfaction our culture is already flavored with, or we can plunge in with potent kindness to every person we meet and thereby add a completely different aroma, color and flavor.  And that kindness will transform.


Want to know how to be kind, when you’re really not feeling it? My research uncovered three daily actions that will transform your relationships – and you. Check out The Kindness Challenge, now available!

Helping people thrive in life and relationships is Shaunti Feldhahn’s driving passion, supported by her research projects and writing. After starting out with a Harvard graduate degree and experience on Wall Street, her life took an unexpected shift into relationship research. She now is a popular speaker around the world and the author of best-selling books about men, women, and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).

Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge, demonstrates that kindness is the answer to almost every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.

This article first appeared at Patheos.

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