We teach our children to be kind to others. We remind a struggling friend to “be kind to yourself.” Kindness is a trait we hold to, and appreciate in others. If you pause right now, you can likely think of the kindest people you know without too much difficulty. We value kindness as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
As a result, we think of ourselves as being relatively kind people – and we get slightly indignant at the grouchy co-worker who is always critical, or the in-law with the cutting sense of humor.
But what if I told you there are probably others looking at you and thinking the same exact thing? Oh, not necessarily that you are grouchy or cutting. But perhaps that you are … exasperated a lot? Very familiar with sarcasm? Attuned to the ways your kids (or spouse or colleagues) are not quite meeting your expectations?
Whether or not we have previously seen it that way, those are all examples of unkindness or negativity that run contrary to what we value. And there are many, many more examples.
We all need to ask ourselves: When it comes down to it, how kind am I, really?
There are two things you can do to shed light on that question.
First, and simplest, take our “Kindness Quotient” assessment. It can be quite enlightening to see the ways we weren’t as kind as we thought we were.
And second, if you suspect that maybe you might have some unseen “stuff” to work through, we suggest a sort of kindness bootcamp. Pick one person with whom you’d like an improved relationship and follow three simple steps for thirty days. We call it The 30-Day Kindness Challenge.
Regular readers of the blog will have heard about the Challenge before, and many of you will have already done it. But if you are a new reader – jump in! Or if you have heard about it but have never actually done it, don’t put it off any longer! Here’s what is involved.
Step #1: Say nothing negative about your person
The first step in the Challenge is to say nothing negative to or about your person. Sounds simple, right? Um… not really.
It is so easy to say negative things without ever realizing it, because frankly, people are often our biggest source of irritation! Whether it is your husband forgetting to put his laundry in the basket – again! – your child leaving their bike out, or your girlfriend taking your text totally out of context and ghosting you, people frustrate us. The downside is that we can develop a sneaky focus on the negatives, where our mind becomes more attuned to those things than we realize.
So whether you complain to your husband directly about the aforementioned laundry, or say nothing at the time but instead run him through the wringer to your co-workers the next day, the effect is the same. We have bought into the myth that venting or letting off a little steam is a good thing. However, neurologically, the truth is exactly the opposite! (Read more about that in this blog.) As we share our frustration, we actually sabotage how we feel about that person.
We identified seven distinct patterns of negativity and unkindness that we unpack in the book, The Kindness Challenge. Which one applies to you?
Step #2: Give authentic praise
The next step of the Challenge is to find one thing to authentically praise each day – and tell your person and someone else. The beauty of this step is that rather than seeing the negatives and rehearsing them, you’re actually training your mind to look for the positive attributes of your spouse, child, or whomever, and then dwelling on those instead.
In other words, instead of letting off steam about how your colleague left early so you had to cover the full shift until closing, you are looking for things to praise … and you notice just how caring and attentive your colleague was with a difficult customer. You tell them how much you appreciate how they handled it – and you tell the boss that, too.
Step #3: Act out kindness
The final step is to find one way to actively show kindness or generosity to your person every day. Now, this could be similar to random acts of kindness, such as making a cup of coffee for your spouse or some other act that they would appreciate. However, it can also look quite different. For example, I did this Challenge for my teenage daughter. She would often run into my home office, while I was furiously writing for a deadline and be like “Mom, look at this Tik Tok with me!” And I’d be like, “come back in an hour!”
What I discovered was that taking that moment while she was excited about whatever it was, not an hour later, was an act of kindness to her. These little actions signal to both you and your person that they are valuable.
What can you expect after thirty days of the Kindness Challenge? Well, one thing we know for certain is that how much you thrive is directly related to how you treat others. We found that among those who did the Challenge, 89% of those target relationships had improved! Another 66% said that they themselves felt more loved, even though they were the one putting in the effort to be kind! Those are pretty amazing numbers.
So is there a relationship you’d like to see improve? Do you want to improve yourself? Why not try kindness? Sign up for the 30-Day Kindness Challenge – including 30 days of little reminder/coaching emails. I think you’ll be surprised – and very pleased – with the results.
This article was also published at Patheos.
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