We like Marvel superhero movies in our house. And we have a superpower, too, though most of us don’t realize it. We are completely blind to the superpower God has given us. We are missing it completely in our lives and in our relationships. We don’t intend to. We don’t do it on purpose. It’s classic blindness.
Does your mother-in-law make you want to pull your hair out by criticizing every move you make? Maybe your wife doesn’t appreciate all the things you do for your family, or your husband takes you for granted and always seems angry.
Perhaps, you dread going to work every day because your boss talks down to you, and you’ve had enough.
Or maybe yours isn’t a bad relationship, but a good one. And you want it to be great.
What if you had the power to transform your relationships into those that are positive and bring joy into your life?
I’ve got great news: You do have the power — it’s called kindness.
Kindness is an incredible supernatural power. And it’s not our power, but God’s that makes it effective. Let me explain.
I’m a social researcher. After years of studying what we call the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, we found three actions anyone can take to transform any relationship. Targeted kindness is a potent weapon and will soften any heart, including your own.
Here’s what to do in The 30-Day Kindness Challenge. Pick someone with whom you want a better relationship. Then for 30 days:
1. Say nothing negative about the person — either to them or about them to someone else.
If you must provide negative feedback (for example, to discipline a child or correct a subordinate’s mistake), be constructive and encouraging without a negative tone (Prov. 31:26, ESV).
2. Every day, find one thing you can sincerely praise or affirm about the person and tell them and also tell someone else (Col. 3:12, NASB).
3. Every day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them (Eph. 4:32, NASB).
That’s it. So simple. And in our research we found that with kindness 89 percent of relationships improved.
What does the 30-Day Kindness Challenge look like in practice? Well, suppose you and your teenage daughter have been pushing each other’s buttons for weeks. Not knowing what will set her off, your every conversation with her is like a minefield. During the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, you resist the urge to ask, “Why did you wait until the last minute to do your homework?” (No sighing in exasperation, either.) And you completely stop yourself from venting about it with your spouse or your friends. Instead, you look for things to praise. You notice and tell her it was really nice of her to take her little brother to get ice cream. You thank her for it — and then you tell others about the nice thing she did.
You’re also looking for little acts of generosity to do for her each day. So when you know she wants to meet her friends at the coffee shop after dinner, but it’s her turn to clean the kitchen, you sincerely say, “I’ve got this. You go ahead and go. Have a great time.”
Trust me. Starting this process will show you a lot about what needs to change, not just in the other person, but in you. You will see just how negative you have been, in ways you never realized before. (In my Kindness Challenge book, I outline seven distinct types of negativity we found in our research, ranging from exasperation to overt criticism to suspicion. I strongly recommend that you recognize your negativity patterns, so that you can watch for them.)
As you do this, you will also see something amazing happening: Your feelings are changing. Not only will you experience more joy and feel better about yourself, you’ll also start appreciating the other person more. You’ll see their defenses lowering. And you may see enjoyment and positivity in the relationship that you haven’t seen in years. An effort toward kindness won’t solve every problem — especially the big ones like addiction — but kindness will make them easier to resolve.
Shaunti Feldhahn, Social Researcher, Speaker and Author
Shaunti Feldhahn is a social researcher, speaker and author of The Kindness Challenge. She spoke on “Kindness Changes Everything” at Converge’s Transform 2017 conference.