Author and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn’s latest book, The Kindness Challenge: Thirty Days to Improve Any Relationship, reveals just how badly we overestimate our own kindness and how our efforts to make ourselves happy sabotage the relationships around us.
Feldhahn spoke to Facts & Trends about the need for the book and how she has developed free resources to help churches take part in the 30-Day Kindness Challenge.
Facts & Trends: Why do you think The Kindness Challenge is needed right now?
Feldhahn: I had no idea when we started the research for this book that it would be coming out when people might be the most aware of what a huge need there is for kindness in our culture.
But as I looked back at the seven nationally representative surveys that we did for my previous books, I realized there’s this common denominator, this thread running through all of them.
Through the research, I discovered that whether you thrive in your life and whether you thrive in your relationships is far more related to how you treat other people than how you, yourself, are being treated.
When we hear that as believers, we all say, “Yes, of course, that’s true.” But we don’t necessarily live that way. We are very attuned to how we are being treated, as if that is what will really make us thrive. Yet that’s not what I saw in the studies; it’s the opposite.
All the stuff we have a tendency to do to make ourselves thrive—standing up for ourselves, insisting on being treated fairly—is usually sabotaging to our happiness.
So what do we need to do differently? I realized we have a lot of blind spots, a lot of areas where we are unkind every day and we don’t realize it. We’re sabotaging our relationships and we don’t even know it. We want to be kind, affirming people and we just don’t realize we don’t often act that way.
To find out how to fix this, we did a study group of 700 people. We surveyed them before, had them take specific actions, and then surveyed them after. This let us see what, if anything, changed.
Out of that, we identified the 30-Day Kindness Challenge that forms the basis of the book.
Facts & Trends: How can pastors or church leaders apply The Kindness Challenge within their congregation or in small groups?
Feldhahn: I talk to a lot of pastors and they often confess how discouraged they are. When their phone rings, it doesn’t often ring with words of encouragement on the other end. Someone is complaining or frustrated.
Like everyone else, people in the church can be unkind, negative, complaining people, often without realizing it.
So, imagine a boot camp for all the people in your church to suddenly have their eyes opened to this. Think how powerful that could be. Imagine what church would look like if all the negativity were trained out of the people in your church.
With that in mind, we created JoinTheKindnessChallenge.com, where you can take an online assessment to have a better picture of how kind you really are. You can sign up for the 30-Day Kindness Challenge there and receive daily reminder emails with tips and hints.
If churches want to become partners, we will hand them all those materials. We’ll give them a login for the site where they can download a small group study, videos, and discussion guides.
Because of a sponsor and our desire to get as many people as possible taking the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, everything there is free.
We think working through The Kindness Challenge in fellowship and community together is the pinnacle of what will make the biggest difference in people’s lives.