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Kindness can transform us and our relationships

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — Kindness is a superpower with a miraculous ability to transform us and our relationships, says author Shaunti Feldhahn.

The bestselling American author of For Women Only and The Kindness Challenge was in Ottawa Nov. 17 as part of the Neejee Association for Women and Family’s annual parenting seminar.

“Everyone has a relationship we would love to improve,” Feldhahn said. Kindness can improve any relationship or make an already good relationship great.

Feldhahn said she began her study of kindness after speaking at a women’s event in Colorado about her book For Women Only, which studies how men think, and “what’s really important” to them but “they can’t articulate.”

A woman stood up in the question and answer session at this event and said, “I know you say my husband needs to know I appreciate him, and respect him. What if I don’t?” she said.

Feldhahn recommended something she had learned from author Nancy Leigh DeMoss about a challenge of interacting with her husband in a different way for a period of a month.

After that conference, she outlined The 30 Day Kindness Challenge.

Three years later she was in another part of Colorado and someone asked a similar question and she gave similar advice. The next woman who stood up, said, “If you will do what Shaunti just said, you’ll find it changes everything.”

It turns out it was the same woman who had asked a similar question three years previously. She told Shaunti, “Everything in me wanted to ignore everything you said.”

“I did it,” she said. “I had no idea it wasn’t just about him. I saw things I was doing to hurt him every day.”

The process started softening her heart, and eventually her husband’s. Three years later, they were happily married after having been on the verge of divorce. The process didn’t fix the underlying problem or solve it, but “it made it so much easier to work on it together,” Feldhahn said.

What happened in her and her husband’s life was “supernatural and miraculous,” Feldhahn said. “That is the power of kindness.”

In order to dig out these truths Feldhahn has done eight research studies to find out the common denominator of what helps people thrive in their lives and relationships.

“How well you thrive in life is far more correlated to how you treat other people than how you are being treated,” she said. “It’s all about being kind.”

Kindness helps make a better marriage, a better parent, and a better leader in the workplace, she said.

“There’s a catch,” she said. “You have to be kind when you don’t want to be, when your spouse is insensitive or your boss is cruel, or your daughter is rolling her eyes at you.”

“This is when it matters most and has the most power,” she said.

“The problem is we already think we are kind,” she said. “We think someone else needs to do this.”

“We have no idea,” she said. “We are completely deluded. We are not as kind as we think we are.

Kindness involves: withholding unkindness, saying kind things, and doing kind things.

In the Kindness Challenge, you say nothing negative to the person and you say nothing negative to anyone else about the person, she said.

When I vent to another person about my husband or boss, “I’m sabotaging how I feel about him,” she said.

Instead, you find one thing every day you can sincerely affirm and tell them, and tell somebody else, she said. And third, “you do one small act of kindness or generosity.”

“You will start to see that it changes your feelings about the other person,” she said.

When you start withholding the negative, “you start to see how often that kind of stuff comes out of you,” she said.

Feldhahn debunked the idea that it’s healthy to vent and let a little steam out of the kettle. Instead what we’re doing is “turning up the heat under the pot.”

Refusing to share the negative is like turning the heat down, she said.

“If you do this, you’re going to start to see how often you are unkind without even intending to be,” she said.

Feldhahn has targeted seven “unkindness negative patterns.” They are exasperation; suspicion; sarcasm; pessimism, complaining; bitterness and anger.

The Neejee Association for Women and Family is a Catholic women’s group the offers spiritual and educational support for women and families.


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