Think on the Lovely
About the Guest
Shaunti Feldhahn reminds us that expressing kindness goes a long way, especially in marriage. When a spouse starts noticing that their mate has stopped pointing out negatives, each spouse will begin to feel so much more joy. Start the kindness challenge today: Remember to say nothing negative to or about them, then praise something, and then follow with an act of kindness.
Shaunti FeldhahnShaunti received her graduate degree from Harvard University and was an analyst on Wall Street before unexpectedly becoming a social researcher, best-selling author and popular speaker. Today, she applies her analytical skills to investigating eye-opening, life-changing truths about relationships, both at home and in the workplace. Her groundbreaking research-based books, such as For Women Only, have sold more than 3 million copies in 25 languages and are widely read in homes, counseling centers...more
Shaunti Feldhahn reminds us that expressing kindness goes a long way, especially in marriage.
Think on the Lovely
Bob: In the book of 1 Peter we read that, when we intentionally restrain ourselves from saying critical things and instead we say kind or encouraging things to others, we inherit a blessing. Here’s Shaunti Feldhahn.
Shaunti: One of the key things that’s going to happen, as you start catching the good and you start, really, truly preventing yourself—say, “Okay; for these 30 days, I’m not going to say anything negative about my spouse,” or “…my kids,” or “…my…”—you know, whatever—“I’m not going to do this.” You start seeing everything—you’re going to start feeling, honestly, so much more of that joy.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 1st. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine. So, which happens more at your house? Are there more critical words or kind words being expressed? We’ll talk about how we can turn one down and turn the other up today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re talking about kindness this week; because kindness can go a long way in every relationship, whether it’s in the workplace, in the home with your kids, with your spouse. When people are kind to one another, the temperature in the room changes; doesn’t it?
Dennis: It does. I just want to read a very familiar passage of Scripture, just to remind you that kindness is a part of God’s character. He’s wanting to produce this fruit in us. I know that because of what Paul says in Galatians, Chapter 5, where he commands us to “walk in the Spirit and not in the deeds of the flesh.”
In verse 22 he says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Those are all qualities of who God is and what He’s like.
Bob, the kindness of God is what gets us into heaven.
Dennis: He sent His Son to die on a cross on our behalf because of the lovingkindness of God—that He didn’t want to be separated from us. So we ought to be demonstrating this fruit / this one fruit of kindness—I wouldn’t say more than the others—but it ought to be one of the mainstays of our lives as we relate to other people, both in our homes and as we go about our duties outside the home.
Bob: The Bible says, in Romans, Chapter 2, that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance—we are motivated to change. That’s what repentance means—motivated to change when we understand the kindness of God.
For years, Dennis, people have said to me—our mission, at FamilyLife, to effectively develop godly marriages and families—they’ve said, “So how do you define / what are the characteristics of a godly marriage or family?” And I’ve said: “Read Galatians 5:22 and 23. When the fruit of the Spirit is being manifested in a marriage or in a family, that’s what a godly marriage or family looks like. There’s love; there’s joy; there’s peace; patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control—all of those things.
Dennis: And as fruit, that means it grows and it has to mature.
Dennis: It’s not some kind of fruit that you dial up and it—
Bob: Not the microwave fruit of the Spirit? [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; exactly! I mean, this is the point of maturing and getting in the Bible—letting the Bible reside in you and making your choices from the Scripture. It’s why listening to this broadcast is so important. Hopefully, we are one of your trusted sources of speaking with authority from the Scriptures about the issues you’re facing in your marriage and family.
To do that today, we’ve asked Shaunti Feldhahn to join us again on FamilyLife Today. We’ve offended her in numerous ways over the past decade, having her on FamilyLife Today, so we’ve had her back to do it in additional ways. Shaunti, welcome back.
Shaunti: I love you guys! [Laughter]
Bob: We’ll be talking about kindness—we’ll see if we can offend you on the program.
Dennis: Yes; there you go! [Laughter] I’m going to be kind to her today! She has written a book called The Kindness Challenge.
I was preparing for this broadcast, and Bob came into my office—and I said, “Bob, who’s the kindest person you know?”
Bob: Yes; and I paused.
Dennis: He paused, and he didn’t say anything. So I raised my fingers and pointed them back at myself! [Laughter] At which point he burst into laughter—at that point. [Laughter] I go: “What? I’m not? What are you doing?”
Anyway, that’s not the point of this broadcast. The point of this broadcast is to equip you to be kind in your marriage, in your family, in your extended relationships out in the community, and be known as someone who leaves the aroma of Christ wherever you go.
That’s really what you were after as you wrote this book; isn’t it?
Shaunti: It totally is, especially because the main issue for us is that we already think we’re kind; you know? Everybody listening to this is like, “But I am,”—like—“I really value being a kind person.”
It’s interesting—I was doing an event for a big ministry, speaking on this topic. You know, they have all their major donors in the room; and they were all really engaged. This one guy, who was one of their major donors, comes up to me afterwards. He shows me a page out of C.S. Lewis’s book, The Problem of Pain—you know, because we’re trying to figure out, “Why is it that we think we’re kind, when anybody around us can tell us, ‘You’re really not as much as you think you are’?” Why are we so deluded?
He showed me this passage from C.S. Lewis—he said: “The reason we think we’re kind people is that we’re feeling benevolent towards this person at that moment,”—like they’re not annoying us at that moment in time—
—“So, really, we think we’re kind when we’re only happy.”
Oh my! That is so true; because you push whatever button it is in me, and I sometimes can really be exasperated—that’s my thing—that’s my irritation / that’s my pattern of negativity in unkindness.
Dennis: So, Shaunti, there’s a wife listening to us, right now, who said: “You know, it’s easy, Shaunti—you’re married to the kindest person—you know, your husband Jeff—since 1994. So it’s easy for you to be kind back to him; but you have no idea what God has called me to do to love this man/this husband that I’m in a permanent relationship with.”
Now, you’ve had some women come up to you—
Shaunti: Oh, yes!
Dennis: —who’ve asked that question.
Shaunti: Oh, totally!
Dennis: How do you coach them?
Shaunti: Well, here’s—honestly, how this / I’ll tell you honestly—here’s how this whole thing started.
Sitting in this building, probably ten years ago, I was doing an interview with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, now Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, when she had her studios here. She was asked that exact question by a woman—we talked about it on air. She issued what I thought was this brilliant challenge—to not say anything negative about a difficult husband and to look for things to praise.
I started studying this and going: “Wow! That is really important!” It eventually became the core of what we call the 30-Day Kindness Challenge. What we have found is that when you are—really, you’ve identified some real problems with this gentleman that you’re married to—but you know what? There is always something good as well. There is always something that is worthy of praise—as Philippians 4 said—you know, it’s not just the stuff that’s worthy of driving you crazy.
What we found with other women when they have tried this—they’ve tried the 30-Day Kindness Challenge / to do these three things every day—it is amazing. Suddenly, all those things that loomed so large in their eyes—they’re just not as big a deal anymore, because here’s the thing—think about this: “If you’re irritated with your husband, and you tell him you’re irritated, and you tell your girlfriends that you’re irritated, are you going to be more or less irritated?” [Laughter]
Bob: “You’re going to be irritated!”
Shaunti: Everybody knows the answer!
But if you’re irritated with him, for these very real reasons that you’re talking about, but you refuse to talk about those things for 30 days / just 30 days—you don’t tell him / you don’t tell your girlfriends—nothing. You just don’t talk about them for 30 days; and instead, you find the good things and you find the things that you can praise—you know: “Thanks so much for taking out the trash, honey. I really appreciate it,” or “Thanks for doing this thing with the kids. You’re a really good dad.” You say those things, regularly, for 30 days, and you tell somebody else those things, are you going to be more or less irritated?
It turns out we have bought into an idea, as a people / as a culture, that it is healthy to share those frustrations, regularly, because it lets a little steam out of the kettle; right?—so the kettle doesn’t explode.
Shaunti: As I was doing this research—oh my goodness!—I started seeing there’s all this, actually, brain science about this / there’s this neuroscience about this. They have actually found that, as you share those real frustrations; right?—they are real things—as you share those with other people, it doesn’t let the steam out of the kettle. Instead, it further activates this interconnected anger system in your brain. It’s actually more like turning the heat up under the pot.
We have to get over this idea that, you know, venting is a good idea; because what happens is—instead, when we just start focusing on the other stuff and we don’t vent, it’s like taking the pot off that burner.
It’s like you put the lid on and it smothers that steam—that annoyance / that frustration—that you have with this guy you’re married to. Suddenly, because you’re focusing on the good, you’re just not as frustrated anymore.
Bob: There are some wives who hear all of this and go: “I understand that; but if I were trying to find the thing I was going to affirm my husband for yesterday: ‘Honey, you’re really good at watching ESPN,’ ‘Honey, you’re really good at being on your laptop,’ ‘Honey, you’re really good at falling asleep early,’”—I mean, they would just say, “I don’t know where to find it, because he’s just living his life and nothing—he’s not engaged.” They don’t know where to find the good.
Shaunti: And let me give you some ideas: “Honey, I love the fact that you love university football. I want to sit and watch with you,” / “How can I join you in this?” Like—you would love it if he’d do stuff with you; but since this is his thing, “I’m going to sit and watch it with you.”
Dennis: “Call 9-1-1.” [Laughter]
Shaunti: Yes; he’s going to keel over! [Laughter] Yes.
Or “Yes; you know what? I wish he would come home and talk to me,” and he’s tired: “Honey, thanks so much for working so hard to provide for our family. I really, really appreciate it.” You may not be able to think of a lot at the beginning.
I’ll tell you what happened with one woman—I love this. She was doing the 30-Day Kindness Challenge; right?—these three things for 30 days—and one of them is to find the good every day, and say one thing to him, and then praise him to somebody else. She’s like: “I can’t do it! I don’t know what I’m going to do.” I’m like: “Okay; carry around a notebook. Whenever anything happens that he does good, just right it down so you don’t forget it; and then that can be your thing to praise.”
She is like: “I’m going to need to put together a word bank. Like, I’m going to need to actually—I’m going to have to write down everything, and then I’ll store up…”
She is like, “So what I ended up doing,”—this is what she told me / she said—“on Day 2, I saw three things. I’m like: ‘Okay; I’ll store those up; and I’ll mention that on Day 3 and Day 4 so that, if I don’t see anything on Day 3 and 4, I have something from Day 2 to mention.’”
She wrote down three things to store up on Day 2. She said, on Day 3, she noticed six things, and then by Day 4, she noticed twelve things.
Shaunti: And suddenly, she is like: “Oh wow! It was me. I just was noticing all the bad.”
That is what happens once you start doing this—in sincerity. If you’re the lady, who’s like, “Yes; I notice he’s good at watching ESPN,” well, you know what? Then, maybe, you might need an attitude adjustment too. It may not just be him.
Dennis: You know, marriage is so up-close and personal. I mean, Barbara and I have lived with each other now in marriage for 45 years—we know each other pretty well. It’s why a passage, like Philippians, Chapter 4, is so important; because it’s so easy to pull out the magnifying glass and to focus on the defects—
—the bad habits / the blemishes—but let’s just listen to what the Apostle Paul says about directing our thoughts.
Philippians, Chapter 4, verse 8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” In other words, Paul is calling us, Shaunti, as you are, to discipline our minds to think about the positive rather than the negative and not focus solely on the negative. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to see the negative; it just means you begin to populate your mind with catching your spouse doing something right.
Shaunti: And one of the key things that’s going to happen—as you start catching the good and you start really, truly preventing yourself—say: “Okay; for these 30 days, I’m not going to say anything negative about my spouse,” or “…my kids,” or “…my…—you know, whatever. “I’m not going to do this,”—and you start seeing everything / you’re going to start feeling, honestly, so much more of that joy.
That verse you read was the prescription when Paul says: “Rejoice! I’m going to say it again, ‘Rejoice!’” And you’re like: “Okay; dude [Paul]—you’re in prison, chained to a wall. [Laughter] How do you rejoice in a prison?” “How do you rejoice in a difficult marriage?” “How do you rejoice with a difficult teenager?” or “…that mother-in-law that’s driving you crazy?” Those verses are the answer—that is the prescription—you think on whatever’s lovely.
It’s interesting, because science has found the exact same thing. I was actually—there was this hilarious—at least, to me / I thought it was hilarious—this study that was done with a group of plastic surgeons, who were convinced that—this was a number of years ago—they were convinced that Botox had an off-label use as an anti-depressant; because so many of the people, who were getting Botox injections—
—their emotional states improved, so little incidents of anxiety and depression were going away. You know, that happens sometimes—the medicine has a different use and “Wow! Okay; good to know!”
So they did a study, and it had nothing to do with the chemical of Botox. And it wasn’t: “It turns out that these people just looked and felt prettier, so they had a better emotional outlook,”—like none of that mattered. It turns out Botox is a shot, you know, to smooth out wrinkles / it paralyzes the frown muscles. [Laughter] These people couldn’t frown! They literally could not make a negative facial expression.
Dennis: —a furrowed brow.
Shaunti: They couldn’t [making angry sound] “Rrrr!” You know, think about it! Everybody, listening to this, is going nice and screwy in their foreheads; but you know, as you scrunch up your forehead, you’re making a negative facial expression.
They literally couldn’t do that anymore. As they were unable to make these grouchy, negative expressions with their faces, they just didn’t feel as grouchy or as negative.
It’s like God has been trying to tell us this—to think on whatever is lovely, and excellent, and worthy of praise. You can skip the shot of Botox to the forehead and just take the biblical prescription instead, and you’ll have this better emotional equilibrium. You’ll feel more of that joy that Paul is saying, “Rejoice!”
Bob: You know, the reality is that we don’t do this naturally. We need prompts and coaching. That’s the reason you developed a 30-day challenge that we’re now incorporating. We’re asking our listeners: “During the month of February, take a 30-day challenge. You can do it with your spouse; you can do it with your kids; you can do it with a coworker. Pick a person that you want to improve a relationship with and take the initiative to take the kindness challenge. We’ll send you the prompt every day via email. It’ll give you an action point for the day.”
You’ve seen people do this, Shaunti, and it makes a difference in their relationships.
Shaunti: Oh, huge difference. We, actually—I was just at the American Association of Christian Counselors—one of their big meetings—not that long ago. A Christian counselor woman came up to me who had this wife / this woman—walked into her office and sat down and said: “I hate my husband. I hate him.” She [the counselor] happened to know that this husband was also in this counseling practice. So the wife hadn’t told her husband she was going in.
So this is a good step, at least—like she’s in the room. This counselor had heard about the 30-Day Kindness Challenge and had decided to do it for herself and found that it was a really powerful thing—which by the way, we encourage leaders to do this for themselves; because it might be something that you end up deciding: “You know, I’ll do this with my church,” “I’ll do this with my organization.”
She said to this lady: “Okay; why don’t you do this? Why don’t you try this?” She explained: “It’s these three things for 30 days. Try this, and start with this assessment,” because, on the website—which you guys are linking to—there’s a free assessment. It just tells you kind of where you’re starting. It gives you a character—
Shaunti: —like: “Are you Captain America?” “Are you…”
Bob: That’s like the most-kind there is; right?
Shaunti: Yes; exactly! Like: “Who are you?”
She said the lady came in the next week—sat down and said, “I’m Voldemort.” [Laughter] And she’s [wife] like, “As I was doing the assessment, literally, I’m thinking to myself: ‘Not a single person in the world is going to end up as Voldemort. Like it’s just there to be the worst of the worst.’” Well, okay; so this lady was. She said: “It’s because I’ve gotten so annoyed, I realized I’m being unkind on purpose to him.” She said, “Alright; I need to work on this.” And she did it! To her credit, she actually did it sincerely.
This counselor told us—she said, as she was driving to this counselors’ convention / this was three or four months later—she was driving. She said—she told her husband, “I literally have never seen that big of a change in an individual in my entire life, because this lady realized / she saw how unkind she was being. She didn’t see it before.”
You know, that awareness—to think of yourself soberly, as the Bible says / to realize what’s going on in your own heart—once you do that—that is the beginning of the change that God wants in our lives.
Dennis: And if you do something like this for 30 days—we can’t sit here and promise that it’s going to be ingrained within you, because there’s still going to be a battle within your soul to apply the Scripture and to choose to allow the fruit of the Spirit to be produced in your life—
—but after 30 days, you will find that kindness is much more a part of your life and of your marriage and your family. It will be a whole lot more pleasant place to live.
Shaunti: Actually, what’s really fun about this is that, actually—because, you know, the three things that you do for the 30 days—you don’t say anything negative; you find something positive to say; and you do an action of kindness or generosity every day for whoever this person is that you’re doing it for—and what we’ve found is that the people, by the time—you know, Day 3 and 4, they’re kind of spending the whole time, going: “Oh wow! Oh wow! I had no idea. Oh my; I messed up again!”—right?
The first two weeks—after they’ve kind of gotten over that—now, you’re building a new skill set: “Okay; I didn’t know I needed it; but here it is. I’m building it.” By the time that second two weeks happens, what we’ve found is—by the time they got to Day 30, they kind of had lost track where they were in the 30-Day Kindness Challenge—like, “Wait; are we on Day 25?” because it is so much a natural part!
It had become a habit in their life—that then you have to choose to keep applying it—but it really is, at that point, a habit.
Dennis: So think about enrolling in Shaunti’s School of Kindness—[Laughter]—Kindness 101.
Bob: That’s right.
Shaunti: That sounds really bad! [Laughter] No, no; it’s the FamilyLife Today 30-Day Kindness Challenge; right?—yes.
Bob: It’s in the book, The Kindness Challenge—all of the prompts—but to have them sent to you by email is kind of the drip method of getting a daily reminder / a daily prompt: “Here’s something you can do to be kind today. Here’s a way that you can demonstrate kindness for others.”
I just think that’s helpful for all of us. It’s free; you can sign up, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Join us in the 30-Day Kindness Challenge. I’ve already signed up; so I’m in the queue. I’m getting these prompts sent to me, and I’m looking forward to what happens over the next 30 days in my own life and in my relationships with others.
We also have copies of Shaunti’s book available if you’d like to buy the book, The Kindness Challenge: 30 Days to Improve Any Relationship. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. The website, again, FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I would have to say—when it comes to kindness, FamilyLife Today listeners have demonstrated, over the years, that they are kind people, especially those of you who are Legacy Partners / those of you who support this ministry regularly. Your generosity is a demonstration of kindness, and it’s really not as much kindness toward us at FamilyLife—it’s kindness toward those who benefit from this ministry / the husbands and wives, the moms and dads, the couples who tune in and listen, who attend our events.
These are the folks that you’re demonstrating kindness to when you donate to support FamilyLife Today.
We have an event coming up later this spring—it’s our Blended and Blessed™ event. It’s going to be live in Charlotte, North Carolina, April 21st. It’s going to be available on livestream all across the country in churches and in living rooms. We have been asking FamilyLife Today listeners—those of you who are friends of this ministry—we’re asking you to help defray the cost of producing this event, which is a significant cost. When you donate today, you’ll be helping us cover the cost of providing practical biblical help and hope for blended families and stepfamilies all around the world.
You can do that by donating, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to donate—1-800-FL-TODAY—or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
We just want to say, “Thank you for your kindness toward these couples and these families.”
And we hope you’ll be back with us again tomorrow. Shaunti Feldhahn will be here and we’ll continue talking about kindness. We’re going to talk about some of those ways in which we are unkind without even realizing it. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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