Kindness as a Sacrificial Act

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A decade or so ago I had a problematic relationship with someone in the workplace.  After numerous conflicts that I seldom saw coming that always originated with this individual’s opinion that I had done or said something which didn’t suit what this person thought I should have done or said, I was exasperated and put this situation before the Lord.  I prayed about how to handle this perpetually conflict-ridden relationship.  One day in prayer I felt the Lord distinctly say, “Sacrifice.”   I was puzzled about exactly how to act on that instruction.  I began with not just praying ABOUT my relationship with the individual and I began to pray FOR the person.  That was not comfortable at first, considering how my feelings toward the individual had become suspicious, untrusting, and disliking.   Over the next few days I felt the Lord nudging further, “Sacrifice.”   I sent a card of encouragement anonymously.  The next week I sent a small gift that was something related to a hobby I knew the person enjoyed, again anonymously.  The point was not to earn “brownie points” with the person, but to actually have to make a financial and time sacrifice to extend a blessing.  Eventually our ways parted.  But before they did, I had already begun to change my heart about this person.   I never felt a warm and fuzzy feeling of friendship, but I no longer felt the negativity and sense of persecution at the hand of someone who had shown time and time again a willingness to believe (and talk about) the worst that could be imagined about me.   It was a good lesson for me.  I discovered it’s very difficult to pray FOR someone and continue to  wish ill on them because of how they feel about you.  It is also helpful to overcome one’s negative feelings for someone when you have to do something intentional to bless them….. in other works, actually SACRIFICE of your time, resources, and your own sense of self-righteousness in wanting to get back at them for their conduct toward you.  

This article offers some insight into the process that I experienced then. 

How You Can Be the Solution for Division

Last year was brutal.  As a nation, we are a house divided. And far beyond politics, that divide echoes in every church, community and home.

We are losing the ability to disagree without being disagreeable.

We forget the 20 excellent decisions made by our pastor or church leadership while we complain about one.

We snipe on social media. Driving home, we get indignant when others snipe at us.

These divisions can be healed, and my research has shown us that the answer is simple: kindness.

Not the sweet-but-momentary Random Acts of Kindness we’ve all done out in the community. Not the vague “niceness” that we dredge up so we can smile at the difficult colleague or irritating volunteer.

No, the answer is a specific effort to be kind to one specific person over several weeks.

Here’s how it works. Pick one person with whom you want a better relationship – it could be someone at work, a family member or anyone with whom you have regular contact. For 30 days, do three things each day:

  • First, don’t say anything negative about that person – either to her/him or to someone else. (If true correction is needed, such as for a subordinate’s mistakes, be constructive without a negative tone.)
  • Second, every day, find one thing you can sincerely affirm about that person, and tell her/him – and tell someone else.
  • Third, do one small act of kindness or generosity for that person each day.

We call this the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, and in our before-and-after surveys, 89% of relationships improved.

Now, why would targeting just one person for kindness have any impact on a divided nation – or the temperature of a church family? Because that targeted effort impacts the other person, but it completely changes you, the person being kind.

Your eyes are opened to all the little ways you were unkind without intending to be. Trained to look away from the negative, you will see “whatever is lovely” instead – and say something about it.

These fundamental changes will not only transform that one relationship in focus, but all others.

Now, imagine that impact multiplied by many people in a church doing this kindness challenge at the same time. I can just see the spirit of division becoming smaller and smaller within the church – and the spirit of kindness reaching far beyond the walls of the church.

One person at a time, yet a massive, eternal movement to heal division. Led by the Body of Christ.

→ Are you interested in leading a 30-Day Kindness Challenge in your church? Find free resources from Shaunti and her team at jointhekindnesschallenge.com/churches. Additionally, discover how kindness can transform your relationships as a leader in this video by Shaunti for members of womensministry.net.

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