Kindness and generosity matter. The question that begs a response is whether or not kindness, for instance, is an inherent trait that some possess and others do not. Or, is it a muscle that needs exercise?
Emily Esfahani Smith covers, or rather uncovers, important research regarding healthy relationships. I just may have to clip this one to Evernote and use it in future pre-marital counseling situations, even follow-up sessions.
Kindness as a trait may be deemed present or absent. That is, if kindness is a human trait that may be passed on genetically, then it seems some could possess it while others do not. Think of it like passing on blond hair and blue eyes. Now, we may assert the trait could be latent and in need of awakening, or to continue with the analogy, show up in a subsequent generation where it shows more affect.
But, I am inclined to think kindness is like a muscle. This is the trajectory reported in the article. Everyone, and now I will make a theological turn, likely turning some off, bearing the image of God possesses kindness, like a muscle. It may not be well defined and little exercised, but it is still there.
From the article,
There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.
Hopefully that provoked you to go read the article. After you do, come back and see if there is another application for this research.
The Church – an Incubator for Kindness and Generosity?
The one place kindness and generosity should be taught and fostered is the Church. Jesus followers need to work the better muscles – kindness and generosity – and let other muscles atrophy – contempt, criticism, and hostility. Politically, that is organizationally, the Apostle Paul highlights the value of living at peace with others and that the fruit of Christian experience birthed by what he describes as the fruit of the Spirit, is kindness, among others.
Don’t miss the import of kindness as the word used. In the Hebrew Scriptures the equivalent to sacrificial love is loving-kindness. Too many today think all the talk of love in churches makes us sappy. Notice, the article does not say that kindness means an end to conflict. Instead, researchers describe that kindness changes the complexion and resolution of conflict.
Science or no, Christians will be more effective and offer more affect in their surroundings if we exercise kindness and generosity. We are fairly well known for criticism and hostility. We need more Masters and fewer Disasters.
What say you? How might the church become more an incubator for kindness and generosity?