The Kindness Revolution
What character qualities mark your life? On FamilyLife Today join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson as they talk with author and podcaster, Nicole Philliips, about the positive physical and emotional effects that a life of kindness produces.
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What character qualities mark your life? Nicole Philliips talks about the positive physical and emotional effects that a life of kindness produces.
The Kindness Revolution
Bob: Nicole Phillips considers herself a kindness advocate. She believes kindness is contagious, but that doesn’t mean she’s always kind herself.
Nicole: My son was supposed to clean up the entry way of our house. There were lots of shoes, and lots of backpacks, and lots of jackets and I said, “I need this cleaned.” I walked in the door and I tripped over the shoes and the backpacks. I just let it go—I said, “I told you you were supposed to clean this up!” Charlie’s friend says, “Well, I guess kindness isn’t always contagious.”
Ann: Oh, oh, oh!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday March 23rd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Is there anything we can do to cultivate a heart of kindness so that, when we are provoked, kindness comes out instead of an eruption? We’re going to talk with Nicole Phillips about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re talking this week about kindness. You’ve described your wife as the kindest person you know, but you said it wasn’t always that way?
Ann: Oh, do we really have to go here? [Laughter]
Bob: Well, here’s what I want to know—
Dave: Hey, all that matters is she is the kindest person I know, that’s all that matters. [Laughter]
Bob: —“Was that—
Dave: It doesn’t matter! The past is the past. I was not kind—she was not kind. We struggled in the early years of marriage.
Ann: Oh, yes!
Dave: But I’m telling you, I live with a positive, life-speaking woman. It is the greatest gift—
Ann: It’s a miracle that Jesus decided to do.
Dave: —God has ever given me.
Bob: —“Was it evolutionary?”
Dave: I wish she could say the same thing! She’s supposed to be saying, right now, And I live with a positive husband.” [Laughter] But you notice she’s not saying that!
Bob: “Was it evolutionary?” Did you slowly convert to kindness, or was there an “Aha” moment for you?
Ann: Yes, I think there were two things that happened. One was my very best friend and sister died. Before she died—this is kind of this crazy thing—I remember being in the hospital room—I’m going to get emotional talking about this—we sat on the bed, and we told each other everything we loved about each other, like I said, “You have the most amazing skin. I wish I had that skin!” She said, “I wish I had your hair—I always wanted your hair.” That sounds so weird, but we just blessed each other with our words.
After she was gone, I thought, “I’m so glad I told her everything that was good in her. I spoke it out and I reminded her of that.” After she was gone, I thought, “I’m going to do that from now on” because I realized I had thought a lot of good things about people, and I didn’t share them because of my own insecurity. I felt like I was in competition with people—especially other women. Like, “Well, I don’t want them to get a one-up on me!”—so I would keep these things inside when I saw how amazing these people were.
After she was gone, I thought, “I’m not going to hold onto that anymore; I’m going to speak life into people.”
Dave: And I tell you what, you want her walking in your room, because that’s what she does, she lights up a room!
Dave: There are times when I’m like, “Okay honey, you don’t have to speak all of these great things to that stranger over there, who you don’t even know!” But you can just see that stranger or a good friend—their whole countenance changes because they feel blessed.
Ann: Well, I feel like God created every single one of us so He sees the greatness He put into us. But the world continues to just beat us down and we forget and we start believing lies about ourselves. If Jesus walked into the room, He would remind us, “This is who I made you to be.”
Bob: We have got—
Dave: I’ve got Ann’s, you know,—
Ann: My friend!
Dave: —her counterpart right here.
Bob: Nicole Phillips is joining us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome.
Nicole: Oh, I could just sit here and listen to Ann talk all day, [Laughter] I don’t have anything to say. Let’s listen to her!
Ann: No, no. You are so good, Nicole.
Bob: Nicole is an author; she’s a speaker; she’s a former TV journalist—
Ann: —and “Ms. Wisconsin,” did you say?
Nicole: In 1927, yes. [Laughter]
Dave: Not quite.
Bob: She writes a syndicated—
Dave: But that means you’re a Badger!
Nicole: Oh, I was a Badger!
Bob: She writes a syndicated newspaper column called “Kindness Is Contagious,” and has written a book by that name, and another book called The Negativity Remedy.
You had a kindness revolution, we talked about it. If people want a kindness revolution, they need to go to the mall in Fargo—go to Dino-Land—[Laughter] because that’s the place—kind of the mecca—where all of this kindness stuff happens. I was just curious, when you had this—kind of epiphany—and we talked about it earlier this week—did your husband—did Saul, the basketball coach—notice, ‘something’s different about Nicole’?
Nicole: He didn’t notice at the moment of the epiphany, when I came home—because I’ve been known to—I’m an Enneagram 7, you might say—
Nicole: —so I’ve been noted to come home once in a while and—Ann and Dave, you’re 7s; aren’t you?
Dave: Both! We both are 7s.
Nicole: Both of you; oh, no!
Dave: I know; I know.
Nicole: Basically, what that means is like, “I can’t wait for the next thing.
Nicole: I’m excited about whatever’s coming next! So I have been known to come home and be excited about my latest big idea.
Nicole: My husband—when I started writing the “Kindness Is Contagious” column, said, “I give it six months.”
Nicole: And he’s very supportive of me, but he said, “I give it six months.” I said, “What!?” He was teasing me and he said, “Within six months, you’re either going to—people are either going to stop sending you their stories of kindness, or you’re just going to get bored of it.”
Ann: You’ll be on to your next thing.
Nicole: —and you’ll be onto your next thing. I—as a wife—always want to make sure I prove my husband wrong. [Laughter]
Ann: [Laughing] Yes!
Nicole: It’s been ten years, and I’m still writing that column!
Bob: You’re proving him wrong! But did he see you start to be a different person as you were interacting, and thinking, and focusing on kindness?
Nicole: He did; he did! And it wasn’t all good, Bob, it really wasn’t. What happened was my behavior started to change. I got to know Jesus and I maybe became a little too serious in my walk with God and lost some of my fun because I felt that was what God wanted from me.
Bob: How did that affect your marriage?
Nicole: I used to be the girl who would love to drink a lot, and I would lose control. On one particular time—after all of this kindness revolution started in me—my husband and I went out and I publicly embarrassed him. We came home and the next morning, I woke up. He came into our bedroom and he very gently said to me, “You owe me an apology.” I just said, “I know, I’m sorry.” He turned around, and he walked out.
I rolled over in the fetal position, and I just started to cry. I just begged God to take it away, like, “Take away my need to drink!” And in that moment, I said, “Okay, if You really have a purpose for my life, then I give it to You. I surrender.”
But then, I had to get out of my bed and say to my husband, “I’ve decided I’m not going to drink anymore.” You know, we really enjoyed our time, sitting on the couch, having Roman Cokes together. That was a fun time for us to connect, so we had to learn new ways to connect. It took a little while for us to kind of find our new ground—find our new stability in that. But the fun thing is that he has seen what that has meant to our household.
Nicole: There are no tantrums in our household—at least by mom. And even the way that I spoke—you know, I guess God got ahold of me—and all these little behaviors kind of fell in line. I wasn’t gossiping, I wasn’t complaining. I never—I totally stopped complaining about him. You would not hear me say something negative about my husband—
Nicole: —to a friend or someone else—and I stopped nagging him!
Ann: That’s huge!
Nicole: It is huge!
Ann: And I bet your husband noticed that.
Nicole: He noticed! He noticed. But then, it was interesting—because, as a basketball coach—he has a lot of players that he deals with and that he mentors all the time. God has been really sweet about helping those players who, maybe, are dealing with depression, or dealing with substance abuse, or dealing with negativity in general, or the way they see the world. My husband has been able to pull now from our collective experience, and breathe life into these players.
When he comes home and tells me about something sweet he did, or you know, just a little random act of kindness he did for somebody else, it just blesses my soul.
Bob: So he did not pull back from your new religious impulse. As you were talking about Bible studies, or Jesus, or wanting to go to church—he was not put off by that?
Nicole: He may have been a little put off by it, because I was so vocal—
Nicole: —even to strangers, you know—or whatever. [Laughter] Like I’m absolutely like, let’s go up and tell somebody, “I love your smile! You just light up the world with that smile!” He did have to deal with that sort of thing.
Nicole: But I think that he did grow quickly along with me.
Bob: That’s great.
Dave: Well, it’s interesting—when you think about when you were drinking before—it put you in an altered state.
Dave: And then you put in your book the things that happen with kindness that create a high. Talk about that a little bit. That’s almost scientific—but physically, what happens to the body when endorphins and those kinds of things that happen are a replacement. It’s like you found a different drug—a very sober, great drug—that obviously helped you and helped your family—talk about that.
Nicole: I get so excited when God’s Word and science line up! When they become like intertwined—that just gets me so excited! I knew what I felt with all of these things—I knew that God says, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” and all of these great things that happen to us. Even like, feed the hungry, help those in trouble, and your light will shine from the darkness, and the darkness will be as bright as noon. Okay, so your world is going to light up if you focus on kindness! I love that.
But when I started really researching kindness, I wanted to know how to speak to people who didn’t know God and hadn’t read the Word—because I really felt like it wasn’t just for those who follow Jesus—it was for everyone. What I found out was that science backs up what Jesus says. There are four “feel good” chemicals that are released into our bodies when we are involved in kindness: endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin.
That means it’s a pain relief, an anti-depressant, and anti-anxiety—it’s the feeling of being rewarded—it’s the feeling of a warm hug. That’s what all of those hormones do. And they’re not just released in the body of the giver, they’re released in the body of anyone giving, receiving, or witnessing an act of kindness.
Dave: That’s amazing!
Nicole: God knew there was this secret pathway that we could go down called “kindness.” We didn’t know what was going to happen when we got there—maybe sometimes we’re rejected, and maybe sometimes we’re not—but He said, “Just walk down this secret pathway, and I’m going to meet you there.”
Ann: Which explains your tingling sensation when you walked out of Dino-Land. [Laughter]
Nicole: Yes! Yes; there’s a physiological reason why—
Nicole: —because it is a drug; it is.
Ann: And it’s also the Holy Spirit, confirming and speaking to you, like, “This was something special.”
Bob: But here’s my question—what happens when you are proactively being kind to somebody, and the recipient does not receive your kindness? You go up and want to do something special.
I mean, you came in here today, as we were getting ready to talk with you—
Ann: Yes, she brought all of us presents!
Bob: —yes, we’ve got gifts right here—you manifested kindness at the get-go. What if I had gotten my gift from you and gone, “Meh, thanks.”
Ann: “This is dumb.”
Bob: Yes. “This is—” Doesn’t that short-circuit those endorphins you’re getting?
Nicole: Well, I think I might have a little bit of a competitive spirit because for me, [Laughter] that just means, “Game on!” Like, if I walk in, and Bob says, “Ugh,” like, grunts at me, then I’m going to be like, “Bob, did you get to eat breakfast today?” “How was last night? Did you get a good night’s sleep?” I would just go at you again, and again, and again. Kill them with kindness; right?
Bob: You would full-court press on the kindness.
Nicole: Full-court press on the kindness, yes!
Ann: And I’m also thinking, “Oh, that person’s wounded.
Ann: “Something has happened that’s created a scar.”
Ann: And then I have that same inkling to go, “I want to get at that scar.
Ann: “I want to help heal that scar!”
Dave: I even think—and maybe this is just me—even if they don’t respond to it, they will later.
Dave: It’s like later, when you walk away, they’re going to—you cannot like kindness when it’s done to you; you know?
Bob: But here’s the reason I’m asking: there are some spouses, who are listening,—
Bob: —who are going, “I have tried to pour kindness all over our marriage—
Bob: —and my wife or my husband is just a stone—non-responsive—so I give up!”
Bob: “I tried kindness, and it has not worked in our marriage.”
Bob: And then the question is—so you’re saying, just amp it up—and that’s supposed to be the breakthrough in my marriage? Is that what you think?”
Nicole: Well, I think it goes back to “hurt people hurt people.” We need to look at that. We need to understand that, sometimes, that spouse might need something we can’t give them. They might need some therapy—they might need something that is beyond what we can give them.
Bob: The woundedness that you’re talking about. What’s the wound there?
Nicole: Yes, right; right. Then, if you are with a spouse, who says, “That’s not my jam. I’m not getting therapy, figure it out,” I think that, if there are children involved in that, they are going to see, and they are going to pull from your goodness. You know, we can’t change people. Absolutely, I can’t change anyone! I don’t pray for someone’s heart to be changed, I pray that my heart would be changed toward that person.
I think that our kids will notice that. Simple things—like I’ll say to my kids, when I hear them picking on each other—and they giggle now, but it’s been years that we’ve been doing this—I’ll say, “What does the world do to you?” And then, one of them will say, “Ugh. The world brings you down!” I say, “That’s right! So what do we do for each other in this house?” And they’ll say, “We bring each other up!” I’ll say, “That’s right! We lift each other up.” So even conversations like that—I think the coldest heart can respond to that.
Bob: Here’s the biblical principle at work—and we’ve talked about this for years at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. 1 Peter 3 says we are not to return evil for evil, but instead give a blessing.
Bob: In fact, the passage says if you want a long life and good days, you will give a blessing to others—you will make that your intentionality. And giving the blessing is not contingent on how somebody responds in receiving it. Your job is to keep giving the blessing and see how the power of that blessing—over time—begins to heal some of the woundedness in that other person.
Dave: And here’s one of the amazing things I found in your book—which I’ve seen in my own life—that when you give a blessing or you’re kind to someone, whether they deserve it or not, guess who gets the blessing? And it’s in the passage as well—in 1 Peter 3 it says we receive a blessing!
Bob: That’s right.
Dave: You know, you even say in the book, it’s like, if you want to grow spiritually, be kind! It’s like, “What?” I’m looking over at Bob, as he’s saying this and he’s got the little “kindness” sticker on his shirt. I’m just laughing! [Laughter]
Nicole: I gave everybody little stickers, and Bob took it off and put it on his shirt—
Ann: I like it!
Nicole: —like “I voted” or something.
Bob: —like “I voted”; yes! [Laughter]
Dave: But that is the thing! You think, “Okay, I’m not happy. I’m struggling. I’m stuck,”—maybe spiritually, maybe in my marriage—“What I need is somebody to be kind to me. Somebody needs to see where I am and help me, and reach out to me.”
That could be true, but the truth is—and this is almost like when Jesus says, “If you want to find your life, lose it,”—it’s almost like, “What?! How do I find my life in giving it away? How do I find life in being kind to somebody?—maybe even my spouse that doesn’t deserve it.” Try it! Just try it. You’re going to find that Jesus’ words are true. You’re going to find life in giving yours away. You’re going to find kindness when you are kind.
Bob: And the first time it happens—and the person is grumpy back at you—
Bob: —do what Nicole does and double down and say, “Okay, I’m coming at it bigger next time! We’ll see what happens here.”
Nicole: But here’s the thing, really important not to talk badly about that person, even if you think it, because what you focus on is what you will notice—that will become bigger in your life.
When a friend will tell me, “Ugh! I was as this restaurant, and this waiter did this—” or they’ll say to me, “Oh, my husband! He was supposed to do this, and he didn’t do this!” I’ll say to them, “Okay, now you’ve told me—now, you’ve gotten it out. Do not repeat that again.”
Ann: —because it creates a neural pathway in your brain that you walk down every day.
Ann: We have to create this new pathway because man, I walked that old pathway a long time and that path was really wide because every day I would go into the negative.
Ann: And I think that’s easy—especially, for young moms, who are trying to figure it out—you’re like, “My husband’s doing nothing, and I’m doing everything.”
Dave: Bob, you’ve heard me say—think about this, when we’re talking about the old Ann and the new Ann—
Dave: —the before-kindness Ann and the after-kindness Ann—and this has been decades now, but when she started being kind—
Her thought process was she used to only see the negative, and I had a ton of negative! It was justified when she called it out. She started to see the positive, and when she started speaking that—and I’ve said this a thousand times all over the country—when she started speaking kindness to me— “You’re a good man,” “You’re a good husband,” “You’re a phenomenal dad!”—
Dave: —I literally said, “No, I’m not!” I was like what Bob was saying, “No, I’m not. You can try to say I am, but I know you don’t believe that. You’ve never said this before. So what—you’re writing a book, and you’re going to try that out on me now?” [Laughter]
All I know is, over time, when she started to say that, I started to think, “She really thinks that. She really thinks I’m a good man. I’m not a good man, but I want to be a good man.”
It was like she was saying I was something I wasn’t yet, but I wanted to become what she was saying I was. I think I started to be transformed by her words, because she actually chose not to see the negative.
Ann: And that wasn’t my motivation, “I’m going to change him with my words.”
Dave: No, but it worked that way. And I’m not saying it works that way with everybody, but I do think it sort of works that way.
Nicole: It does!
Dave: People respond to kindness if you just wear them down with it enough.
Nicole: —or you respond to the way you look at them.
Bob: I think there have got to be listeners, who are thinking, “Okay, I’m busted! I am default negative.” They would acknowledge that, when they see something happening, their first thought is not positive.
Nicole: It’s: “Uh-uh.”
Bob: Right; Debbie Downer; right?
Bob: And you wrote The Negativity Remedy with that person in mind to say there’s a way out of your persistent, stubborn negativity—because you were there! That was you a decade ago; right?
Nicole: That was me a decade ago! I was an alcoholic, a drinker and smoker, an overeater, angry at my husband. When I got my eyes off of myself, and put them onto the needs of others, or just kindness in general—noticing when people were being kind to me or when I had the opportunity to be kind to someone else—it changed!
There was a college professor, who had a piece of paper. It was white and in the middle, was this black circle filled in. He had all of his assembly hall of students look at this picture and write down what they saw. Every single person wrote down something about that black dot—
Nicole: —“A hole into another universe,”—you know or whatever it was, however creative they wanted to be. The fact of the matter was you looked at the black dot. The professor said, “What else is on the page?” Uhhhh. The white space.
Nicole: So when you’re looking at your husband, and you are seeing his flaws, guess what? Well, all of those flaws are in me—I know they are! I’m grateful that my husband sees the white space around me.
The book is called The Negativity Remedy. In it, you’re going to read about taking every thought captive and about renewing your mind—all of these biblical ideas—and yet, this is a book you can easily give to somebody, who doesn’t go to church often. In fact, we’re making this book available this week to FamilyLife Today listeners—to those of you who can support the ministry of FamilyLife® with a donation—the book is our way of saying, Thank You for your partnership with us in this ministry.
Everyday, FamilyLife Today is connecting with hundreds of thousands of people around the world—via radio, via our podcasts, on our mobile app, our website—all of the different channels through which FamilyLife Today is available. You’re helping us effectively develop godly marriages and families when you support this ministry. In fact, that’s what your donation is actually going to—it’s going to strengthen the marriages and families of people in your community and people throughout the world. So thanks in advance, for your financial support of this ministry.
We’d love to send you a copy of Nicole Phillips’ book, The Negativity Remedy: Unlocking More Joy, Less Stress, and Better Relationships Through Kindness. The book is our Thank You gift to you when you donate to FamilyLife Today online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call to donate at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
By the way, this weekend, we have our very first Weekend to Remember getaway in more than a year! I mean, this is crazy—but it was a year ago that we had to cancel Weekends to Remember for the rest of the spring, and then throughout the fall, because of COVID. This weekend in Branson, Missouri, we have a socially-distanced, sold-out Weekend to Remember event happening. We’re excited to have these events starting to open back up.
We have a few more events scheduled throughout the spring. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information about where these events are being held and about the precautions we are still taking in light of the pandemic. But we’re excited to have Weekends to Remember beginning to happen again! Pray for the couples who will be at the Weekend to Remember this weekend. If you need more information about where you can attend one of the upcoming Weekend to Remember events, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information.
And we hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to continue talking about kindness. Nicole Phillips will be back with us, and we’ll talk about just how transformative a commitment to kindness can be for a marriage and a family, and honestly, how transformative it could be for our whole culture. I mean, think about that!
I hope you can join us, again, tomorrow. I want to thank our engineer, Keith Lynch. We got some help from our friend, Bruce Goff and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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