Kindness and Generosity
Text: Isaiah 58:1-12
I. I ran across an interesting article by Aemily Smith, originally published in The Atlantic, November 9, 2014. “Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down to Two Basic Traits.”
A. It was about what factors showed whether a relationship would survive or not.
B. The basic factors were kindness and generosity.
C. It makes important points, but it isn’t just about marital relationships. The same factors affect all relationships, such as those within a church or on a job, as well as those in a family
II. Gun Shy
A. When relationship break down, the people involved get physically revved up. They might look calm, but researchers found quicker heart rates, increased sweat, etc.
1. In other words, their bodies go into “fight or flight mode.”
2. When they deal with the other person, they are either preparing to attack or getting ready to be attacked.
3. The attitude made the couples more aggressive toward each other. “Why don’t you start talking about your day. It won’t take you very long.”
4. Anger spreads - Proverbs 29:22
B. People who are able to maintain good relationships are calm and feel connected to the other person.
1. This translates to warm and affectionate behavior ... even when they fought!
2. What is desired is kindness - Proverbs 19:22
3. Pleasant words - Proverbs 16:24
4. There is a climate of trust and intimacy that made both more comfortable.
5. Love is kind, ... - I Corinthians 13:4-8
A. In one study, “Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, ... For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife – a sign of interest or support – hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.”
1. As minor as it might sound, the husband thought it was important enough to bring up in a conversation.
2. So how will the wife respond?
B. Couples with rocky relationships will have one of three responses
1. Not respond
a. A person who responds to a bid to converse, by mumbling “uh huh” and focus on the tablet or the televison.
b. Or someone wants to mention good news, “I got into med school!” and is greeted by “that’s nice” while checking his watch
c. Neglect creates distance between people and breeds resentment
2. Respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing,
a. “I got into med school!” and he responds, “You won’t believe this, but I won a fee t-shirt yesterday!”
3. Respond hostilely
a. “I got into med school!” and he responds, “How are you going to handle all that studying? What about the cost? Med school is too expensive!”
C. Couples with solid relationships would stop what they were doing and respond with interest
1. Couples who divorced during the six year study only responded with interest 33% of the time
2. Couples who stayed together responded with interest 89% of the time.
3. Giving preference to each other - Romans 12:10, 15
4. Being there for each other when things go right is very important
a. “I got into med school!” and he responds, “That’s great! When did you find out? When do you start?”
b. The light of the eyes - Proverbs 15:30
A. How people view the other person affects how they act.
1. Kindness and generosity
2. Contempt, criticism, and hostility
B. In good relationships the people are constantly looking for things they can appreciate and express gratitude. They purposely build an environment of respect and appreciation
1. The generous devises generosity - Isaiah 32:8
2. Kindness makes each person feel cared for, understood, and validated.
3. The more someone receives or sees kindness, the more they are kind in turn
4. On her tongue is the law of kindness - Proverbs 31:26
5. Be generous about the other person’s intentions
a. For example, assuming the husband left the toilet seat up because he had too many things on his mind and forgot.
b. Often another person is trying to do the right thing, even if it is done poorly. Appreciate the intent.
c. So when your son unexpectedly cleans up the kitchen, don’t mention that he missed wiping off the stove.
6. Put on tender mercies, kindness - Colossians 3:12
C. In bad relationships the people are look for mistakes
1. Delight in scorning, not wanting the facts - Proverbs 1:22
2. “Contempt is the number one factor that tears couple apart.”
3. Making others the brunt of jokes, mocking - Isaiah 57:4
4. People focused on criticizing miss 50% of the positive things the other person is doing and they see negative things where none exists.
a. For example, assuming the husband left up to deliberately annoy his wife.
b. Or, the wife is late for a dinner date and the husband assumes she doesn’t value him enough to show up on time, even after he made reservations and left work early just for this date. (It could be that she stopped to get him a gift and the line was longer than she expected.)
5. Burdens, accusations, wicked talk - Isaiah 58:9-10
6. It even affects health. Relationships filled with contempt and criticism causes reduces the other person’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers.
a. Broken spirit - Proverbs 17:22
b. Contentious – never satisfied, always looking for fault - Proverbs 21:19
V. Exercising Kindness
A. Think of it as a muscle that grows stronger the more it is used.
1. A good relationship requires sustained hard work
2. So even when you are tired, stressed, or distracted, you still respond positively to the other person
3. More blessed to give - Acts 20:35
4. It isn’t necessarily the giving of gifts or giving your spouse a back rub, the most important acts of kindness are the way people interact daily.
a. You can give kindness with attention
b. You can be generous with your assumptions of another person’s intentions.
5. Don’t forget to do good - Hebrews 13:16
6. Seeking to build up - Ephesians 4:29
B. The hardest time to be kind is during a fight, but it is also the most important time
1. Bear with the scruples of the weak and not please self - Romans 15:1
2. It doesn’t mean you aren’t angry, but kindness changes how you choose to express yourself.
3. You can throw spears or explain why you disagree
4. Contentious causes strife - Proverbs 26:21
a. Bad relationship: “You’re late. What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom!”
b. Good relationship: “It is annoying that you’re repeatedly late. So what happened?”
6. Be patient with all - I Thessalonians 5:14
VI. The difference
A. A 2006 study, by Shelly Gable, found that the only difference between couples who were together and those who broke up was whether they actively and constructively responded in conversation.
B. Dealing graciously gives stability - Psalms 112:5-9
C. It comes down to whether you seek to build or tear down - Proverbs 14:1