Young voices against hate
Podcast #97 — Aired June 27, 2016

Young voices can change the world. This week on BetterWorldians Radio we welcome back Dr. Stephen Post, founder and President of The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. Dr. Post will tell listeners about an essay contest, co-sponsored by the United Nations, that challenged young people all over the world to consider how they can help combat against religious hatred. Dr. Post will share inspiring stories that show how young people are saying “no” to hate.

 

 

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Dr. Stephen G. Post
Author, Why Good Things Happen to Good People
Author, Is Ultimate Reality Unlimited Love?

Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. is the best-selling author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People and The Hidden Gifts of Helping. He is Professor of Preventive Medicine and Founding Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. Stephen speaks widely on themes of benevolent love and compassionate care at the interface of science, health, spirituality, and philanthropy. His work has been featured in periodicals such as Parade Magazine and O: The Oprah Magazine, and on such media venues as The Daily Show, John Stossel, 20/20 and Nightline. He has addressed the U.S. Congress on volunteerism and public health.

 

Episode Transcript

Gregory Hansell
Hi. Thank you all for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio. Let me tell you a bit about my dad, Ray, who you just heard from. He is a serial entrepreneur, who successfully founded and with MarySue took public a national marketing firm. Giving back has always been really important to Dad who supports cancer research, disabled children and disadvantaged families. This week on BetterWorldians Radio, [00:02:57]. Joining us is bestselling author Stephen Post.

MarySue Hansell
Dr. Post is the bestselling author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping and Why Good Things Happen to Good People. Stephen is also president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love founded in 2001 with a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. This foundation is devoted to high level scientific research on unselfish love.

Raymond Hansell
Dr. Posts work has been featured in periodicals such as Parade Magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine and also such media as The Daily Show, John Stossel, 20/20 and Nightline. Hes also addressed the U.S. Congress on volunteerism and public health. Stephen, welcome to the show. Its great to have you on board.

Stephen Post
Thank you, Ray. Its a delight to be with you and your family.

Raymond Hansell
Oh, thank you very much. You know you say that good things happen to good people. Now what do you mean by that?

Stephen Post
Well, I dont mean that thats a hard and fast rule. Lots of bad things happen to wonderful people, and it raises all kinds of questions. But if you look at the scientific facts, as a generalization, when you cultivate generousy motion, when you engage in small helping activities on a daily basis including volunteerism and so forth, the odds are that youll live a happier, a healthier, and even a longer life than those who in fact are focused on self and are not really engaging and contributing to the lives around them.

Raymond Hansell
I saw that as evidenced in your book, even evidenced as early as adolescence. I thought that was quite remarkable as well. Now how did you

Stephen Post
Well, thats right because some people think that this is just for old folks as an alternative to rising up at noon at Sun City for a martini. But in fact, if you look at these wonderful studies we have of younger people, when they get engaged at age 12 or 13, those individuals, followed over the course of their lifetimes, have lower depression rates; they have lower rates of heart disease, and they tend, if they get into their 90s to live longer compared to those who as 12-year-olds dont have that attitude of, well, Id like to use my gifts to contribute to humanity.

Raymond Hansell
Now how did you begin studying the benefits of doing good in the world?

Stephen Post
I had a mother with a very Irish name. Are you ready for this? Molly McGee.

Raymond Hansell
Oh, my God. It sounds like fiction. Molly McGee.

Stephen Post
Well, technically, Marguerite McGee

Raymond Hansell
All right.

Stephen Post
but Molly, as we called her when I was a boy growing up, I had an older brother and an older sister, and they were very close. And I was often out of the games and out of the circuit, and I would have these days when I felt a little bit excluded from the world. And my mother instead of saying, well, Stevie, why dont you go read a book, or why dont you go make your bed I was about 5 or 6 at the time she would say, why dont you go out and do something for someone? And I would go across the street and help Mr. Muller rake his leaves or Mr. Lawrence with his mast. And so from a very young age, I discovered that there was something very gratifying and uplifting about those kinds of activities. And fortunately, my mother encouraged me in that regard.

Raymond Hansell
Well, thats interesting because my grandmother was Katherine Maloney from County Galway and came from a small town in that area called I think Ballymoe which I think consists of a bar, a cemetery and a church.

Stephen Post
There you go.

Raymond Hansell
Thats all you need [00:07:11]

Stephen Post
Yeah, yeah. But then I went to high school in New Hampshire, a place called St. Pauls, and I had a wonderful sacred studies history teacher named Reverend John Walker we called him Johnnie Walker for short who eventually became the dean of the National Cathedral. And theres a park named after him now in Washington, D.C. And he taught us a lot about the theology of the people at Morehouse College who founded the Civil Rights Movement, like Benjamin Elijah Mays and Martin Luther King, and all of them were going over to visit Gandhi. So I was inspired by him and decided at a pretty young age that this was something that I would be interested in. And Ive stuck with it over the years and been lucky enough to meet some wonderful people like Sir John Templeton who also shared this vision from youth. And were very supportive of this effort.

Raymond Hansell
What has surprised you the most with all this research and all these investigations into the topic of doing good? What has really taken you aback and surprised you?

Stephen Post
Well, you know, thats a really interesting question. Theres so much worthwhile stuff out there now, but the thing that surprised me the most probably was a national survey of 5,500 adult Americans, 18 and older, a random survey that was conducted by United Healthcare, the big managed healthcare system, in early 2010. They asked people, okay, in 2009, did you volunteer? Forty-one percent of Americans responded yes. How much on an average? About 100 hours a year which might come down to a couple of hours a week, so were not talking about over-the-threshold commitments, just something thats regular and routine and meaningful. And then we asked, okay, so did this make you feel physically healthier? Sixty-eight percent said yes. You know, it got them out of bed. It got them off the couch. It got them doing something with themselves. And they felt more robust. Did it make you feel happier? Ninety-six percent yes, it made me feel happier, which is really impressive given that Americas not doing too well in the international happiness scales. Did it make you feel less stressed? Yeah. You know, something like 73 percent said less stressed. Sleep better? Yeah. Deeper friendships, more meaningful connections with people based on common causes? Much more so. And if you looked at all these benefits and if you could say put them on a scale of 1 to 10 and say a really good medicine like insulin is a 9.5 for the treatment of diabetes and a really sort of marginal medicine I wont name one could be 0.01 in the treatment of say Alzheimers, these would be up there around a 7 or an 8. In other words, you dont need a compound, but if you could put this in a pill and market it at Rite Aid, youd be a billionaire overnight. And the thing is its right within us when we just focus our minds on helping others. And a lot of the literature shows that it gets us away from the destructive emotions like bitterness and hostility and anger and the like.

Raymond Hansell
I know I can speak for the family here that weve just had a hoot doing this show, bringing people to this to this forum and hearing what studies are out there, what people are doing, what people are taking action to do is very inspiring. And its exciting work. Its really great stuff. And its much more out there than people realize. Now, you also talked about a [00:11:16] called Unlimited Love. What can you tell our listeners what you mean by that?

Stephen Post
Yeah, I will tell them. And some of them will get it, and some of them wont. Its great. Its great to think about love in just the everyday sense of another human being. My favorite definition of love comes from a University of Chicago psychiatrist by the name of Harry Stack Sullivan who died about 30 years ago. He was a great physician, and he said that when the happiness, the well-being and the security of another is as real and meaningful to you as your own, you love that person. Let me just touch on that again because its so simple. If you think about looking over the bed of a toddler, if you think about a quiet moment of companionship over tea at the coffee shop or whatever it might be, when the happiness and well-being and security of another is as real to me, I love that person. And a lot of people feel that for the nearest and dearest. They feel that for their family members, for their friends over time. But then so many folks Jean Vanier who founded LArche feels that toward just about everybody hes ever encountered with a cognitive disability. Dame Cicely Saunders who founded the hospice movement felt that way toward people who were dying, and she had a special gift with them. And people feel that way toward all of humanity actually. By our own studies, a national survey from two years ago that was published in January of 2013 in a book called The Heart of Religion, we showed that almost 20 percent of Americans feel constantly a selfless love for others. They just feel it all the time for everyone. So unlimited means not limited by, you know, reciprocal calculations, tit for tat thinking, payback. Its pay it forward thinking as they say in the culture. And ultimately, unlimited love for people in spiritual traditions may even say something about the nature of ultimate reality. Underneath all of this crazy, buzzing, quantum level of reality, there may even be a sustaining presence, a Ground of Being, the theologians have called it, that would be a form of creative, unlimited love.

Raymond Hansell
Thats amazing. Were going to use this opportunity now to take a short break and talk after the break about many of these different concepts and some very specific things that were brought up in Stephens book, Good Things Happen to Good People. Id like to take this opportunity first to offer a challenge to our listeners. If any of you know of someone whose acts, no matter how small, make a big difference in the lives of other people, wed love to hear about them. Please tweet us at HASHTAGBETTERWORLDIANS so we can let the BetterWorldian community know more about what theyre doing. Well talk more with Dr. Stephen Post when we come back. You can learn more in the meantime at betterworldians.com, and follow our live tweets twitter.com/betterworldians. Well be right back now.

Raymond Hansell
Were back live with bestselling author Dr. Stephen Post. Well have more with Stephen in a moment. First, wed like to share some big news here at BetterWorld Radio. As many of you know, weve recently launched a worldwide kindness campaign. Were challenging our BetterWorldians around the globe to simply watch a two-minute video that illustrates the power of kindness. When that video reaches a million views, we will release funds for surgeries that will allow 10 kids in the developing world to walk for the first time. Please watch the video; share it with your friends. Spread it around. Its colorwithkindness.com. Thats colorwithkindness.com.

Gregory Hansell
Hi, Stephen. This is Greg. How are you doing?

Stephen Post
Good, Greg. How are you?

Gregory Hansell
Im great. Thanks. You know I noticed in your writing, you talk about several different ways that people can experience how its good to be good. I thought we could talk about some of those now and maybe start with altruism, which is something we really focus on here at BetterWorldians Radio. You say that helping others without looking for a payback is as good for the giver as it is for the receiver. And I thought you could say something about that.

Stephen Post
Yeah, Id be happy to. You know, altruism has a bad rep. People think of altruists as almost self-destructive, dry, arid, certainly without even the iota of a smile. And that partly comes because the biologists like Darwin and others were when they were thinking about altruism, they were studying stinger bees. And the stinger bees sting some invader, and then they immediately die. But if you look at altruism as the great sociologists and philosophers speak of it, its just a contrast with egoism. So it just says, look, Im not at the center of the universe. The planets dont revolve around me. I dont relate to other people just insofar as they contribute to my little agendas. But in fact, the reality is I treat others because they are valuable in themselves, and I want to contribute to their lives and live in community and helpfully. And I think that its really important to understand that altruism really just means that kind of transition from me, myself and I to a more balanced view of where we fit in the universe.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah. So how is it you see that then by being altruistic that its as good to be a giver as it is to be a receiver?

Stephen Post
Well, in so many ways. I mean all the studies show that people who behave in these kinds of generous, altruistic ways tend to have more meaningful relationships. When they talk about their friends, for example, their friends arent just, well, the people I party with. But the friends are ones who share their values, who have a deeper sense of meaning and gratification in life, what you might call true friends. The people who are more other-regarding and altruistic, if you study them from even early on in life, they tend to be happier; they tend to be more resilient; they overcome lifes obstacles and disappointments. Hey, Ive got to tell you, this study a couple years ago with some colleagues of widows and widowers, and we found out that the ones who could report some significant level of informal helping activity in their day-to-day lives got through grief and bereavement quicker and better. So I was asked to do a talk on Long Island for some Association of New York Widows and Widowers. And I presented this information, Greg, and after it was over, the Q&A went pretty well until there was a guy in the back of the room and he stood up and he said, Hey, I dont care what you say, buddy, I dont do nuttin for nuttin. [Laughter] And I knew I wasnt in Philadelphia or Cleveland. But you know, people dont realize that you dont really have to worry so much about, you know, payback because there are all these gratifications that occur internally when we live in this kind of generous way. And theyre very well defined now, biologically, neurologically. Theres a lot of benefits, and so whats not to like?

Gregory Hansell
Yeah. And actually, you know that story takes me to my next question. Another expression of love that you mentioned is [00:22:35] with humor. I think a lot of people would be surprised to realize that humor is a way of giving back. So I mean how does that work?

Stephen Post
Well, you know humor is really important. Im not going to take your listeners Ill spare them back to medieval treatises, but if you look at the medieval theologians, they actually

Gregory Hansell
No, Im

Stephen Post
Yeah, right. Youre already reading that stuff. I know. I know. But the virtue that was closest to love in the Latin Cartas (ph) was hilaratas hilarity. And if you look at sort of contemporary science on humor and laughter, study after study points out that laughter, tasteful, well-timed, respectful humor and laughter allow people to reframe their situation and move on in life from the valleys to the peaks if you will. Its also a good stress buster. So if youre caught up in a lot of prolonged stress and your bodys pumping out a lot of stress hormones that are bad for your memory and bad for your vascular system and bad for wound healing and bad for a lot of things, one of the easiest ways to break out of stress is with laughter. And so, you know, your listeners will know what the Zen Buddhist said to the hot dog vendor, which Im sure you all know which is yes, yes?

Gregory Hansell
No, I dont know.

Stephen Post
Okay. Makes me one with everything. Makes me one with everything.

Gregory Hansell
[Laughs]

Stephen Post
Now thats clean; its tasteful, you know, not humiliating anybody. But its actually really good. So even in you know there was a great sort of British Catholic theologian names Chesterton, and he said that the secret virtue of Christ was mirth. And if you look at the Dalai Lama, you know hes generous. Hes effervescently giving, and hes got this wonderful kind of joy and warmth and smile about him. And Ive known so many people for whom that was a gift. It was a way that they expressed love in a world that can honestly be pretty difficult for people.

Gregory Hansell
Well, I know that on your list of expressions, you also include respect, which you define as more carefully considering the opinions and lives of others and striving for civility. What do you think the importance of respect is given the explosion of communication and social networking and [00:25:20] where its so easy to be anonymous and, you know, therefore, often disrespectful?

Stephen Post
Yeah. You know I worry about the some of the aspects of the digital world we live in, but you know respect, actually, if you look at it from the Latin, its respectarea, like I wear spectacles, and so it means relooking or looking more deeply. And to do that, you know, its not just a matter of thinking about respect as a principle. But it really comes from the heart. You know I worked a lot with the deeply forgetful, with people with dementia. I work a lot with people with autism and the like and have for many years, and Ive got to tell you that respect for them, the kind of depth of respect for their different lives and for all of the meaning and gratification that they can experience if we look deeply enough, that in and of itself is a form of love. It tells people that their lives are just as valuable as anyone elses lives. And so respects really important. And its easy, in the digital world, sometimes not to have quite the visible role models for a lot of these strengths like respect and kindness and so forth. You really kind of need to have people around you who model this. And you see the details. You hear their tone of voice. You see their facial expressions. You look at all the little details that theyre concerned about. So in a sense, you know, these strengths are passed down from generation to generation. And I have worried at times about even my own I have a my younger son is now 19. Ive sometimes wondered that he was a little bit too much into the video game world and not really getting the benefit quite of the sort of role modeling that he might have.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah. Well, you know its interesting that you bring that up, you know, at BetterWorldians Radio. In a better world, we actually make positively balanced, you know, video games. And one of the things that excites us is that, you know, games are so interactive and imaginative. You know they have power that passive media dont. And so were fascinated by how you can use video games, you know, to do good. I want to ask you how with respect, you mentioned that its kind of seeing more deeply into someone given its etymology. You know, how do you think people could do that more, and maybe how could they do it online more?

Stephen Post
Well, you know I think thats a good point. I do believe that video games and digital media, generally, can be redesigned, as youre doing there at BetterWorldians for the enhancement of humanity. You know it doesnt all have to be hyperviolence. I mean its so sad. You read about that young fellow with autism in Connecticut at Sandy Hook, you know, and he was constantly using the hyperviolent video games. That kind of stuff clearly evidence suggests lowers ones resistance and self-control with respect to violent behavior. And it breeds disrespect. But theres no reason why the technology has to do that. It can be developed in much more positive and creative ways. So I commend you for what youre doing. And I havent really thought in answer to your question too deeply about how respect might be facilitated, but Im sure there are ways to do it. And if anyone can figure it out, I think its probably you, Greg.

Gregory Hansell
Ha, ha, Stephen. Well, you know, maybe that brings us to our next question about attentive listening, right, online. I think thats also a problem. Its so easy and common for people to be thinking about the next thing they want to say instead of really listening to the people that theyre talking to or chatting to when were online. You know, why do you think attentive listening is so important for love?

Stephen Post
Well, Dame Cicely Saunders who won the Templeton Prize and was damed in England for founding the Hospice Movement you know she once flew over to a meeting on empathy, altruism and agape that I was co-chairing at MIT in 1999. She was 83 years old, and this is the woman who coined the word hospice, who trained all the hospice leaders around the world. And she said, at a dinner talk, you know I still Im 83 years old, but I can never retire. I get up in the morning, and I go into St. Christophers Hospice thats one of the hospices she founded in London and I change bedpans for a half an hour or so. And then I sit on the end of beds of people who are dying, and all I do is listen to them. I dont try to interrupt their narrative or redirect their story. I just listen attentively. I affirm them. And she said, you know when people are dying, a lot of times, theyre looking back on their lives and wondering, gee, if I had just made one decision a little differently, it all couldve been better. Theyre kind of second guessing themselves. And she said that you know when people really look at their lives, they want to know that their lives dont rest on a mistake. And she said that the fact is that listening is a crucial expression of love because it tells people that their lives are meaningful and they are worthy of our listening in an uninterrupted way. We work with medical students every day around here. This is Stony Brook Medical School where I have my day job teaching them what we call attentive listening and trying to train them in various techniques and the like. So I think listening conveys to people that their lives are worth more than just dust. ggI have to imagine that attentive listening I mean clearly is linked to respect, you know, really hearing what someone has to say is tied to how you treat them and then how you view them. Thats something about the life that we live today, you know the my wifes Japanese, and I picked up a little Japanese from her over the years, and the Japanese symbol for busy is a heart with a line through the middle, just kind of cutting the heart in half, which means no heart. So in that sense, you know you have to have heart to listen to people, and its a constant battle because Im just like you all, you know, and all your listeners. You know Im constantly under pressure, and theres nothing like teaching in a medical school to just sort of, you know, overwhelm yourself. But I have to just make a point purposefully and as a discipline to listen because thats where it all begins. And if I dont listen well, I guarantee you, you know, people will react; everything will begin to fall apart; it wont be able to run a good ship. Everything is lost when we cant listen.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah. I mean that happens to me, too, you know. All the time, were all under so much stress, you know, I think particularly around the holidays. You know one of the things that you talk about also in your book is celebration. And you define celebration as taking the time to acknowledge and affirm the lives and achievements of others. And you know, how can we best do that during the holidays, you know, when we do have all this kind of stress, when sometimes it does [00:34:17] the heart. You know it has a line through it even though it is [00:34:20].

Stephen Post
Oh, yes, this is a big issue. You I tell you and we might as well throw in Thanksgiving. I did a little op ed piece for the Huffington Post, Thanksgiving vs. Black Friday. And actually, I couldve retitled that. I couldve said, you know, What is between Binge Wednesday and Black Friday? In other words, you know, theres a sense in which people have pushed out of the value and the meaning of gratitude. Actually, gratitude comes into that section on celebration in the book. We talk about grateful celebration, that somehow conveying an attitude of gratitude for the lives and achievements and accomplishments of the ones around you is part of the celebration. But in a lot of ways, you know, we just dont sit back and take the time to be grateful, especially for the people around us and for the simple treasures of life. All the studies Ive done have shown that a gratitude for the autumn leaves, for the first snowfall in November, for, you know, wood burning in a fireplace, those kinds of simple kinds of gratitude that have to do with awe and wonder and appreciation for the world around us thats really important. And I just think the commercialization has gotten so out of hand that were missing the benefits. And the bottom line, of course, is that, you know, if you are grateful, if you do as a family take an opportunity in the Christmas period to, you know, go down to the soup kitchen or the homeless shelter or do whatever you feel called to do to volunteer and help people, you reap great benefits. So were missing were missing something in the way that were crowding out all the real, deep spiritual dimensions of the holidays.

Raymond Hansell
Thats an amazing story. Stephen, this is Ray again. I just wanted to add to your comments about listening that I just heard an end-of-life experience where people were on the deathbed of W. C. Fields. And upon looking at him, he was barely (ph) fumbling through a book, and they said, what are you doing? And he says apparently he was reading the Bible, and they said, why are you doing that? And he says, Im looking for loopholes. So with that, I think well use that opportunity to segue into another break. When we come back, well talk more with bestselling author, Dr. Stephen Post. In the meantime, you can ask a question of Dr. Post. When we come back, you can do that several ways. First, you can call us at 1-866-472-5788. Thats 1-866-472-5788. Or you can also send us an e-mail at radio@betterworldians.com or tweet us a question at twitter.com/betterworldians. Well be right back now.

Raymond Hansell
Hi. Were back with bestselling author, Dr. Stephen Post. Wed love it if youd call us. Call us in with a question. You can do so by calling 1-866-472-5788. Again, thats 1-866-472-5788. Or you can also e-mail us at radio@betterworldians.com or tweet us a question at twitter.com/betterworldians. And now lets welcome back Stephen and MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Hi, Stephen.

Stephen Post
Hi, MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Now, in your book, you talked about something called carefrontation. Can you tell our listeners what that is and maybe even give us an example of that?

Stephen Post
Sure. Carefrontation, in contrast to confrontation against. You know? Theres a little too much confrontation in day-to-day life. And it doesnt need to be that way. You know Im in a med school here at Stony Brook, and I sometimes go to morning rounds that are called M&Ms morbidity and mortality. And somebody whos made a medical mistake stands up in front of 50 medical colleagues and they just humiliate the heck out of him or her. And in the end, the poor doctor may remember this for the rest of his or her life, but Im telling you, its really not very impressive. Carefrontation is different. We teach our medical students not to give criticism to their peers, their fellow students but to give feedback feedback. You can include, you know, critique, but its broader than that. And I think that theres so much conflict in the world. Obviously, you know, people do crazy things, and we need to be willing to step up and help one another to do better. But the question is how to do that, and carefrontation is a language game that allows us to do this in a way that is less devastating, less destructive and that I think brings out the best in people. And its a word, by the way, that I came to in a long set of letters with M. Scott Peck who wrote The Road Less Traveled.

MarySue Hansell
Yes. Thats how you got thats how you came up with the name?

Stephen Post
Um huh. Yeah. He was a graduate of Case Westerns Medical School in psychiatry years and years ago, long before I got there. I was there for 20 years, and in about 2003, we started trading letters because I founded the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, and of course, you know, he had written The Road Less Traveled, so we corresponded a lot. And I was asking him to help me find the right word. And we just kind of triangulated our way in a telephone conversation, then with some e-mail, and came up with carefrontation.

MarySue Hansell
I think thats a brilliant name. Its kind of its confrontation but with care. It almost sounds like the opposite of confrontation. It seems like thats not always easy to do. I mean how do you find the courage and the balance to do that? It seems pretty tough.

Stephen Post
It is tough. And you know some people are more natural at it than others, you know. I mean I have a friend who is sort of a velvet hammer. I mean theres something about the way he gives feedback, even when you do something thats completely wrong and off-putting that just works. You know it just works. I mean that particular individual is an African American pastor from Cleveland. Otis Moss is about 84 years old, and hes been very effective. You know Oprah identifies him as her major spiritual mentor, and Pastor Moss and Oprah had an encounter when she was in her late 20s or early 30s, and he encouraged her in his beautiful way to go positive in the talk show world. And she didnt really think you could pull that off because she was competing against Jerry Springer and the like. But she identifies Pastor Moss as her major spiritual mentor and endowed his Otis Moss Healthcare Center in inner-city Cleveland. So this is a guy who, in this incredibly graceful, deep, non-humiliating fashion, was able to practice the art of carefrontation. And that is incredibly important because, again, theres just too much unnecessary humiliation going on in the world.

MarySue Hansell
I agree. You know that leads me to my next question, which is about forgiveness. Its something that people really seem to be struggling with. Im so surprised at how many people tell me personally, I really cant forgive them. Im really angry, and so I cant forgive them. What do you say to those people?

Stephen Post
You know thats a really great question. I actually recall, maybe in the mid-90s your son, Gregory, will remember this being part of the Forgiveness Research Campaign that the Templeton Foundation sponsored largely through the leadership of Everett Worthington, a very fine researcher. And at that time, there were only 12 published articles on forgiveness in the entire psychological literature. Now there are 5,000, and people get tenured at major psychology departments for studying forgiveness. And theres been a lot of books as you know. Your listeners can pick them up wherever. But the bottom line is I think a lot of it is pretty trivial at this point as I look back on it because when someone really does something that is devastating, you know, you can have all the little nice ideas you have about the stages of forgiveness, and guess what, it doesnt really work. And so I think when youre really feeling deeply wounded, heres what I believe now, and Ive been writing about this. I think number one and this gets back to the whole BetterWorldians idea actually do something to help someone else because brain science shows that when you act in a helpful way, focusing on the needs of another human being, it actually shuts down the neurological circuits that are associated with bitterness, rumination, unforgiveness, hostility, revenge and so forth. In other words, it just shuts them down. And thats a very interesting thing that were beginning to understand. So you dont need to go to a mountaintop Shambhala, Colorado, with advance meditators to due neuroplasticity. All you need to do is reach out and do the most helpful thing you can for the person whos nearest you and have confidence in your own abilities.

MarySue Hansell
[00:47:48] that connection before, and I think the listeners can really benefit from that. So youre saying just find doing something nice for someone else thats not even involved in the situation. This lessens your anger and then leads you towards forgiveness.

Stephen Post
Absolutely. Now, the other thing 100 percent. The other piece of it is you have to feel that time is on your side. You know five years ago, there was somebody in Cleveland Ill tell you who did something that for me was quite unforgiveable in terms of a ridiculous, destructive e-mail that ruined a philanthropic deal and to some extent resulted in my moving on to Long Island. And this was a good friend of mine who just didnt have very good social skills. And e-mail can be very destructive because the recipient doesnt sort of get your emotionality when you send it out. And so this was a really destructive e-mail. And I was so upset with this guy. But you know what I did was I just focused my mind on daily actions of generosity. And I had confidence that time would pass and that time would heal in the sense that I would come to a different viewpoint on my friends action, that I wouldnt demonize him; I wouldnt just sort of say, oh, it was all his fault. I would begin to think with time and a little maturity, hey, you know maybe I couldve said something differently, or maybe I could have counseled him a little better. Of maybe it was just something I did that contributed to this episode and I couldve handled a little better, you know. So hard lessons are learned hard. And so its focusing on the needs of others to keep your mind off the self and the problems of the self. Its having confidence over time that youll gain a little deeper perspective. And those are really the two key things to forgiveness as Ive lived it. And so its something that you cant necessarily get to easily. And anyone who says that, you know, its just a matter of, you know, applying this simple set of principles, one, two, three, four, five its not that simple.

MarySue Hansell
You know I remember reading that in your other book, The Hidden Gifts of Helping, so theres probably a lot of good techniques that you, personally, experienced there.

Stephen Post
Yeah. And you know, forgiveness is easy in sort of superficial things and the like, but when it comes to the really profound valleys of life, you know, when youre some place where you never anticipated being and things just didnt quite work out the way youd hoped, you know, I think that theres you k now theres always a tendency to point the finger dramatically at the other person and not recognize that it takes two to tango, that somehow, you know, no matter what my situation is I came to view it, you know, Im responsible for it. And I cant just say Im not. And so help others. Have confidence that time will heal, particularly because youll become a little more mature and a little more insightful into what you might have contributed to a problematic situation once upon a time.

MarySue Hansell
I think thats great advice. You know another expression of love that you mentioned is compassion and which you say is responding wisely and actively to suffering when we see it. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? It seems like it may be at the root of a lot of the expressions.

Stephen Post
Well, I think its one expression because you know people arent all suffering. I mean I guess you could say they are in a certain sense. I mean life is short, and we all have to pay the bills. [Laughs] But you know some people I mean I view love I mean I talk about love as, you know, the security and well-being and happiness of another being as real to me as my own, you know. But how do you express that? Well, thats where all the different ways of love come into play like spokes on a wheel, and love is the hub. So sometimes, you know, its forgiveness. Sometimes people really need forgiveness, you know. And theyve done something that they feel really badly about, and theyre hiding under the rug, and they want to apologize. Well, you know youve got to work with that. And then there are times when, you know, people need carefrontation.

MarySue Hansell
Yes.

Stephen Post
You know and there are times when people need compassion because theyre suffering. So like in a medical setting I keep going back to that you know their sort of medical care is this basic, external stuff. Okay, get the needle in the vein. Do it right. Get the technology straight. The searcher (ph) sort of care in the external things. And then theres this kind of very cognitive, empathic care where at least you say to somebody, gee, this must be difficult. How are you handling it? Or gosh, if I were in your situation, Id be struggling, too just a simple comment that doesnt require a lot of emotional investment. And then I think theres this more emotional form of empathy which is where we sort of feel more deeply at that level of emotion into what someone else is experiencing. And then compassion is this kind of emotional empathy in the context of suffering. And as far as

Gregory Hansell
[00:53:56] interrupt you. One question from a listener if you wouldnt mind.

Stephen Post
Yeah.

Gregory Hansell
Just because we love to let people at home know that we are listening to them.

MarySue Hansell
Well, thank you, Stephen.

Stephen Post
Go for it. Yeah, thanks. Im sorry. I went too long anyway.

Gregory Hansell
We have e-mails from Steve who says, Stephen, I wanted to ask you about an article I read that you were quoted in on usnews.com. Staying on the topic of celebrating holidays, you talked about how gift-giving can bring the give joy and gratification instead of stress. How do we achieve that? And we have only about 30 seconds for this answer, unfortunately.

Stephen Post
Yeah. Well, dont get caught up in the crowds at midnight on Black Friday. I mean you know think meaningfully about what you can give to others that will enhance their lives, and dont get caught up in the materialism and the consumerism. Just stay deep about it. And thats the best thing you can do.

Raymond Hansell
Stephen, this has been a great opportunity to talk with you, to hear more about your work. Id just like to remind everybody that you can find out more about Dr. Posts work by going to his website. Thats stephengpost.com. Stephen, wed like to thank you again for joining us on BetterWorldians Radio today. Thank you very much.

Stephen Post
Thanks, Ray. Thanks, MarySue. Thanks, Gregory.

MarySue Hansell
Oh, youre quite welcome.

Raymond Hansell
Please join us next week for our show Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, with award-winning author, Weldon Long. Long will talk about his journey from prison and homelessness to a life of happiness and prosperity using the power of consistency. We have an excellent lineup of guests in the coming weeks, and if you know an unsung BetterWorldian who would make a great guest on our show, please send us an e-mail at radio@betterworldians.com. Wed like to remind everyone that you can simply be a part of a miracle this holiday season simply by sharing our video challenge and help heal 10 kids. Thats that easy. Just go to colorwithkindness.com, watch the video, spread it around and give these kids the gift of a lifetime. Thanks, everyone, for listening today. You can join us at the BetterWorldians community at betterworldians.com. Until next time, please be a BetterWorldian.