Sunday, August 6, 2017


Sometime in the spring, I heard about the Big Apple Experiment from a colleague. Essentially, you take two apple slices, love one, trash talk the other, and see what happens. My job involves supporting educators to teach social and emotional skills to young children, and it was an experiment she had done with her preschool class to talk about kindness towards others.

When she emailed me and shared the experiences of the children and educators in her room, as well as the effect on the apples, I was moved. Are our words really that powerful? I started thinking it could be a meaningful exercise to try with my own coworkers. So I put a couple of apple slices in jars, and asked everyone to be kind to one, and be mean to the other. I did not tell them why.

Here is the apple we were kind and caring towards. I often heard it being cooed to, complimented, and occasionally someone sang to it. Four weeks later, it looked like you could dip it in caramel and still eat it.

Here is the apple we were mean to. It was talked to in tones of contempt, occasionally the table it sat on was smacked as frustrations were spoken to it, and one of my colleagues admitted to giving it the finger. ...I couldn't even touch it when I pulled it out of the jar. It was mouldy and squishy and just... not in good shape.

The two slices came from the same apple. They were cut with the same knife and placed at the same time into identical mason jars.* And because they were placed at opposite ends of our office building, I even switched their locations part way through so that each experienced the same traffic patterns of people overall. And what blows my mind is that both jars were sealed. The apples were not touched or tampered with. The only difference between these two apple slices was the attitude with which they were treated.

There is clearly an entirely different energy in hurtful words and actions than in loving ones. One rots; one protects. When we are unkind, not only do we wound another emotionally, or even fracture a relationship--we also leave behind a lasting negative energy. If this is what meanness does to an apple at its core, what does it do to a person in theirs?

...As someone who spends her day talking about social and emotional well-being, let me be clear that I'm not saying we shouldn't express our hurt or anger. We need to be authentic with all our feelings. ...But we do need to be mindful about where and how and to whom we're directing our energy.

We have a choice in every interaction--with the cashier at the grocery store; the customer service agent on the phone; our child or spouse at the end of a long day, in hard conversations with friends; at a tense team meeting--to choose: malice, sarcasm, belittling, anger, a raised voice? Or kindness, compassion, patience, empathy, and truth spoken in love.

We are not always going to be perfect, but the good news is that we have endless opportunities to practice.

I know what kind of energy I want to leave in a room, or in someone's heart.

I choose kindness.

* Yes, I washed the apple, the knife, the jars, and my hands before doing this.

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