Of Kindness and Rabbits – Sunday, August 08, 2021

Decades ago, researchers measured the effects of diet on the heart health of rabbits. Not surprisingly, rabbits that were fed fatty foods developed cholesterol problems. But something else was surprising—one group of rabbits had significantly better health outcomes. They had eaten the same foods as the other rabbits, but they had also been cared for by a particular researcher—one who happened to be “an unusually kind and caring individual.”[1] She didn’t just feed the rabbits. “She talked to them, cuddled and petted them.”[2] She didn’t know she was altering the results—she was just being herself.

Suddenly this wasn’t just an experiment about genetics and diet. These researchers were learning that relationships matter too. A recent book titled The Rabbit Effect cites these findings and concludes, “Ultimately, what affects our health in the most meaningful ways has … much to do with how we treat one another, how we live, and how we think about what it means to be human.”[3]

In other words, “the rabbit effect” could just as easily be called “the human effect.”

So many seem so angry as they interact with others—online and in person. Some are raging inside at the outside world, annoyed and impatient with people around them as well as themselves. Even many who aren’t openly hostile have simply become cold, distant, and impersonal. And we wonder why general health and happiness suffer, why peace and calm are so elusive.

Humans, perhaps even more than rabbits, need kindness and caring, affection and love in order to thrive. No one can flourish in an atmosphere of contention and animosity. When we are kind—even if others don’t return the favor—we carry a healthy inner peace, knowing we have generated light instead of heat. When we sincerely care for and about others, we spread compassion and helpfulness more freely throughout the world. And in the process, we create a healthier, happier environment for everyone.

If cuddling a rabbit can lower its cholesterol, imagine what can happen if we look around and reach out in simple, loving ways to people around us. That’s the power of human kindness.

[1] Robert Nerem, in Kelli Harding, The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness (2019), xxiv.
[2] Harding, The Rabbit Effect, xxiv.
[3] Harding, The Rabbit Effect, xxv; see also Gary E. Stevenson, “Hearts Knit Together,” Liahona, May 2021.
August 08, 2021
Broadcast Number 4,795

The Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square

Mack Wilberg

Guest Conductor
Anton Armstrong

Andrew Unsworth

Lloyd Newell


Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
German hymn tune; arr. Mack Wilberg

All Things Bright and Beautiful
John Rutter

American folk hymn; arr. Gilbert M. Martin

Climb to the Top of the Highest Mountain
Carolyn Jennings

Antiphon, from Five Mystical Songs
Ralph Vaughan Williams

Love One Another
Luacine Clark Fox; arr. Mack Wilberg

How Firm a Foundation
Attributed to J. Ellis; arr. Mack Wilberg