110: Dr. Matthew T. Lee | The Effects of Benevolent Service 

compassion, love and connection

Before joining the faculty at Harvard University, Dr. Matthew T. Lee spent many years as a criminologist, studying and researching the dark side of the human mind and behavior.


He is the co-author of The Heart of Religion: Spiritual Empowerment, Benevolence, and the Experience of God’s Love, published by Oxford University Press. Today, Dr. Lee studies concepts of love and is the Director of Empirical Research for the Program on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing at Harvard University.

Why would a missionary continue to go out into a dangerous circumstance, putting their life in jeopardy, contracting deadly diseases, when everyone else pulls out? What keeps them going, and what can the rest of us learn from these spiritual exemplars?” - Dr. Matthew T. Lee

What We Discuss with Dr. Matthew T. Lee:

  • How Dr. Lee landed a position at Harvard University researching love, after spending many years studying the darkside of human nature.
  • The correlation between altruistic service and personal gratification.
  • Dr. Lee’s work with kids in recovery from alcohol, drugs, and various forms of delinquencies.
  • Systems for creating more ‘loving’ environments in the workplace.
  • How compassionate company cultures help businesses to flourish.

In episode 110, Dr. Lee shares his insights around concepts of benevolence, compassion, volunteering and experiences of divine love in this riveting episode you’ll want to listen to again.

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More About Dr. Lee


As an assistant professor researching the dark side of human nature, Matt made a comment to a colleague that he wished to teach a class on love, but because he wasn’t tenured he wasn’t comfortable exploring it with the administration.

While he never gave up on his dream, it took him several years of just being grateful for the opportunities that came his way, he was introduced to Dr. Stephen Post, who requested Matt join him at the organization he formed called the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, funded by the 
John Templeton Foundation.

Without hesitation, Matt took the position as and served as Vice President and Project Director for a $2.3M grant called the
Flame of Love aimed on fulfilling the “Great Commandment”—loving and knowing God’s love and then reaching out to love others.

“It’s interesting that so many people have had experiences of divine love - real meaningful experiences,”
Lee says. “Roughly 80-percent of Americans have this experience that increases their compassion for others, makes them want to reach out to somebody in need, whether it’s a friend, a stranger, or perhaps sometimes even an enemy.”

Going further into his research, an overwhelming pattern began to appear. Lee would discover scientific evidence that supported the hypothesis that serving others leads to greater levels of perceived happiness.

“What people discover… is when they serve others, they begin to appreciate the sacred quality of life and the sacred quality of relationships that they didn’t fully appreciate before,” Lee says.

In the recent years, Dr. Lee has been working with kids in recovery from substance abuse and delinquencies and saw that a lot of them came from adverse backgrounds -- they had been neglected or victimized in some way -- and many of them adapted by becoming depressed, self-centered or narcissistic.

However, when these same kids are in recovery and start getting involved in the twin virtues of Love and Service, the world shifts for them.

“There’s a difference between work that’s interesting and rewarding, and work that is truly significant,” Lee says. “It may be that the work is truly significant is not the work we do for a paycheck, it’s not what we do for the most of our waking hours that give us meaning.”


THANKS, Dr. Matthew T. Lee!


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