Sharing Highs

Compassion and the True Meaning of Empathy

Can we learn to feel other’s pain?

Can we learn to feel other’s pain?

The word compassion comes from the Latin “with” and “suffering.”

The Greek equivalent, “empathy” is “in” plus “pain.”

It means “I hurt when you hurt.”

How do we raise a child, a family, a society of true compassion and empathy? Joan Halifax has some marvelous thought on nurturing compassion in a oft-times cold and polarized world.

Great talk for Cross+Gen conversations.

Alone Together


Technology or

As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other? 

Here are some great thoughts for a Cross+Gen discussion from Sherry Turkle’s Ted Talk, and two books “Alone Together” and “Reclaiming Conversations: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.”

Her thinking about Robotics and Digital Artificial Intelligence would especially make a marvelous conversation starter between the ages.

Three Reflections




We've invested the last month on the psychology, sociology and neurology of sharing highs and lows. Let's wrap up with three reflections:

Reflection 1

Think of your highest high and lowest low in the last five years.

• Where was God in the high?

• Where was God in the low?

• What wisdom have you gained from these two experiences?

Reflection 2

Put on your psychologist’s hat for a moment. What happens to a person when he or she:

• Shares a significant high with a trusted friend?

• Shares a significant low with a trusted friend?

• Falls asleep every night of his or her life knowing that he or she is loved, heard and valued?

Reflection 3

Put on your sociologist’s hat for a moment. What happens to a family when they:

• Reflect on the significant highs of the day every night?

• Reflect on the significant lows of the day every night?

• Share highs and lows, caring conversations, faith talk and reflection at the end of the day (as opposed to mornings, after school, in the car or around the dinner table)?

FAITH5 for Absent Parents


What if you frequently have to go out of town on business? What if you are sitting on a military base half a world away? What if you are sitting in a jail or prison cell? All the more reason to connect with your kids! Your kids need you now more than ever in order to feel loved, secure and safe.

Just because you're gone doesn't mean you have to be absent.

Do everything in your power to check in regularly with your kids, ask about their highs and lows, share your own concerns, pray for them, ask for their prayers, and offer your blessing. Don’t let physical distance create emotional distance. Leverage the technology available to Skype or FaceTime or phone them. So much of communication happens without words. The smile, the eyes, the face muscles, the visual clues say more than mere words ever could. 

Let your loved ones know that even though you are away, you care too much about them to let a single day go by without building a memory they will treasure and take with them the rest of their lives. They will remember that their daddy or mommy always had time for them. You can’t buy that kind of message for a child. It will mean more to him or her than you will ever know.

Two Rules and Three Tools for Nightly Home Huddles (Photographs and Emotographs)


Two Rules
We only had two rules for sharing highs and lows when our children were young. First, no interruptions. When someone was sharing, no one else was allowed to speak, except to ask clarifying questions. Second, no judgment. The first time you judge your children’s highs or lows may be the last time they risk being honest with you about what is really going on in their lives.

Three Tools
With the hindsight of a nostalgic empty-nester and the insight of a lot more reading in neurology since my children were babies, I now know of three tools I wish I had used in the Melheim home while they were young. These are:

1. A timer: Brevity is the way to go for highs and lows, so set a time limit for the amount of sharing. Save the longer conversation for the amount of sharing. Save the longer conversation for Step 3: Talk.

2. Journaling: Writing before speaking is brilliant neurology. It connects thought to muscles, motions to emotions, and eyes to fingers. It begins the process of moving a person’s short-term memory from scratch pad (hippocampus) to hard drive (neo cortex). Writing connects the brain to the body to the environment, thus engaging the whole mind. It wires and fires and connects the new to what you already knew, setting the pieces in place for insight, problem-solving and innovation. If you want to grow reflective children into wise and thankful adults, start journaling.

3. Photographs and “emotographs”: As long as you are journaling words, why not consider adding a journal of images? Take at least one photo every day and add it to the mix.

Mental and emotional snapshots recorded in the form of simple sentences about your highs, lows and prayers serve as great mementos. Add a photo each day along with your writing and your journal will become the kind of scrapbook I call an emotograph—a rich, simple, memory- jogging tool that ensures that the day and its lessons will never be forgotten.

The Sociology of Sharing Highs

A woman once told me in counseling, “I don’t like any of my loved ones.”

I’m guessing there wasn’t a lot of joy shared between them. Sociologically, sharing joy, laughter and the positive events of the day creates new bonds and strengthens old ones.

Sharing highs enhances both energy and synergy between you and your mates. It helps shed light on the experienced joys of others, turning mates and inmates into intimates. It gives insight as it gives outsight into what other people’s highs are. It deepens understanding about what is important to them. It multiplies affirmation as it builds depth into the relationship.

Multiplying Joy

Some say joy doubles when you share it. I say joy multiplies by the number of people whom you invite in on the sharing.

Have you ever gone to a comedy movie alone? Everyone may have praised the film as hilarious, but you watched it alone and, as the credits rolled, you didn’t consider it all that funny. However, if you had been with friends, the movie may have been a totally different experience. You would have chuckled and laughed more, ribbed each other and leaned into each other’s joy. You might have enjoyed the film twice as much (or more) if only you had shared it with people you already enjoyed.





You see what you're looking for

My friend John Lace is an avid hunter and fly fisherman. I remember driving through the countryside with him years ago and hearing: “Look, there’s a pheasant. Look, there’s a bunny. Look, I bet that’s a great stream for trout.” John was able to find what he wanted to find because he had trained himself to see what he wanted to see.

If you are looking for the bad in a situation, a relationship, a job or a day, you are likely to see it. If you are looking for the good, you are likely to see that, too. Most people do.

Train your children to look for the blessings in every day. The persistent practice and pursuit of positive perspective is a marvelous gift you can give to your children, yourself and the great-grandchildren you will never meet. The power of a positive outlook will ripple out like a stone thrown into a pond to bless distant shores.

Starting a nightly check-in by sharing a positive - a "high" - reframes the entire day in a healthy and balanced way. Intentionally and consistently sharing the good first changes outlooks (how you see the world), “in-looks” (how you see yourself) and perspectives.

The word “perspective” (peri+spect) literally means to “look around.” So look around. Maybe today wasn’t all bad. Look around. Maybe there was some good after all. Look around. If nothing else, you are still alive and, for some odd reason, these people love you.

Look around.

 The Psychology of Sharing Highs

Starting the night out on a high sets the stage for an overall positive experience. Sharing highs creates a feeling of wellbeing — even regarding what might have seemed to your children to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Sharing highs validates both the person and the high: “Yeah, that was pretty neat!” It models healthy communication, engenders caring, fosters acceptance and teaches appreciation.

Sharing the positive triggers even more positive. Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the world’s leading researchers on happiness, believes that if you want to develop lifelong satisfaction, you need to engage regularly in positive thinking about yourself, share your happiest events with others, and savor every positive experience in your life.

Here's Sonja on Happiness