Sharing Lows

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.

Differences Between Boys and Girls When Sharing Highs and Lows

Female Brain Book.jpg

According to Dr. Louann Brizendine in The Female Brain, little girls are born with 11 percent more brain tissue that is dedicated to speaking and listening than little boys. Little boys are born with two and a half times more brain tissue dedicated to sex drive, plus larger areas of the brain are connected to action and aggression. That’s one more reason for a pillow fight before you try to talk! If you don’t turn part of your learning process into action up front, your boys will turn it into aggression later on. Take your pick.

The Bad News
According to Dr. Brizendine, the average female speaks approximately 20,000 words each day. In a 16-hour waking day, that equals about 10 minutes per hour. The average male speaks about three and a half minutes per hour, or just 7,000 words in a day. This news is neither good nor bad; it’s just the way it is. Expect your son to share—just don’t expect him to share as much.

Most nights in the Melheim home, Kathryn Elizabeth would share her highs and lows for 5-10  minutes once we got her started. Joseph Martin would generally “get it over with” in three seconds using three or four syllables: “school sucks” and “almost Friday.” According to the Woman’s Passion website most girls actually enjoy talking more than most boys. It’s a matter of chemistry.  The simple speech act causes emission of hormones in a woman’s brain, giving her the same sensations which a drug addict feels after he receives a long-awaited dose.

The female brain flushes pleasure drugs into the system during a good conversation. Not so with the male brain. Too much talking—if forced—has just the opposite effect on the male brain. Rather than producing pleasure hormones, forcing a lot of talk out of a boy who isn’t in the mood actually produces stress hormones.

Differences between male and female brains are already formed in a mother’s womb, when testosterone kicks in and begins affecting formation of the developing male brain. As a result of this influence, zones controlling speech, emotions and memory in a man’s brain decrease. Thus, boys, and later men, speak less than women and often try to hide their emotions because they are not as in touch with them, and have a harder time trying to verbalize what they do not understand.

They don't want to look or sound stupid. Who does?

Tomorrow - the Good News when it comes to Highs and Lows for Belles and Beaus, and a look at the book "The Male Brain" by Dr. Brizendine.

A Theology of Sharing Lows


The Bible calls us again and again to place our problems before one another and God for mutual care and support during hard times. The following is a week’s worth of nightly compassion Scriptures. As you read and consider this list, what jumps out?

  • Weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:5).
  • Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).
  • And be kind to one another, tenderhearted (Eph. 4:32).
  • Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4).
  • Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing (1 Thess. 5:11).
  • Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).
  • Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7).

Sharing lows teaches your children that they are part of life. Sharing these lows before God and a trusted Christian family or a “family of friends” shows your children that they are never alone. Admitting disappointment, weakness, fear and anger out loud is what healthy people do. It reinforces the Church at its most elemental level.

Why not start tonight?

Newspaper Woes as Personal Lows

Fire Cover Time.jpg


On nights when your child can’t think of a personal low, you might want to bring a newspaper or magazine into your sharing time. Challenge your children to look outside themselves a moment. Look around and look again (peri+spect and re+spect). You don’t need to flip too far into the paper to realize that there are millions of children around the world who are starving, without homes, and trapped in poverty. Look around and look again. There is a world of pain, a world in need, and a world of insatiable greed. Look around and look again.

Maybe God is calling your child to be part of the solution with his or her life rather than part of the problem. Look around and look again. That child in the newspaper doesn’t have shoes on his or her feet or a bed to sleep in, and here your children are complaining about having to shop at Walmart for school clothes or drive an old car to school! 

Look around and look again, this time with the eyes of Christ. The experience of bringing a newspaper into the nightly ritual can grow a self-centered, inward-turning child into a young adult who is both aware and filled with such care that he actually does something for this hurting world with his life.

TOMORROW: A Theology of Sharing Lows

Stay Up and Fight


Don't go to
bed mad

Stay up and fight

"Don’t go to bed mad. Stay up and fight."


Sharing both highs and lows teaches people how to forgive. It builds empathy (em+pathos, meaning “in pain”), sympathy (sym+pathos, meaning “with pain”), compassion (com+passion, meaning “suffering along with”) and camaraderie.

It validates, affirms and strengthens the other person. It creates (commiserates) people who enter each other’s pain willingly to share it and bear it with them, rather than people who are dragged into another’s pain kicking and screaming and trying their best to get away from them. Sharing lows builds all these gifts and all that support into the core of the family ritual.

Why would you not want to give these gifts to your friends, your spouse, your child, your mom in the nursing home tonight... and every night?

Blisters and Slivers



Have you ever tried to love someone who wouldn’t let you into his or her pain? Chances are you found it to be a frustrating experience. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to love others in the ways they need to be loved if they can’t be honest enough to tell you where and why it hurts.

Maybe they don’t trust you. Maybe they don’t trust themselves. Maybe they know the source of their pain and won’t say. Maybe they’ve been burned before by naming the problem and are afraid you will judge them. You won’t love them. You will leave. Or maybe they don’t even know the source of the problem themselves. Either way, a relationship gets stuck in cold, empty silence when slivers remain embedded and problems go unnamed.

Do you know someone who seems to be “fine” on the surface but often explodes? They can be going along at a steady emotional pace for a long while, and then suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, bang! They lose it. That’s the sign of someone with a deeply embedded sliver; someone who never learned how to dig it out.

Some pain is like a blister—leave it alone and it will eventually dry up and fade away. But most pain is like a sliver. It hurts to dig a sliver out, but if you don’t get it, then it’s going to get you. If you don’t get out the sliver—the whole sliver—then it will eventually infect you and affect everyone who loves you. If you are so unaware that you don’t even know there is a sliver, then it’s even worse. You may live life shaming, naming and blaming everyone else for your own problems, and you’ll probably live most of that life alone.

 Mr. Magoo’s Christmas


I'm all alone

in the world

Back in the days when all my family owned was a black and-white television, I remember watching Mr. Magoo play Ebenezer Scrooge in a cartoon version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Dickens described Scrooge as being “lonely as an oyster.” In one memorable scene, old Scrooge flew back to his childhood with the Ghost of Christmas Past. They peered into a one-room school where Ebenezer was surprised to spot himself sitting in a corner wearing a dunce cap, singing. I’ll never forget the scene or the song:


A hand for each hand was planned for the world.
Why don’t my fingers reach?

Millions of grains of sand in the world.
Why such a lonely beach?

Where is a voice to answer mine back?
Where are two shoes that click to my clack?
I’m . . . all alone . . . in the world.

That was 50 years ago, and I still remember the tune. I also remember thinking, “No wonder he was such a Scrooge! He grew up feeling all alone in the world!”

Share both highs AND lows with those you love tonight.

Every one needs someone to listen.

The Voldemort Effect






The Voldemort Effect 

There is great power in being able to speak the name of your problems out loud. I call this the “Voldemort Effect,” after the evil being in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. No one dared speak his name aloud except Harry. 

“He who shall not be named” holds a mysterious and sinister grip on everyone—a hidden power—until the Harry Potters of the world decide, “We are not going to remain silent. We will not cower as captives to fear. We are going to name that sucker out loud. We are going to call him what he is and who he is so we can deal with the real problem, not the myth. We are going to draw him out into the open, and then kill him together or together die trying!”

A strange and wonderful thing happens the moment you dare speak the name of “he who shall not be named” aloud. A subtle but significant power transfer begins. The moment the silence is broken, the power begins to drain away from its sinister source and move in the direction of those who dare deal with it. In that moment, if spoken aloud and shared within the confidence of a loving family or a trusted family of friends, the newly transferred power begins to grow, strengthen and multiply. There, in the hands and hearts of the people who love you and want the best for you, a treasure trove of solutions, allies, creativity and untapped resources suddenly springs to the surface. The Rebel Alliance, the Elves, the Hobbits, the students of Hogwarts and the Narnians are emboldened as they suddenly see they have a chance.

Okay, too many mixed “narraphors.” You get the point. As for Lord Voldemort, let’s just say: “Leave him unnamed and he grows each day; name him aloud and he shrinks away.”

The Psychology of Sharing Lows


If you only know your child’s highs, you don’t know them. If you only know their lows, you don’t know them. And if they don’t know their highs and lows, they don’t know themselves either. Simply asking a child, “How was your day?” is rarely enough to solicit more than a vague one-syllable, “Fine.” What do you learn when they say, “Fine?” Not a lot. As positive, potent and powerful as it is to start your nightly home huddle with a high, it may be even more important to build the time, place and sacred space into your family ritual where children feel safe enough to share their lows and work them out.

What is a sacred space? It is an attitude as much as a place: a moment set aside to invite God into the heart of the matter, and the matters of the heart.

Sharing lows gives you a better understanding of yourself and others. Growing up with a forum, format and life-long experience in verbalizing one’s lows aloud within the context of a safe, loving, non-judgmental home every night gives a child a huge advantage when it comes to building capacity for mental health, emotional resilience and spiritual maturity.