Sharing Lows; FAITH5

Neurologically, less is more

Words Can.jpg

According to brain and spirituality researchers Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman in Words Can Change Your Brain, the listener’s brain can only recall about 10 seconds of content. Beyond that, nothing is going to register. As Newberg and Waldman write:

"If you talk for several minutes, the other person’s brain will only recall a fraction of what you’ve said, and it might not be the part you want to convey. The solution? Brevity followed by intense listening to make sure the other person has grasped the key points of what you said. If they have, great! You can say another sentence. If not, why move on? If the other person hasn’t understood you, what good will it do?"

Here’s the other good news if you have a child or teen (or spouse) who doesn't talk much: The person who shares highs and lows in a couple sentences in 10 to 20 seconds may not only be more efficient in communicating - but they may be significantly more effective in getting messages across! Any one-way communication beyond a half-minute increases the likelihood that the message a person is trying to get across will not be registered and remembered by anyone.

You can keep pouring water in a full glass all you want, but it’s only going to hold so much. Everything else will just be a waste of water. Likewise, after 10 seconds, you can keep talking all you want, but if there is no give and take—no true conversation—everything else is just a waste of time, energy and breath.

Don't worry if highs and lows are done in a couple sentences or syllables. Worry if they aren't done at all.

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?

Building an Empathetic Brain


Training Your Brain

To Be Healthy

Like muscles, whatever areas of the brain you exercise will grow both in strength and capacity over time. As your children practice sharing feelings out loud and learn to listen to the feelings of those around them, they literally grow more brain tissue in the areas that process sympathy, empathy, compassion and deep care. Sharing a low literally rewires your child’s brain.

“It’s not just repeated physical actions that can rewire our brains,” writes Nicholas Carr in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. “Purely mental activity can also alter our neural circuitry, sometimes in far-reaching ways.”  

Carr also notes:  "The mind can essentially train itself to be healthy. It can train itself to be sick. The more a sufferer concentrates on his symptoms, the deeper those symptoms are etched into his neural circuits. . . . Although the use of any kind of tool can influence our thoughts and perspectives—the plow changed the outlook of the farmer, the microscope opened new worlds of mental exploration for the scientist—it is our intellectual technologies that have the greatest and most lasting power over what and how we think." 

Sharing lows is an intellectual technology you have at your disposal. Use it nightly and you enlarge the capacity for empathy in your child’s brain. You will also turn your home into the kind of grace place that teaches, models and lives healing love every night.

So, Highs AND Lows tonight?

The Neurology of Sharing Lows

Nerve CellFiring.jpg


Share a Low

What happens neurologically when you share a low? Like sharing a high, a message comes from the brain at 100 yards per second. It speeds down the ends of the neurons. Little bags of neurotransmitter chemicals— amino peptides and endorphins—are released, and they jump across the synapse and bond to a protein on the other side. All through your body, at 100 yards per second, flashes a painkiller!

More free drugs!

When you cry and release the pain, the chemical composition in your tears has a higher concentration of dopamine than do your tears when you laugh. Dopamine is a pleasure enhancer and painkiller. A good cry is powerful medicine! Crying also releases tension, cleanses toxic stress hormones from the body, and increases the body’s ability to heal. Not bad side effects for a drug that is free and self-dispensable.

Have you ever cried so hard you were exhausted? Afterward, you felt great. Why wouldn’t you give those same free drugs—God’s good medicine—every night to the people you love?

Drug your loved ones tonight.

(From the nothing-but-FIVE-STARS Amazon book "Holding Your Family Together")

Focusing Away from Self



Away from Self

Actively listening to each other’s lows allows the listener for a moment to focus on something other than his or her own pain. Imagine raising a teenager who thinks: "Hmmm . . . my mom has problems too, or, Hmmm . . . my dad . . . he’s a human being."

Taking turns sharing highs and lows draws you to focus both on yourself and on the needs of others. When you take turns sharing both highs and lows, it teaches you that it’s not all about you. (Yes, it is about you—but it’s not ALL about you.)

Look Around and Look Again
We mentioned earlier that peri+spect means to look around. Re+spect means to look again. Sharing a low and listening to others open up and own up to their pain leads to both broader perspective and deeper respect. So look around and look again. Other people have problems, too. Look around and look again. Some of their problems are actually worse than yours, and yet they seem to be coping. Look around and look again. It may be by leaving your pity-party and helping others that you will actually help yourself.

TOMORROW: The Neurology of Sharing Lows

Getting Real (For Sharing Out Loud!)


If you don't take the trash out...

from time to time, it really starts to stink.
- Melheimian Maxim #26

The brilliance and beauty of Alcoholics Anonymous starts with the first step: owning up to your problems and naming them aloud in front of a trusted group of friends. Until that first step happens, no growth, no progress and no healing can begin. You are all alone in the world. Whatever your problem is, if you can simply state it out loud—“Hello, I’m Richard, and I’m a Lutheran”—you are on the royal road to recovery. The power moves toward you and away from the problem. The sliver can be extracted. The ointment can be applied.

The healing can begin. If you don’t get real, you cannot deal. If you cannot deal, you will not heal.


Sanctuary Much, Ladies and Gentlemen
Sharing lows each night gives your children both the tools and the experience of practicing healthy problem-solving skills in the safe context of loving relationships and a trusting family. This isn’t about interference, judgment or intrusion. It’s about modeling and practicing active listening, reflection, self-awareness and healthy, caring communication every night.

These simple practices teach children they don’t have to hold anything inside. They are not alone. There are people, places and sacred spaces to get real, to deal and to heal. A home that instills and installs this nightly sharing of both highs and lows becomes a safe sanctuary where tears, fears and even failures can be discussed and worked out in confidence and love. The home becomes a grace place where children can be honest in expressing grief, hurts and disappointments.

This simple and intentional faith practice spins a protective cocoon around a child’s fragile development one strand at a time.

One low at a time.

One night at a time.

How about start sharing Highs AND Lows tonight with someone you love?



The Sociology of Sharing Lows


Let it go


"In an era of texting, Facebook, email, IM and cell phones, sharing highs and lows is a face-to-face, incarnational embodiment of God’s love and care. People feel loved when they feel heard. We can “love them through” their problems."  -  TIM SEITZ-BROWN

Sharing a low with the people you love minimizes the pain. It does so not by minimizing the problem but by taking it off your shoulders and placing it into the arms of those who love and trust you the most. Everyone you “let in” is on your team. Everyone “in the know” who loves you now has antenna up searching for solutions. Everyone who cares is now praying to see answers and working to be the answers to the prayers. Everyone has your back. 

Sharing a low breaks down lonely walls. It gives you security, fosters vulnerability, and builds a deeper bond than simply sharing a high. It creates an awareness of what is going on in your own inner life and in the inner lives of others. It draws out deep compassion, builds stronger connections, and creates more resilient communities. It allows those you allow inside to know and love you in the ways you yearn to be known and loved. It also allows them to enter creatively, yet more objectively, into your situation, your pain and your prayers. The sharing and the caring that surround the hurt open up the possibility for confession, absolution, forgiveness and reconciliation.


Stress and Illness



For crying out loud...

The Centers for Disease Control report that more than half of all deaths between the ages of 1 to 65 result from stress. Another study estimates that 110 million people worldwide lose their lives annually to disease caused by unmanaged stress. Although the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s population, we consume 33 percent of all anti-anxiety pills.

According to Norman B. Anderson of the APA, 75 percent of all health-care costs are associated with chronic illnesses, and a key driver of chronic illnesses is stress.

Stress can be directly linked to all six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. A good shrink can help you shrink your problems. But why not teach your children how to shrink their own problems while they’re young enough and the problems are small enough to be self-shrunk? (Hey, I’m cheap, but wouldn’t it save a whole lot of time, grief, pills and money?)

Some say light is the best disinfectant. I’d argue that sound is a pretty great disinfectant as well. Giving your child the gift of your time, complete attention and care—along with the practice of sharing their hurts, fears and concerns out loud each night—is a beautiful and powerful step on the road to mental and emotional health. 

So, Highs AND Lows tonight? Every night?

I Feel Your Pain


Patient: Dr., what can I do to solve my problems?
Doctor: Nothing. You're not qualified.


When it comes to stress-related problems, children are at the most risk. The habits and stress-coping mechanisms that parents and caregivers set in place for them early on will follow them the rest of their lives and either bless or curse their world. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) survey, stress is taking its toll on the young: 

“Children are hurting. Almost a third of children reported that in the last month they had experienced a physical health symptom often associated with stress, such as headaches, stomachaches or trouble falling or staying asleep. In addition, parents don’t realize their own stress is affecting their kids. While 69 percent of parents say their stress has only a slight or no impact on their children, just 14 percent of youth say their parents’ stress doesn’t bother them. When kids are under stress, she explains, they may eat too much, sleep too much or favor sedentary coping activities like watching television; the resulting weight gain and the teasing and bullying that often accompany it can lead in turn to more stress, creating a cycle that can be difficult to escape from.”

Society is filled with people who haven’t had the forum, format or modeling about how to deal with their problems. We have to pay people to listen to us in this culture. How sad and tragic is that? I am glad there are caring, trained counselors who can help us dig deep, but wouldn’t it be cheaper, better and more proactive to raise a generation of children who didn’t need to bury their problems in the first place?

How about honest sharing of Highs AND Lows every night, starting tonight?