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?

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")

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?