This month’s issue of Scientific American Mind is about your memory and learning how to erase distractions. It challenges the idea that the brain is simply a “passive storage unit.” The editors suggest that your mind “behaves like a seamstress who sews concepts from threads of vital information while snipping away extraneous material.”
According to the special report, “the best memory is not the one that holds the most data, but the one that can deftly distinguish between the pieces to keep and those to discard.” The brain is evidently intricately designed to prioritize information. Without that ability our memories would be overloaded with so much negative, superfluous and competing content that we would ultimately shutdown or go insane.
The brain is amazing. What you can learn to forget or remember definitely helps you survive. It’s the reason why—
You forget the details of walking in on your parents when they were. . .
A baby doesn’t remember getting circumcised.
A wife is willing to give birth to another child.
Someone can love again after they have been deeply hurt.
People can start over after a natural disaster.
No one really remembers a politician’s promises.
I’m thankful for my brain’s ability to filter through so much irrelevant and negative information. The mind’s skill to prioritize may be more critical than we realize.
How to stay focused on what is most important may be the most important thing you ever teach your kids. Life is really about sorting through and organizing countless experiences, relationships, and even extraneous material so that whatever is most critical is never forgotten. There are a number of ways we communicate what’s important to our kids.
The questions we ask.
What we do with our time.
The stories we tell.
I wonder sometimes what my kid’s brains will remember as the important stuff. I had a discussion with my parents a few nights ago at dinner about things I remember growing up and the things I don’t. It’s interesting how some of the things they reminded me of I had completely forgotten. I could make a list right now to entertain you, but I suspect your brain would discard it pretty quickly. So, I will just give you one memory that I have never forgotten.
When I was eight, I heard my dad stand in front of group of people and explain how he became a Christian. It is a very vivid and clear memory even though it happened over 40 years ago. For whatever reason, my brain logged it as critical data and it was permanently stamped into my memory. Since then, millions of pieces of information have been discarded, but not that one.
A friend of mine, Dr. Kara Powell, wrote a book called Sticky Faith. Over the past few years, her team has done countless interviews with teenagers. One of her leaders recently asked a group of teenagers individually if their parents had ever told them the story of how they became a Christian. They were surprised that not one teenager knew how or when their parents had started pursuing a relationship with God.
I happen to believe the spiritual dimension of a child’s life is important. And although a lot of us are not sure how to talk about spiritual issues with our children, one simple way would just be to tell the story of how your faith started. I personally think it will be something your children will always remember.
With all of the stuff they will hear while they are living in your house, that one piece of information will probably stick in their brain. It did in mine. It’s just a thought. What if you act on it, before you forget it?