A protestant friend recently invited us to a service project. He briefly mentioned the details then told how he last served there alongside some “Roman Catholics”. While huddled in preparation these Catholics were praying the rosary to Mary – he went on to say – so he just observed and silently prayed, “to the living God,” repeating this last part twice.
Hmmm. His story had all the facts, but his headline seemed to be theological correctness rather than, say, how beautiful it is when people of varying faiths unite around a common cause. Or focusing on the cause itself.
His headline seemed to be theological correctness
A different friend had a big stage-event to share his music and the next day I asked him what it was like. “It was so hot up there,” was his reply. But how was the music, I probed, and he replied that it just was so much work to setup instruments on the outdoor stage. I was hoping to hear what he liked about the experience, but he chose discomfort and work as his headline.
He chose discomfort and work as his headline
Newspapers may have their own reasons for choosing headlines (see this example¹ of a same-day, same-paper rewrite).
But when it comes to your personal stories, do you realize the headline you’re publishing?
Of course, the majority of our days are spent down in the body of the article. We can’t always choose the who, what, when and where of our day, but eventually a few subtitles bubble up as themes. Finally we settle on a headline, sometimes only if asked. If we’re not reflective, we immediately grab onto the most recent thing, or strongest feeling, and print it as our headline.
Granted, we take relational context into account when we share, and in fairness, my two friends may have assumed our same page-ness when they focused their headlines.
For instance when my wife and I share about our workday, we don’t usually start by saying, “I’m so thankful for my job and overall my co-workers are great,” even though that is our long-term mindset. We tend to jump right in with the most frustrating thing that happened that day. But in this familial context we may consider large swaths of days as one body of work, knowing that on the weekend, or on our next vacation, we’ll reflect again together how good the work is.
And that is our chance to reset the headline.
We once again pull ourselves out of the body – with its small paragraphs and many quotations – to summarize the story we are living. Writing this I am reminded that headline selection is a key role that prayer can play in our lives:
A few breaths to let go of being in charge and remember Who is.
A few readings from timeless scriptures to see how transient our troubles are.
A few moments to stop talking to the temporary and instead listen to eternity.
How do you set your headline?
¹Image source: http://www.jantakareporter.com/world/different-story-wall-street-journal/59948/: