Motivational speakers, parents, preachers, teachers and professor encourage everyone under the sound of their voices to “follow their heart.” It’s a sweet thing to hear someone tell you to simply follow your heart. You looking for a job? Follow your heart. Thinking about what to study? Follow your heart. You want to date or marry someone? Follow your heart. There is simplicity in that. It takes less time and it leaves a feeling of being in control. A very crucial feeling to have especially bearing in mind that it’s your decision and you will bear the (full) consequences of the decision you make.
Some great minds and thinkers have poured out their thoughts on this matter. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart“-Steve Jobs. “Follow your heart, listen to your inner voice, stop caring about what others think.” – Roy T. Bennett. “I learned always to follow your heart.”- Tori Bowie. I do not intend to underestimate any of these and other brilliant minds which have inspired millions of people to achieve goals in life by quotes such as these. I think some of them are powerful quotes, which I have benefited from personally as well. However, is following your heart the best advice you can give to someone? Should it be the principle by which someone lives their lives? To simply follow one’s heart?
When the heart is referred to in a context such as this, it’s not the physical organ in the body that is been talked of. I think what is meant is similar to the use of the word in Greek and Hebrew cultures where, the heart, loosely put, is the location of feelings, emotions and desires. So when someone says follow your heart, what is implied is, follow your feelings, your emotions and desires. Ergo, questions like “what do you feel about this?” are not uncommon in conversations where statements like follow your heart are altered.
Still, what is the argument against following your feelings, your emotions and desires. Surely everyone can recall a moment when they followed their heart and the decision they made turned out to be the best decision of their lives or at least a good decision. I would like to give two brief answers to why I think following your heart is a bad idea.
Firstly, our emotions, desires and feelings change all the time. Even my desires for what I want to eat changes on a daily basis. One morning I wake up craving cereal and the other morning I want to have porridge. Our feelings, which can be manipulated quite easily change all the time as well. I don’t need to give an example of this. Emotions are not an exception either. A single conversation with someone can change your emotions for the entire day. A phone call or even some 30 seconds encounter with someone in the supermarket can drive someone’s emotion from one end of the spectrum to another. Is this the system that we would entrust the critical task of decision making with? Especially when those decision have a lifelong impact. I would go on further to say notions of following one’s are partly to blame for the rise in divorce prevalent everywhere in the world today. Marrying someone sorely because it feel like it and your emotions tell you its right and your desires seem to reinforce that can potentially lead to a marriage that ends in divorce. At which point, the feelings have changed, desires drifted and emotions aren’t there anymore.
Secondly, and more importantly, your heart and mine are sinful. Yes, I just said that. Your heart is wicked. Mine is too. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”- Jeremiah 17:9. The amplified bible, classic edition puts it like this: ” The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]?” In a world that promotes self esteem, positive self images and every positive word with “self” at the beginning, it is hard for us to think of ourselves as possessing wicked hearts. We cannot easily agree to the fact that our hearts are inclined toward doing evil and that left to our own vices, no good would come out of us. Jesus himself said, ” “From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). Yes it is true that we are not all equally bad but we are all bad. We have not murdered as some people have done. We have not robbed a bank or done the most extreme kind of evil in our own estimation. Nonetheless, we commit sin each day. We are selfish and consistently seeking self gratification, all of which spring from the heart. Again, Is this the system that we would entrust the critical task of decision making with?
So are we to completely disregard our hearts then? Is there an alternative? How is one going to choose a career? How is one going to make a decision about anything? I believe to make a decision, one needs information, hence the phrase “informed decision”. Where do we get this information? I would argue that there are 3 primary sources; the intellect, intuition and yes, the heart. Intellect intellect for luck of a better term is the brain. So before you make a decision, use that brain! Think it through. Analyse and weigh the implications of the decision. Consider the pros and cons as it were. Intuition in layman’s term is the “gut feeling.” We all know it. Sometimes, things just don’t feel right and you might not know why but you know its not right. Lastly the heart. Despite being wicked and evil, this is also a crucial source of information. For what would a marriage be if either or both parties do not desire to get married? What would be the meaning of marrying someone if there are no emotions involved? However, if every person followed their own heart, the world would be in chaos. So would be the result of following the intellect and intuition separately. We need a blend of all the three elements, to draw information and based on this information make an”informed decision.”
Perhaps we are made to follow our hearts. Perhaps its embedded in our inner core as humans. But how could it be if our hearts are evil? We have a solution in Christ, and the solution is simple; “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). When a person is encouraged to follow their heart, it should be this “new heart” being referred to. This heart of flesh, not inclined towards evil. What’s even better is that you can ask whatever you want directly from the giver of this new heart. So whenever there is a decision to be made, follow this new heart which will lead you to Christ. And in Christ ask, “what is it that you want me to do?” Fundamentally, whatever the decision to be made it, it should be to glorify God. He is faithful to provide all that we ask in His name.