One of the things that I learned while researching the bible verses that say that “the man is the head of the woman as Jesus is head of the church” is that in the days when Paul and the rest of the bible’s writers were living, no one really knew what the brain was for. It was widely believed to be some sort of cooling system. But there were cases where brain damage caused changes in people’s behavior and abilities and no one could quite figure out how damage to the cooling system could cause the problems they were observing. So no one knew quite what to make of that. There was even one school of thought on the brain which had sperm being produced in the brain and transported to it’s destination through the nervous system. It wasn’t until the 2nd century AD that Roman physician Galen popularized the idea of the head as controlling the body and storing memories, and thus thought.
Prior to that, it was believed that the seat of thought, emotion and will was the heart. Which actually makes sense because if you’ve ever paid attention, we feel emotions in our bodies – particularly around our chest. Thoughts quickly follow from emotions and our will is determined between the two. Today we think of the heart as symbolic of our emotions, but in the Egyptian, Greek and Roman worlds, the heart was the center of not just emotion, but of thought and will as well.
So there’s your completely pointless history lesson of the day. Use it well. I’m sure you’ll be able to fascinate people at your next dinner party with it. (Make your donations to support this amazing ministry today by clicking HERE.)
Anyhow, I actually do have a point. My point is to explain to you why you should always listen to your heart. Here’s the thing about your heart: if you let it be, your heart will be 100% honest with you. It won’t always be right. You won’t always like or approve of what it has to say. But it will always be honest.
The reason I say that you should always, always, always listen to your heart is because an untrained heart can be your worst enemy and a well trained heart can be your greatest asset in life. Your heart knows exactly what you believe, deep down inside. It keeps your fears. It holds the answers you have. It knows everything. Except for the difference between what it knows and reality. That it’s not always so good at. Which is why an untrained heart can be your worst enemy.
So, how do you listen to your heart and gain access to this treasure trove of things you hardly knew that you knew? Well, the first step is to do a gut check. Just stop and pay attention to the inarticulate feeling your have in your gut about the subject at hand. It’s telling you how you really, deep down inside, honestly feel about the issue. The feeling may be completely irrational or unacceptable or seem like nonsense, which is why we usually ignore it and push it away without hardly acknowledging that its there.
As a child of God, you are no longer controlled by judgment, shame or fear, so go right ahead a take a look at whatever emotion your heart brings up. It can’t hurt you. Take just a glimpse if that’s all you can do. But start to listen to what your heart says you really feel. It will not change until it knows it’s been heard. You have to know what’s there, before you can do anything about it. Otherwise, that emotion’s going to be leading you in ways you don’t even see. And you’ll be left wondering why everything’s so hard.
Once you’ve done your gut check, you need to get real quiet with this emotion, ask yourself some questions and really listen to the answers your brain throws out at you. The first answer you get it usually the pat answer you’ve been trained to think. It’s the “right” answer that will get you brownie points at school and keep you from getting kicked out of the cool kids club. Let it pass and dig deeper. Ask yourself if you really believe what your brain is telling you. If there’s more to it. If there’s something you’re afraid of.
Make room for your heart to really have its say, explain its position and lay out what it believes. Listen closely for things that just don’t make much sense or that you have the urge to just shove away. Keep paying attention to your gut and how it’s reacting. If it’s getting stuck on fear or disgust or alarm or is reacting unexpectedly, that’s a good sign that your heart’s got some faulty programming. (We all do. It’s inevitable.)
As you do this, you will start to zoom in on things you believe in your heart that you know are not true or desirable. And once you have that information in hand, you can use it to start training your heart. First you clearly state that you reject the wrong belief and what you intend to replace it with. Confess it before God in prayer, tell a friend, write it in your journal. Do something to get your heart and your mind into agreement. Even if it’s just for a split second, that counts. Your will has been established.
Of course, the heart and the brain, just like the digestive system in old age, is a creature of habit. You cannot expect to establish your will and be done with it. Old habits can catch you before you know what you’re doing. So you have to pay attention and listen even harder, so you can catch yourself when you slip. When you do, let go of that thought or feeling as hard as you can and simply remind yourself of the truth. And then pretend that you believe what is true until you actually do.
This is how you train your heart. And a trained heart is a trustworthy heart. One that can be followed even. And that is why you should always, always, always listen to your heart.
And why you should go buy my soon to be NYT bestselling book The Upside Down World’s Guide to Enjoying the Hard Life. Cuz there’s much more where this came from. 😉