Why You Should Always, Always, Always Listen to Your Heart

keep-calm-and-listen-to-your-heart-35One 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: Continue reading

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Being Kind Without Being Hurt

My mother always taught me that you can never go wrong being kinder than necessary. I believe that this is true and have tried to live my life with that perspective. However, this outlook can also leave you vulnerable to being mistreated. It’s why a lot of people are hesitant to be kinder. However, if we’re all focused on avoiding being hurt, it makes it very hard for being kind to become normal rather than exceptional.

Avoiding being hurt is a legitimate concern, of course. Jesus told us to love other “as we love ourselves”, not “instead of loving ourselves”. It is not good or healthy to extend kindness to others at the expense of our own mental and emotional wellbeing. And yet, unless you want to continue living in with the results of human being protecting themselves at the expense of other human beings, we must learn to do a better job extending kindness.

I have a simple trick I use which allows me to take the risk of being kinder than necessary or called for without leaving myself open to being unduly harmed in the process. Before I take a risk or extend kindness and forgiveness to someone who may not deserve it or be trustworthy, I do a quick gut check. I simply imagine the worst case response from the other person and see what my gut level reaction to the idea is. Hopefully I’ll realize that the worst case scenario isn’t so bad after all. I can take the risk of being kinder than called for, confident that I can deal with whatever result I get.

On the other hand, if do my gut check and realize that I’m unwilling or unable to deal with the worst case scenario, I respect my own limitations and refrain from taking the step I was considering. Of course, there have been days where I have decided not to make phone calls simply because I knew that I wasn’t up for dealing with the possibility that the person I’m calling would ignore/refuse my call. Which is healthy when your emotions are particularly fragile. But as I said earlier, the goal isn’t simply for us to self protect. The goal is to be kinder than necessary without doing harm to ourselves.

So, if I do my gut check and realize that I’m not up for dealing with a negative outcome, I consider why that would be. And if there’s anything I can do about it. Sometimes I just need to give myself a little pep talk. Sometimes I realize that I have an unhealthy attachment to the other person’s approval which I should be doing something about. Or maybe I have a fear I need to hand over to God. On occasion, I’ve just had enough of someone’s crap and am perfectly entitled to take a break from dealing with it.

Ideally, I would be out in the world just spreading kindness with the joy of the Dali Lama and not a care in the world. If I’m not able to do that (and I’m not. Neither are you), that’s a sign that I’m still a work in progress. There’s room for growth and healing. Being conscious of when kindness is a struggle rather than something I do with ease actually increases my ability to be kinder than necessary.

Sure, this approach means that in the short term, I may hold back more than I ideally would. But it also creates a safe place for me to expand my boundaries. And I’m not going to find myself in a position where I’ve been so hurt or traumatized by someone who responds to my kindness by being a jerk that I’m hesitant to try it again. So, who knows? Maybe one day I will be able to go around spreading kindness without a care in the world. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world filled with people like that?

Moving From “Me” to “We”

If you are an American Christian, odds are really, really good that at some point you have been told that as you read scripture, you should try inserting your name for the word “you” in parts of scripture where Israel or God’s people are being addressed. So, I could read, “Rebecca shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of her God. No longer will they call Rebecca Deserted, or name her land Desolate. But Rebecca will be called Hephzibah, and her land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in Rebecca, and her land will be married.” (Isaiah 62:4) It’s not a terrible idea; sometimes we do need help personalizing scriptures and realizing that the love expressed applies to ourselves. Of course, if you do this, eventually you will end up with something like “Rebecca also took her beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given her, and made for herself male images that she might play the harlot with them.” (Ezekial 16:17) Which is a little too personal maybe.

Now, if your pastors/teachers are any good at all, they have probably also taught you that in nearly all of the places where God speaks to “you” or even where Paul and Jesus address “you”, unless a specific person is being addressed, the word used indicates a plural you. So it’s more of a “y’all” than “you, Rebecca, sitting over there eating jelly beans.” This ought to be obvious as usually the word “you” is being used to address the nation of Israel or an entire church or the group of people being spoken to. But we Americans are notoriously hyper-individualistic. So with or without a anyone’s encouragement, we do tend to read scripture as if it were speaking to us individuals rather than to a collective group.

A while back, I became convicted that the hyper-individualistic programming of our culture isn’t compatible with Christianity. I matter as an individual, but I am also part of a larger body. My life is not for me alone, but for the good of God’s Kingdom – a Kingdom which encompasses all of creation. If I see my life and my faith as primarily about me, I am very much mistaken.

What I came to realize is that countering hyper-individualism isn’t just a matter of prioritizing social justice or even church fellowship. Rather hyper-individualism hides very deep truths about our identities, our purpose and even the meaning of our lives from us. Because the truth is that my life isn’t about “me”. My life and your life and the life of every other human on the planet is about “we”.

Now, that might sound like some new-agey, mumbo-jumbo, but it’s actually very deeply embedded in scripture. Continue reading