We have all had a friend or loved one say it to us: “just follow your heart.” By “heart” (Hebrew lev or Greek cardia) we really mean the seat of human emotions or our “feelings.” On the surface “follow your heart” sounds empathic and caring, but if we are truly honest with ourselves, is that what we really mean?
There is another saying that hits closer to the mark. This saying is: “Do what feels right!” which really means, “Do what feels right for YOU.” The problem with both statements is the assumption that our feelings make a reliable moral compass. “Let your heart guide you,” we say. Perhaps the most honest version is “Do what’s best for you.”
Leading or “Following your heart”
One thing I have found about decision-making is this: If you “follow your heart” that is precisely what you do—You follow rather than lead! That will devolve into your default pattern of life—following. Leadership takes, principle, courage, and thinking. By following our feelings we typically give up our free decision making power by letting the instinctive quest for comfort dominate us.
Minimizing Pain and Maximizing Comfort
We spend an inordinate amount of energy trying to secure and maintain creature comfort rather than focusing on growth. This is (1) the minimizing of pain (2) the maximizing of comfort. By dong so, most of our decisions are made for us before we encounter them. If we habitually choose only what is convenient and most comfortable, are we really making decisions at all? Or are we just lead around by a rope tied to a ring in our nose held by the tyrannical power of our fears?
Here are some reasons not to follow your heart from both a biblical and practical point of view.
1. Your heart always wants what is best or easiest for YOU – Your heart naturally it wants what is best for you, and therefore not necessarily what is best for your neighbor. “Following your heart” is self-centered. If you follow your heart in your relationships, by and large, you will wound them. Relationships do not thrive where one person always puts self first. Above all, doing what feels best for us leads us to sin. You cannot “love your neighbor as yourself” if you are loving yourself first. Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourself is word that way because unfortunately, that is what we do best.
2. Your heart always avoids risk and squanders opportunity — We often extoll heroes who overcame great odds and challenges. Doing what feels right most often leads to timid decision making. When push comes to shove, we typically choose what is more comfortable. There is nothing that can actually be accomplished without taking risk. The most extraordinary people could often be called “shameless risk-takers.” Avoiding risk squanders opportunity and its potential rewards. As Jim Rohn has said, “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”
3. Your heart always avoids discomfort and therefore growth – Following what feels good robs us of all opportunities for growth toward maturity. No Athlete competes without the pain of practice and exercise. Muscle tissue must be broken down to be built up. The same is true for spiritual and emotional growth; it usually requires hardship. Therapist David Schnarsch has coined the term “tolerating discomfort for growth.” When we follow our heart, especially in relationships, we usually are saying no to difficulty that could expand our spiritual and emotional bandwidth for leadership, patience, compassion, understanding, and love.
The unfortunate outcome of these three points is that we give up success in almost every corner of your life—economically, professionally, relationally, and spiritually. Creativity, innovation, and breakthrough live dangerously upon the edge of risk.
Jesus had his own language for choosing the discomforting path in exchange for a better future. It is called taking up your Cross, crucifying or putting off the old self, or the mortification on the flesh. (Matthew 10:38 & 16:24; Romans 6:6; 8:13; Ephesians 4:22–24; Colossians 3:5) Jesus was the greatest leader of all because he was the greatest servant. If you want to learn to live a life of growth and significance, follow the pattern of Jesus. The true path to any success, especially spiritual and emotional success is a risky, costly, difficult, and ultimately rewarding path.
What are your thoughts? Please let us know!