By Ian D’Souza
It seems like everywhere you look, someone is urging you to “follow your heart”. TV, music, literature, internet-you name it. “Go with your gut.” “Trust your intuition.” “Do what’s right for you.” “Pursue your dreams.” “Believe in yourself.” It all amounts to pretty much the same thing:
“Follow your heart.” Anyone who faces an important decision can’t possibly go wrong, it seems, if only they’d just follow their heart. Inherent in this rhetoric is the instruction that the desires of the heart are the guide to fulfillment. Or, if you like something, then that’s your calling in life. “Follow your heart” is a creed embraced by billions of people. It’s a statement of faith in one of the great pop cultural myths of the Western world, a gospel proclaimed in many of our stories, movies, and songs.
It all seems very innocent and common sense-like and many have fallen prey to this advice. However, seen within the bigger picture, the unrelenting advice to “follow your heart” is part of our culture’s overarching perception of ‘the good life’: figure out what will make you happy, and pursue that. And whatever you do, don’t let anything or anyone (such as wows taken, financial obligations, stuffy old institutions, your own anatomy, religion, books, or logic) deter you.
Essentially, it’s a belief that your heart is a compass inside of you that will direct you to your own true destination if you just have the courage to follow it. It says that your heart is a true guide that will lead you to true happiness if you just have the courage to listen to it. In effect, what this creed subtlely states is that you are lost, you don’t know which direction to take, but just following your heart will save the day. This creed can sound so simple and beautiful and liberating. For those lost in an endless search, it’s a tempting gospel to believe.
Why We Shouldn’t Follow Our Hearts [i]
- Our hearts lie to us:The “follow your heart” creed certainly isn’t found in the Bible. The Bible actually thinks our hearts have a disease: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Jesus, the Great Physician, lists the grim symptoms of this disease: “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Mathew 15:19). This is not leadership material that you want to follow. Our hearts tell us that we should have what we want but fails to warn us of the consequences of that path. They show us a distorted view of reality and blind us to the truth.
- Our hearts are wicked. Do you remember the next part of (Jeremiah 17:9)? “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” The unredeemed heart is full of wickedness and sin, and the redeemed heart often falls too easily back into those temptations, especially when we’re leaning on our own understanding (following our heart) instead of trusting in the Lord and looking to Him for guidance.
- Our hearts are prone to idols. Our hearts stray all too easily and start to put things or people in the place of God. We start to desire something or someone more than we desire God, we hold on to something and won’t let God have it, or we start to find our identity in something or someone other than Him. And when we have idols in our hearts, our hearts will lead us towards those idols, not towards God. [An idol is anything that comes between me and God].
- Our hearts don’t know what’s truly best for us. Only God knows what is truly best for our lives. We cannot see the whole picture, and we cannot see His master plan. When we blindly follow our heart, we can easily step outside of His perfect plan. And while we think we’re providing a great future for ourselves, we could be missing out on something much more incredible than we could even imagine.
“The advice to “follow your heart” is built on a worldview that trusts each individual to know what will make them happy and what will be in their own best interests. But that trust is misplaced. A sick, mad, evil heart is an untrustworthy guide in the search for a good life”. (Geoff Robson)[ii]
“Indeed our hearts are not benevolent; they are pathologically selfish. In fact, if we do what our hearts tell us to do, we will pervert and impoverish every desire, every beauty, every person, every wonder, and every joy. Our hearts want to consume these things for our own self-glory and self-indulgence. No, our hearts will not save us. We need to be saved from our hearts” (John Bloom)[iii]
So if we shouldn’t follow our hearts, what should we follow?
This Is the Leader You Want to Follow
“Our hearts were never designed to be followed, but to be led. Our hearts were never designed to be “gods” in whom we believe; they were designed to believe in God. If we make our hearts gods and ask them to lead us, they will lead us to narcissistic misery and ultimately damnation”.[iv] They cannot save us, because what’s wrong with our hearts is the heart of our problem. But if our hearts believe in God, as they are designed to, then God saves us (Rom 10:9-10; John 3:16). Therefore, don’t believe in your heart; direct your heart to believe in God. Don’t follow your heart; follow Christ.
Though your heart will try to shepherd you today, do not follow it. It is not a shepherd. It is a mere pompous sheep that, due to an inner sin-nature, has some wolf-like qualities – often misread as leadership qualities. Don’t follow it, and be careful even listening to it. Remember, your heart only tells you what you want, not where you should go. So, only listen to it to note what it’s telling you about what you want, and then take your wants, both good and evil, to Christ in prayer.
Christ is your shepherd (Psalm 23:1; John 10:11) Listen to His voice in His word and follow Him (John 10:27). He (Christ) is The Way, The Truth and The Life (John 14:6). Further God says: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will counsel thee with mine eye upon thee” (Psalm 32:8).
When we believe in Him and follow Him, we receive a new indwelling Holy Spirit who will lead us truly in the ways that God has planned for our lives. He has a plan for every life, a plan with a future and with a hope, a plan for good and not for evil (Jeremiah 29:11-12).
[i] Linda Kardamis – Teach 4 The Heart
[ii] Geoff Robson – Stop Following the Leading of your Heart
[iii] John Bloom – Don’t Follow Your Heart