The concept of love that is extremely popular in Western society happens to be equally dangerous. There are many dangerous things that are easy for us to point out: a snake whose tail starts to rattle, a man with his gun pointed at you, a car when the driver loses control. But when we start to talk about spiritual danger, things get blurry. So here’s the dreadfully dangerous concept: Follow your heart. It sounds charming and innocent. But it is the sweet Sirens’ song that has led too many to death. It has devastated couples; it has broken fiancés; it has destroyed marriages; it has ripped apart families. And it continues to do so. Constantly.
The concept “follow your heart” is only dangerous because of the little word that is implied afterwards: “always!” In reality, the fact that your heart moves you is not bad; it is beautiful. But because of a slight inconvenience called original sin (sarcasm intended), our hearts often get confused, in the best case, and in the worst, perverted.
An enflamed heart can lead to the heights of Christian charity, or the depths of human misery. The courageous heart of a mother impels her to jump into the flames to rescue her child, while the immature heart of a teenage girl impedes her from breaking up with her drug-dealing-subtly-abusive boyfriend because, “He needs my help,” or the classic, “I know he’s going to change for me!” While one heart is overflowing with selfless love, the other is shrunken by tragic naivete.
The solution is relatively simple… in theory at least. Follow your heart when it leads you to good places. And walk—or sprint—in the other direction when it does not. Of course the difficulty comes when you have to discern whether the places your heart is leading you towards are good. The difficulty is accented when you consider that movements of the heart are accompanied often by a certain clouding of the intellect: in some cases because the desire transcends the intellect, but in most, because it contradicts the intellect. That's why prayer is crucial in these situations: not a prayer of petition in this case, but a prayer of utter sincerity and total abandonment before the Lord. That means willingness to ignore or cut off certain feelings or movements of the heart if they are leading us away from Him—and willingness to embrace them if they lead us towards Him or towards His will for us. Spiritual direction is another tool the Lord gives us to discern the movements of our hearts.
In the next few articles I’m going to continue reflecting on the “follow-your-heart-always” mentality.