The instruction to “follow your heart” is one of the most popular and widely spread pieces of advice the world tells us today. We are often told to “trust our instincts” and to “do what makes us happy.” This type of advise not only is usually received with open arms, but most feel very wise and altruistic when sharing such platitudes with others. The instruction to follow our heart is popularized not only in the secular world, but even in many Christian circles as well.
I’m reminded of two very popular quotes by Steve Jobs on the subject:
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.“
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.“
Steve Jobs, who especially after his death in 2011, has become a pop-culture icon, has had two feature films made about him. He created one of the most successful companies in the world, yet when you learn about his personal life you clearly see that it was full of some very sad realities. “Following his heart” while building Apple Computers caused him to deny paternity of his daughter, even with a DNA test showing 94% accuracy, and mistreat her mother for years on end. We all too often see mega-successful businesses, sports and entertainment icons with personal lives full of strife, division and other negative behaviors.
So what does the Bible have to say on this subject?
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
“He that trust with in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” – Proverbs 28:26
By simply studying the Scriptures we see once again that true spiritual wisdom is quite the opposite from what the world tells us on this matter. If there’s one common theme we can see throughout the entire Bible it is that man’s heart is corrupt. The sin-nature drives most people’s behavior. Human nature is hostile toward God, and in fact our natural inclination towards things is usually in direct opposition to God and His kingdom agenda.
Consider these Scriptures as well:
“There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” – Proverbs 14:12
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5
“Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:” – Jeremiah 9:23
Simply put, the Bible makes it clear that to trust in one’s own wisdom or feelings is to trust in a liar.
If we simply take some time to reflect on our own lives, undoubtedly we can think of times our own heart has led us astray. This is something that, unfortunately, the world at large doesn’t do. To “muse” means to “reflect deeply on a subject.” Most instead choose to be “amused,” or to simply shut off their brains and do something that allows them to not have to think.
When I muse on my past, I think of how I used to consider myself such a great judge of character. I was proud of how I always saw the best in people. However, on countless occasions this backfired on me. Following my heart and looking at the world with my overly optimistic, rose-colored glasses simply made me unable to see people for who they truly were–myself included. I spent years with someone I called my “best friend” only to be taken advantage of time and time again by this person who simply used me to feed their own addictions and selfish habits.
I blindly followed someone into business for over half a decade thinking this person would help me accomplish my selfish ambitions only to realize too late that I was being taken advantage of by this person for his own financial gain. My own ego caused to me go into an intimate relationship with someone who was clearly a manipulator and spent their whole life using people for personal means. And I was too blind to see it until it was too late.
Johan Wolfgang von Goethe said: “Each one sees what he carries in his own heart.” Unfortunately, my entire adult life living without Christ, I can see now that because I lacked God’s gift of true spiritual discernment, my heart led me down a path of heartache, pain and frustration time and time again. I quoted this verse in a recent post and oh how much pain I would have saved myself had I known such godly wisdom in my youth:
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.” – Ecclesiastes 11:9
We can live our whole life following the “feel-good” platitudes the world throws at us, and the reality is that we might in fact accomplish massive worldly success by “following our heart.” However, the sobering truth is that by doing so we might be simply setting ourselves up for God’s wrath. We must always remember this verse:
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” – Hebrews 9:27
When our time on this earth ends we face the judgement of a holy and righteous God. He sees everything in our lives, not just our actions, but our thoughts. We must make sure that we choose to seek God’s will, to seek godly wisdom and learn not to trust in our own heart, but to seek God’s vantage point as we make choices in life. To follow one’s heart is to trust a liar, yet to follow Christ is to trust the truth.
In what ways has following your heart in the past led you astray? How can you more deeply seek out God’s perspective as you navigate through life?