From almost every Disney movie (Mulan, Pinocchio, Peter Pan) to practically any song written by an American Idol contestant to basically anything that comes out of Hollywood we are constantly told to “follow your heart.” Should we? More specifically, should we as Christians listen to this advice? Before we answer that question, we need to answer another one first. What does that even mean, “Follow your heart?” The definition for “heart” can be somewhat muddy as often happens with terms that are used frequently without any question. Defining what the term “heart” means, from a Christian perspective is crucial in discerning this piece of advice.
In class, I learned the heart can be thought of as the command center of a person; the part of a person that controls intellectual life, emotional life, volitional life, and spiritual life. In the simplest terms, the “heart” can be thought of as “the inner man (or woman)” or the essence of personality. It is fundamental to a person; the center of their being. In the Bible, the term “heart” is used over and over again in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.
The question still remains, should I follow it? For example, should I follow my heart when I am looking for a spouse? Maybe logic and reason is better to follow? In the Bible, the term “heart” is used over and over again in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Let’s look at what the Bible says about the heart briefly…
Jeremiah 17:9- The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?
Psalm 73:21- Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.
Exodus 14:4- And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you.
Proverbs 4:23- Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
The heart can be hardened, bitter, and deceitful. Still sound like something you want to follow? Instead of following it, the Bible instructs us to guard it. I would say we guard it by balancing our “heart thoughts” with our “mind thoughts” (rational thinking; reason). Of course, we don’t want to become so rational we end up like Spock in Star Trek incapable of emotion. In an article on Psychology Today, Aaron Ben-Zeev speaks to this integration of the heart and mind when considering who our spouse will be. He says the mind deals with intellectual reasoning where the heart deals with emotional reasoning. He goes on to say that lovers usually prefer emotional reasoning over intellectual reasoning.
He states, “married people who have a forbidden romantic relationship might say that love is more significant than outdated conventions, and letting their heart have the freedom to choose is more genuine than being loyal to such conventions. In other cases, such a forbidden relationship enables people to escape a bad marriage and in the name of love to create a safe oasis outside the home so as to make home life more tolerable.”
This is where I have to disagree with what he says. If one follows their heart- their emotional reasoning- it could, in some cases, lead someone to justify an affair which is strictly against the Word of God. This is the danger of letting our heart lead. Instead, we should integrate our heart and mind as we move forward in the process of choosing a spouse and throughout it all seek wisdom from the ultimate source of wisdom- God.
Proverbs 2:6- For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
James 1:5- If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
As Christian counselors, especially marriage and family therapists may very well have a client who is in the process of seeking a spouse or trying to navigate love. It is our responsibility to not only point them away from the misleading advice the world gives on a daily basis, but know where to point them by using our knowledge of the Scripture.
In my opinion, far too many teenagers and young adults fall into the trap set by Hollywood. Following your heart is set up to be a fairy tale of epic proportions. If you follow your heart, the picture that’s painted is that you will end up in a field of flowers with your perfect lover by your side where nothing can pull you apart because you were meant for each other. Sadly, many find out that emotional reasoning, not tempered with reason and a relationship with Christ leads to hurt and pain.
Hollywood and Disney does not have the answers we seek. Don’t follow your heart, follow Christ and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4- Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.