“Listen to Your Heart”

“Listen to your heart.” We spent a few days discussing this oft-spoken mantra in my World Literature course at the university my senior year. At the time we were dissecting Romanticism. I wrote a short paper on the song of the same name made popular by DHT when I was in high school. It’s something we hear so much that it has almost become automatic advice that people give each other – we hear it all the time in movies, particularly the romantic variety, and in music, and plays, and books, and the list goes on.

But is it really sound advice for living? I would argue generally “no.” Not because I’m calloused, but because I’ve learned the hard way through the years that our hearts are often faulty judges of reality. Emotions are inherently good; I believe them to be a gift from God for us to experience life more fully. But like any good thing, too much is still too much. And God also gave us the ability to reason, use logic, and seek wisdom. It’s meant to form a balance in us.

The other day I was having a conversation about grad school and passion with a close friend of mine. When he expressed that he wasn’t sure what he was passionate enough about (within his general field of study, which happens to be music) to want to pursue a further (not to mention expensive and time consuming!) education in, I jokingly asked him, “What does your heart tell you?” He looked at me seriously and said, “My heart doesn’t really talk to me much.” The statement was simple, and it made total sense to him, but it completely threw me for a loop.

What do you mean, your heart doesn’t talk to you? My heart won’t shut up! 

Perhaps it’s the difference in male/female wiring, or perhaps it goes deeper than that to our deeply-entrenched-in-the-ideals-of-romanticism culture we’ve grown up around us (thanks a lot, Lord Byron!), but somehow I’ve ended up with a very confused set of tips on how to make sound decisions. Although, thanks to Dr. Webster’s class and the thoughts of other wise people who have been pouring into me over time in recent years, I’ve been able to find better footing. I’m slowly learning not to jump into things just because it “feels” like a good idea. I’m weighing and measuring a lot more, and although this is a good thing overall, I’m worried that I’m becoming a bit too stoic; a little too good at not expressing my feelings because I don’t want to be that unhinged emotional female that gets such a bad rap. Because I’m forcing the head over heart mentality, my feelings are being masked and few people really know my true insides.

I’m still shocked that my friend’s “heart” doesn’t talk – where does he get his emotional insight? What is it like to think through things that come up without the cloudy veil that “heart thinking” causes? I feel like it would be freeing in some ways if I could truly get to that point, but difficult in others.

Again, I think it comes back to finding the balance I was talking about between emotions and logic/reason. Passion for something can live and be developed in the brain, to be sure – some of the most passionate people I know are the way they are with whatever they’re pursuing because they’ve put their minds to those things and pressed forward to achieve excellence. But passion also bubbles up from the heart. I think what we need to do – what I need to do, anyway – is find that place where we can ask our hearts and our brains the same questions and learn to discern where the meeting point between the two is.

In the meantime, I need to ask around and find out how I can train my heart to make its declarations a little more quietly, while still letting it speak. 🙂