Today’s culture is obsessed with feelings.
“What’s your heart telling you?”
“Do what makes you happy…Do what feels right”
These are things I constantly hear and see—from blog posts to articles to celebrity advice—everyone is always telling us to follow the internal-emotion-hub that is our hearts. Hey, if that’s what you feel in the moment, then why not?
I used to live by this mantra. When the phrase, “YOLO” became popular (back before it was uncool, ha) I was all over it. You only live once, people! Just go do…whatever it is you feel like doing!
And I get it…it sounds…well, good. We all exist for the sole purpose of feeling happy, don’t we?
The truth is, my friends, the more I did whatever I felt like, the more crappy I ended up feeling in the end. The more I tried to chase the brightly colored butterfly (who never seemed to land in catching-distance) named Happiness, the more frustrated and down-right unhappy I felt… and here’s why:
I never was able to stinkin’ keep up with what my bi-polar-esque heart ever wanted.
The struggle was ever so real.
A few months ago I received a call from someone dear to me who lives a very different lifestyle than I do. I was surprised to be asked for advice:
“So…I want to leave my girlfriend. I’ve been seeing someone else on the side. I just don’t know what to do. We’ve been together so long. I can’t tell her what’s been going on, it’ll break her heart. I’m torn. What do I do?” this person pleaded.
I responded with what would seem like a typical answer, “What’s your heart telling you to do?”
“Well…ummm, I don’t know. Yesterday I thought I….well…I don’t know anymore…I guess…” before this person could even finish, I interrupted with an unexpected, “DO THE OPPOSITE.”
“What did your heart tell you the last time you were with the person you’ve been with for a while?” I probed.
“To stay with her…”
“What did your heart tell you the last time you were with the new person that’s got you all mixed up?”
“To leave my girlfriend and be with this new person…”
“Exactly, your heart is emotional. Emotions are as flaky as biscuits [I stole that line from Mary Karr’s Liar’s Club...heh, sorry]. Your heart doesn’t really know what it wants…one minute it’s one thing and the next minute it’s the other, see?” I continued.
“Hm….okay. Well, then, what do I do?”
“Follow your mind. What’s the soundest, soberest, best decision your mind could make, sans all the emotions? What’s your mind telling you to do?" I questioned.
“Tell the truth, I guess. I should tell the truth. My mind is telling me to be honest. I don’t want to be, but I guess that’s what my mind knows to do best.”
“BOOM. Do that. Honesty is always the best choice.”
You see friends, we are emotional people. And when our emotions are filtered through rightful, sober judgment, they can be a good thing—an incredible thing, even. Emotions are the wings that give life flight. They keep us human. Emotions that are under control can make something that’s pretty from a distance, become beautiful and way more appreciated up close (like a [controlled] butterfly garden—you can appreciate those colorful and fluttering little bugs when there’s thousands of them circling about and landing on your shoulder).
But a person controlled by their emotions is like a rabid beast roaming around, hungry, looking for the next meal to devour—no judgment, no reason, just pure animalistic reactions. Think about common evils in the world—anger and lust, for example. Think about victims who have been hurt—raped or even killed by those who can’t control their fits of rage, or their eruptions of lustfulness. It’s a terrifying reality.
Folks, this is the sad truth: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Honestly, this was one of the best pieces of life-advice I ever received from Scripture. And while Scripture’s purpose isn’t solely to give us life-advice, we are pretty dang blessed we get such a rich book that lays everything out for us. When I first read that verse I nearly slammed the Book shut and stared at the wall in amazement. Holy moly, it made perfect sense.
It explained why I was such an emotional-wreck. Why I seemed to have pissed so many people off in the past, or why I burned so many bridges. I just couldn’t control that dang heart. It also explained partly why this world is such a hot-mess. Not only are we constantly giving in to our disaster-ridden, roller-coaster of emotions, but we seem to worship the idea—blinded to the truth that it’s killing us. The phrase “follow your heart” is the mantra of our age, and we wonder why things seem to keep getting more hostile, more messy.
Maybe it’s time to change that. Maybe it’s time to stop living off our feels, and start following the sober judgment of our minds (well, when they’re at their soberest, of course). Maybe it’s time to stop reacting and start responding (the best piece of advice my therapist once gave me).
One of the most brilliant movies of our time comes in the form of a brightly colored animation: Inside Out. Don’t let Anger, or Sadness, or Disgust, or Fear get a hold of that button so quick…let Joy (or Jesus, heh, see what I did there?) be the one in control…ready to push at a moment’s notice.