Follow your heart!
How many times have we heard this? From romantic movies to motivational speakers, they’re all telling us (and certainly our young people) to follow our hearts.
But is this really good advice? More importantly, is it biblical?
We could do anything we want in the name of “following our hearts” and in fact, many have made damaging life decisions based on this single piece of awful advice. How many teenage girls have given away their purity in the name of “following their hearts?” How many spouses have walked away from an unhappy marriage? How many men have become workaholics as they follow their hearts in a vain attempt to attain the American dream?
No, we most certainly should not follow our hearts, and we must teach our children and students to beware of this dangerous way of thinking.
Why We Shouldn’t Follow Our Hearts
- Our hearts lie to us. According to Jeremiah 17:9, our hearts are deceitful above all things. They trick us. They tell us that we should have what we want but fail to warn us of the consequences of that path. They show us a distorted view of reality and blind us to the truth. As I discuss this with teenage girls, I often ask if they know anyone who is blindly dating an awful guy that everyone else knows is an idiot. I always get a sea of hands in response. It’s easy to see when others are being led astray by their lying hearts, but it’s not as easy for us to see it when it’s happening to ourselves. That’s why we cannot trust our hearts.
- Our hearts are wicked. Do you remember the next part of Jeremiah 17:9? “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” The unredeemed heart is full of wickedness and sin, and the redeemed heart often falls too easily back into those temptations, especially when we’re leaning on our own understanding (following our heart) instead of trusting in the Lord and looking to Him for guidance.
- Our hearts are prone to idols. Our hearts stray all too easily and start to put things or people in the place of God. We start to desire something or someone more than we desire God, we hold on to something and won’t let God have it, or we start to find our identity in something or someone other than Him. And when we have idols in our hearts, our hearts will lead us towards those idols, not towards God. [If you’re wondering if you have idols in your life, check out my post Can Good Things Become Our Idols?]
- Our hearts don’t know what’s truly best for us. Only God knows what is truly best for our lives. We cannot see the whole picture, and we cannot see His master plan. When we blindly follow our heart, we can easily step outside of His perfect plan. And while we think we’re providing a great future for ourselves, we could be missing out on something much more incredible than we could even imagine.
So if we shouldn’t follow our hearts, what should we follow? As we counsel our children and students, what advice should we teach them to heed?
Leading Our Hearts by Following the Truth
- Follow God’s Word. God’s truths are unchanging and relevant for every aspect of life. If our heart is leading us to do something that is contrary to God’s Word, God’s Word should win every time.
- Follow the advice of wise counselors. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” We normally tend to think we’re right, even when we’re wrong. One of the best ways to find the truth is to seek the advice of wise counselors. For teens, this should be wise adults such as parents, grandparents, teachers, or youth workers, not their best friend who always tells them what they want to hear.
- Follow the leading of the Spirit. God’s Spirit lives inside us and will guide us according to His plan, but we have to learn to listen to Him. I’ve recently been making a concerted effort to try to listen to His leading even in small decisions. I think for a while I knew that wisdom came from God’s Word, but I somehow missed the fact that God wants to guide us directly through His Spirit. As we learn to hear His voice, we will find a perfect peace in knowing that we are following His plan.
With this concept in mind, doesn’t Proverbs 3:5 take on a whole new meaning? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding.” Instead of following our heart (leaning on our own understanding), we must instead lead our heart to trust the Lord and His plan for us.
Have you ever been told to follow your heart? What did you think of this advice? How do you teach your children to follow God instead of their deceitful hearts?
Photo by EnekoMenica