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What's Wrong With "Following Your Heart"?

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In movies and songs, and as advice from actors, singers, and celebrities, we often hear the messages: “Follow your heart” and “Trust your feelings.” Some extol the supposed virtues of listening to their “sixth sense” or their “psychic intuition.” Does the fact that we feel something make it so? Is it generally a good idea to trust our feelings? Or, could doing so get us into real trouble?

Moods, feelings, and intuition can be uncertain, confusing, misleading—and even at times dangerous. Some feelings can leave us high and almost euphoric, while others can bring us down into darkness and depression. Some of our feelings come from happy, joyous thoughts, while others come from sorrowful, angry, or fearful thoughts. Situations, circumstances, and events can shape our moods and feelings. How far can such feelings be trusted? Should we make decisions based on what we feel?

It is easy to let our feelings affect how we interpret what we see and hear. “Was that a funny look she gave me? Were they talking about me? Are they avoiding me? Doesn’t he like me? Are they out to get me? I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” These and countless other fears and suspicions may feed our feelings. At the other extreme, uplifting feelings may lead us to think we have found a friend, or even a future husband or wife, based on brief emotional excitement. At either extreme, emotions can distort reality and obscure our ability to see clearly what is happening—they can even convince us to dismiss plain evidence that may be contrary to our feelings.

Later, of course, when emotions have cooled and we again see things more rationally, we may ask ourselves, “What was I thinking? How could I have been so silly?” Once we have taken the time to gather the facts and examine the source of our fear or our excitement, we may discover that our feelings were leading us in a dangerous direction.

Some people believe very strongly in their powers of intuition. They may say, “I have a sixth sense, a good intuition. I can sense things.” Intuition is defined as a direct perception of truth or fact, independent of any reasoning process. Consider that definition again: “Independent of any reasoning process”! Does that sound like something that will work out well?

God has given the human mind the ability to infer and form “hunches” from incomplete bits of information. Yet, we should always be careful not to take our hunches as if they were facts. A mere “hunch” needs further sharpening with investigation, fact-finding, and thorough analysis before we can be fully confident in any conclusions we may draw.

But what about “feeling spiritual”? Is true religion a “feel-good” emotional experience? On the one hand, we know that God’s way brings satisfaction and happiness. Yet if we think we can find our way by “feeling” we need to consider carefully some timeless biblical warnings:

  • “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26).
  • “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Proverbs 18:2).
  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Thankfully, God promises to write His laws in the hearts of those who have received the Holy Spirit. “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them” (Hebrews 10:16). God’s law brings happiness to those who follow it (Proverbs 29:18). One sign of Christian maturity is that our feelings more and more are in harmony with what God has so clearly laid out in Scripture. “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Psalm 37:31). And when one carefully applies this path, they learn to truly appreciate what it means to have a spirit "of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

Avoid the pitfalls that so many suffer in life from just following their feelings and making poor choices. Watch the Tomorrow's World program "How to Make Better Decisions" and start letting God's ways lead you to greater understanding.

  Originally Published: 14th June 2012