Why Following Your Heart Is a Really Bad Idea

ThereÍs a difference between following your heart and being led by God.

BY SHANE PRUITT GOD April 15, 2015

“You just need to follow your heart!” How many times have we been given this statement as a piece of good advice?

Culture tells us this is the ultimate determiner in making decisions: “What is your heart telling you to do?”

In seeking out help, wisdom and guidance, we’ll speak to loved ones, people we look up to and respect, or even professional counselors, and all the conversations end with the same sort of counsel: “At the end of the day, you just need to do what your heart tells you to.”

Now that advice may be well-meaning by someone who believes it’s true, or perhaps by someone who doesn’t know what else to say, or even worse, it’s lazily given by someone with a dismissive attitude wanting to move on from the conversation. However, if this is how we make life-altering decisions about topics like career path, which school to attend, relationships, when to speak up or when to stay silent, shouldn’t we really consider what that overused statement really means?

What We’re Following

What does it really mean to “follow your heart”?

First of all, we must ask ourselves, “What is the heart? And is it something beyond the muscle that pumps blood through our veins to the rest of the body?”

According to Hebrew and Greek cultures, the heart actually represents the location of our feelings, desires and emotions. So if we break down the statement “follow your heart”, it would go something like this:

Follow: Implies that something/someone is going to lead me.
Your heart: According to this statement, what’s going to lead me is my heart. My feelings, desires and emotions are going to be my guide.

How horrifically dangerous is it to follow our feelings, desires, and emotions? Those things change all the time. They can change with a phone call, a word of criticism or a traffic jam. If we truly followed them, we’d be all over the map with our decisions. Unfortunately, many of us are just that, all over the map. Completely lost.

The Bible also has a lot to say about the heart. In fact, it mentions the heart a little over 300 times. In its natural state, the heart is deceitful, sick and no one can understand it. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus pointed out the fallen condition of our hearts, “From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23).

If a person was described with the above characteristics, would you be signing up to follow them? Of course not! No sane person would. Why then would we ever follow our heart that is described in this exact way by the One who created it and knows it best?

A New Kind of Heart

Because of the above truths, Jesus had to give us a new heart at the point of our salvation. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).” You might even say that Jesus was the first one to perform a heart transplant surgery.

Therefore, we should follow the Great Heart Surgeon. This would be a great campaign movement: Don’t follow your heart; follow Jesus. Follow His Word, and His Holy Spirit that has been given to us as believers. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever (John 14:16).”

This is the method that God has given us in making decisions when asking those all-important questions: What should I do? When should I stay, or when should I go? When do I speak up, and when do I listen? Jesus has given us His Spirit. The Spirit (our Helper) that now dwells inside of us speaks to us through His Word. He leads me. He answers my questions, and shows me the truth of the Bible.

Why is the Bible aspect so important? It’s important because whatever is being told to me has to align with the Word. I can rest assured that He will never lead me to do anything that is contrary to it! I don’t follow my heart. The Holy Spirit leads my heart. I’m following Jesus as He is constantly shaping and molding my heart through the power of His Spirit and the tool of His Word.

The battle is always remembering truth. When my heart tries to bow up to Jesus, desperately wanting to be the boss and leader again, I can know that He is stronger than my heart. Thank God for this great encouragement in the daily war: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

My prayer is this: Lord, don’t let me follow my heart. Instead, You lead my heart to do Your will.

This article was adapted with permission from alreadyam.com.

Shane Pruitt

SHANE PRUITT

Husband, Father, Director of Missions for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Writer & Communicator. www.shanepruitt.com Instagram and Twitter: @shane_pruitt78

One thought on “Why Following Your Heart Is a Really Bad Idea

  1. I understand the guardrail this article is trying to put up. I am grateful for someone willing to challenge what might be leading people in the wrong direction. There’s a genuine risk of telling someone to follow their heart but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

    The question’s whether Jesus actually transformed our hearts or is that a theory? If Jesus made my heart new and I am “new creation” then my heart is no longer on the default setting of “against God.” My new default setting is “love God.” This change how we see our heart and emotions. While we don’t let our emotions rule us, we can’t ignore that according to Proverbs 4:23 we’re meant to guard our heart not ignore our heart.

    I think we can be subject to poor thinking or deception but the answer isn’t to ignore our heart. We can’t say emotions = heart and not let our heart have it’s place in our life.

    Jesus’ was set on loving God with all His heart and according to Scripture I have the same heart because it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. My heart is no longer the problem, the cross took care of that for me. It’s whether I live according to my true identity and follow the Father. I am not battling against my flesh and blood but principalities and powers that want to derail me.

    I think it’s a great idea to give a guardrail to not letting ourselves be ruled by the wrong thing. I commend the genuine desire to see people follow Jesus completely. I only ask we take some of the New Testaments perspective on who I am now into account. Just thoughts 🙂 Thanks for writing the article!

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