Heart work is hard work. But not the kind of physically straining, stay late at the office kind of hard. Its hard because it requires us to do things that we don’t normally do, to ask questions that we don’t normally ask, and to make ourselves vulnerable to people in ways we never have before.
Starting the work of heart is tough because often there are heart-issues we have had for so many years that have gone unchecked. Its hard to figure out where these seemingly random and unprovoked flashes of emotion are coming from. Sometimes they are more subtle, playing in the background like the soundtrack to a movie, having become a permanent lens through which we assess interactions and situations. Its hard to see things that have been a part of us for so long.
Heart work begins with listening. Its hard because it requires a different kind of listening. It involves studying your reaction to certain things. We all have different triggers that touch on the deep places inside of us. Think through the situations that caused you to react in that way: what was said? How was it said? How would you label your feelings in that moment? Sometimes this involves keeping a journal of your thoughts throughout the day. What most psychologists will say is that a lot of problem emotions stem from problem thinking. There are ‘tapes’ that we’ve been playing in our minds … rehearsed negativity … and some of us have been playing those tapes for years. “You’re not good enough.” “You deserve more.” “You’re entitled to more.” It isn’t always the events themselves that cause us to react the way we do, but our interpretation of those events. And many times our interpretation stems from some insecurity, the tapes we’ve been playing in our minds, and some problematic thought process that isn’t even grounded in reality. Get out the stethescope and listen to your heart. What’s going on in there?
Heart work involves making yourself vulnerable with others. Most of the heart-problems in my life I realized were things that I was completely blind to but to everyone else around me they were painfully obvious. That’s how it is. Everyone around you sees it. Often no one will say anything because you haven’t given them permission to. Pick one person and give them full permission to speak directly into your insecurities … into your heart. The people who live with you, work with you, interact with you have critically vital information that you need in order to diagnose your heart problems. Want to know how to get that information from them? You ask. It can be insanely awkward. Have a glass of wine first if you need to, but ask.
Heart work involves naming root issues. You have to put a name to what is going on in your heart before you can ever receive healing. There are a few foundational heart problems out of which a lot of other ones come. I think they are anger, guilt, jealousy, greed, and pride. Out of these issues come a whole host of other issues, and until we confront these things that have been lurking in the darkness, underneath the surface of our filters, we can never receive healing. Until you do the hard work of listening, inviting vulnerability, and naming these issues, you can never even make a dent in the work of heart.
Heart issues may seem like things that are impossible to overcome. I believe in a God who wants to heal our hearts. He wants to show you what’s in the darkness, to speak his word of truth into your hearts and illuminate its hidden chambers. He is a God who “judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart,” (Heb. 4:12) This can be absolutely uncomfortable, painful, and horrific at times, and when you reveal those things, your external world might temporarily become exponentially more complex, but in your inner world, you will finally have peace. You don’t have to do this alone. Get out the stethescope. Listen to God. Listen to yourself. Listen to others.
You might be surprised at what you find hiding in the darkness…