So long story short, I was in Target a couple weeks before Valentine's Day and within my first two minutes in the store, I saw both of these:
It struck me as ironic at the time (which is probably why I took pictures) because the little girl's shirt was my daughter's size. My daughter had been having especially bad behavior that day and I had spent most of the day trying to help her reign in her natural tendencies for drama, attention-seeking, and selfishness. She had been following her little crooked heart already, and it was making our home an unhappy place. She was not in need of more heart-following encouragement, she was in need of exactly the opposite! It made me chuckle at the time to think about the conversations that such a gift could theoretically produce.
(Mom, can I hit my brother because he farted in the same room as me? Sure, honey, just follow your heart. Mom, can I eat my boogers? Sure, honey, if that is what your heart is telling you to do. Mom, can I have ice cream for breakfast? Sure, if that is what your heart desires, go for it!)
It sounds funny to us because we can quickly recognize "Follow Your Heart" as bad advice in these little petty instances. But for some reason, when it comes to the big make-or-break moments in life, even adults often can't see the harm in thinking this way.
This all came to mind again yesterday when I heard of a very a bad thing. Yesterday I heard of another husband's suspected infidelity.
Every time I hear of something like this, my mind goes through the following thought process.
1. Why would he think he could actually get away with something like that? Doesn't he know that these things always seem to be exposed?
2. What an idiot.
3. How could a human being do that to his family?
4. What an idiot.
5. Whoever the other person is, she is not better than his wife. In fact, I would like to tell him this myself.
6. What is he thinking? What an idiot!
And then when I get done being indignant, I remember that yes, he is an idiot. And yes, human beings are idiots. And no, he is not thinking.
He is just following his heart.
Now I know what you might be saying (especially the ladies). That unfaithful guy isn't following his heart. He's following his *ahem*... something else.
Perhaps. But perhaps not.
Perhaps because of how our bodies are wired, it's not always possible for us to distinguish between our heart and our hormones. And perhaps because of how our bodies are wired, even if we can distinguish a difference at first, it may only take one physical act (or one mental fantasy, or one friendship gone awry) to get us to the point where our hearts are now very much involved with our hormones. Human beings are frail and our hearts are easily confused and anyone who has ever been tempted in this way will tell you that it doesn't take much to get us to the point where "follow your heart" literally now means "cheat on your spouse." (And no, ladies... this does not just apply to men. We can do this too, so be careful.)
Now affairs pretty much never end well, and us adults should all know that. Maybe we should see the carnage coming a mile away, but often we don't. I have to think that perhaps part of why we don't is because we have become conditioned to embrace destructive slogans like this to begin with. The Bible says: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). You can call it cynical and negative, but I am pretty sure that I've seen enough people making terrible decisions to know that the biblical analysis of our human state is far more accurate than the one from the Target dollar bin.
Sometimes "Follow Your Heart" can be sound advice, when our hearts desire things that are good and pure and completely acceptable. But since there are just as many times when our hearts desire something that they should not (be it in the realm of marital fidelity or something else entirely), I wish we would think a little bit harder about the cutesy slogans that we embrace. It may sound innocent enough, but even an innocent-sounding half-truth can come full-circle fairly quickly in the form of a big lie and cause all sorts of collateral damage in the meantime.
We would be far better served if we taught our children, and ourselves, to follow Christ instead of our hearts. In doing so, He will grant us our heart's pure desires and protect us from the ones that might look good on a T-shirt but in reality will only cause us - and those around us - pain.