Thursday, December 25, 2014

"Follow Your Heart" Is Bad Advice

Years ago I bought a black and white print that says "Follow Your Heart" and in it's sleek contemporary black frame and shiny glass I hung it in my bathroom by my sink.

That print now sits gathering dust in a closet. It's funny and bewildering how our perspective can change over time and maybe what we at one time thought was a viable even valid quote now rings as empty to our ears and not bearing fruit. When I overhear women discussing whether to stay in a relationship or not and one of them advises "Follow your heart…" I cringe.

Twenty years ago I myself would have naively and erroneously thought "Oh, how sweet. So true." But now… not so much. What about weighing patterns, observing actions, determining maturity, compatibility and partnership and if you actually like, admire and respect a person? What about determining whether they are a follower of Christ and their life reflects it? Aren't those all oh so importantly vital? Follow your heart wears out, follow your heart means fickle and changing like the wind… because follow your heart means relying on emotions and if my emotion is swell right now… what's not to like? Full speed ahead with following my heart (!)… until one day I wake up and look over at this person and realize I settled for what I wanted right then instead of holding out for who was best suited long term… <gasp>, maybe what God wanted. It's risky following your heart as it leads to loss and heartache, not fruit and life.

I wish I could go 
back and tell 
my twenty-something self 
all this but it's too late. 
I believe one of the worst things 
we can ever utter to a teenager 
or twenty something year old young woman
 or man is: 
"Follow Your Heart." 

If we look to the short term like following our heart we can incur unfinished results, maybe even devastating outcomes… we get bored with of-the-moment-hobbies, we get lazy with projects, we become disengaged. But following what is important to us? Or who is important to us? Meaning following Christ? Following something worthwhile that will bring positive longterm change to one person or to many? Doing something with passionate joy that will bring glory to God? He and those are what matter and are for the long-haul.

Following our heart means: 
this feels great, what the heck, let's just go with it, YAY!

Following our heart when it comes to love can lead us astray and into a terrible mess. Following our heart can lead to choosing spouses and marriages that aren't really right for us… leading to divorce, broken families and disarray. Post divorce we all perhaps feel a bit banged up, some more than others… hindsight may be 20/20 and part of us may really want to find someone special at some point… but that as we all know can bring many challenges. Men and women may both take one path post divorce that entails swearing off the opposite sex, deciding it's just not worth the effort and the risk of getting burned again… or they may go the opposite direction… and jump in the deep end, following their heart again… and like some sort of chaotic bumper car recklessly bounce off from one relationship to the next trying to "make something work." Or maybe they step out with caution not really sure what to do… comparable to attempting to finding their footing on uneven land.

I dipped my own toes in a wee bit by signing up for a few dating sites post divorce and some of the mere messages I received on them left me hanging up my subscription about as quick as I signed up. One of the messages I received was from a guy stating he was looking for a princess to live in the castle of happily ever after with him. For a moment I wondered if he mistakenly thought he was on a site that recruits characters for Disney but came to the conclusion that wasn't the case.

"Princess" Defined by Urban Dictionary is:
a girl who has been sheltered, spoiled and pampered

That definition also eerily resembles an odd hostage situation
that takes place in a hair and nail salon to me

Are Disney movies and fairy tales closely linked to telling girls it's okay to follow their heart? Belle fell in love with a beast, Jasmine married a thief, Ariel physically changed for love. What are these messages sending our girls? And to boys? That both sexes will accept anything?

 "We have to declare 
a princess-free zone. 
No tiaras, no Girl's Gone Wild,
no pretending we can't carry things. 
No fairy tales, no waiting around
 to be rescued and absolutely
 no playing dumb."
 - Shauna Niequist 

Applause and Amen to all that.

"As women God doesn't want us to follow our heart on some whim because it feels good, or it gets us hot and bothered in all the right/wrong places or use our female body parts as some sort of super power wielding weapons of sorts… nor sit passively with pampered entitlement under a crown…
but to stand up straight and tall in modest fashion and strive to be the strong, charitable, kind, hardworking and spirited women He made us to be."
- gps grace power strength blog 

Just the other day while shopping I rearranged the Barbies at my local Target, giving Detective Barbie, Soccer Barbie and Chef Barbie primo real estate on the shelf and tossing Princess Barbie to the back. Back in the 70's or 80's growing up Mattel had a commercial that sang "We girl's can do anything, right, Barbie?" I wish they'd replay those. Girls benefit growing up knowing they are perfectly capable of making choices that reflect strength and purpose not passivity, making wise choices in dating that reflect God's desire for them not fruitless whims or following their reckless hearts.

Dating is challenging for anyone, both sexes, no doubt. Specifically for single parents, dating is an entirely different ballgame than if sans children. Now we have little people to consider and how will this new person, really any potential new person affect the existing dynamic? How will they fit in? Will everyone get along? Plus dealing with the periodic painful times that crop up where your children are still undeniably dealing with the loss of their original family unit definitely factors in. Divorce wounds us all… it wounds us as adults and can shatter our confidence, breeding uncertainty and may keep us from moving forward. We may come to a somewhat entitled conclusion from all that pain that "we've had all we should have to endure" if anything out of broken exhaustion and believe it should be "easy street" from here out in terms of finding a compatible Christ-following partner. But, yikes, not likely...

We want to make wise, healthy choices… we want to make sure we aren't repeating negative patterns by following our heart, we want to make sure we are following what God would want for us, not what feels good in this heated moment… we don't want to latch onto toxic individuals like we've already been with or re-play unhealthy dynamics that eerily resemble those from a noxious childhood. It's imperative we take things slow and are cognizant of any warning signs… to not push them away or attempt to justify them no matter how tempting. Here are a few things to consider if you're single and beginning to date again…

5 Tips For Dating:

1. Take it slow… seems to be a no-brainer but with emotions, attraction and libido's in high gear it can be so easy to jump on the expressway to exclusive and then want to put the brakes on. It's next to impossible to get back to where we were once a relationship's progression has gone too far whether it be emotionally or physically.

2. Look for consistency and patterns… are their actions consistent? Are there any negative patterns jumping out at us? Look to actions not words. Our hearts are deceitful but following Christ we can never go wrong. Having Christ as the center of our relationship will keep us grounded and look to the long term not the immediate.

3. As single parents keeping our dating undercover… it's upsetting to children to parade around a new person, especially too soon. It makes them feel insecure and anxious. The best time to (slowly) introduce someone were serious about is after it's established were together. Regularly giving children reassurance that they are loved even though we are seeing someone affirms they have great importance in our life.

4. Letting our children openly express their feelings about our dating… how do they feel about the changes? Do they like the person? They don't have to immediately accept the person were with and putting pressure upon either the person were with or our children may backfire. Let everyone take the time they need to adjust.

5. As parents we are ultimately the role model for our children. We can set the example of using wisdom and caution in who we choose to date or we can fly by the seat of our pants like a teenager high on the hallucinogenics of following the pitter pattering of our fickle wayward heart and like that print in my closet unfortunately accumulate a lot of dust and debris along the way.

© ~ 2014 

Rather than trust our hearts, we are to commit our hearts to God:
 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean 
not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him, 
and he will make your paths straight”
Proverbs 3:5–6 

This passage gives an explicit command 
not to trust ourselves. 
And it gives the promise of guidance 
to those who choose to follow the Lord.

To My Readers:

Thank you for reading, 

commenting & sharing! 

Related Posts: 

Standing On A Road She Didn't Plan: A Single Mom Dating 

50 Things To Teach My Daughter

Toxic Ties: The Soul Ties That Bind Us

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