Thursday, March 1, 2012

Heart, Mind and Lies

The purpose of this blog, reflected in the title, is to combine the mind and the heart, intellectual truth (logos) with passionate love. I firmly believe that both of these are essential for our spiritual health.

The “mind” half of the equation has always come pretty easily to me. I have a hunch that this has something to do with growing up around two very intelligent and highly educated parents, one of whom is a college professor who taught me the word “omnivore” when I was 3.

The “heart” aspect of things is a bit more confused. I do have a passion for God, which I express best in my poetry and hymns. But I don’t trust my feelings as much as I do my mind. For years, I’ve struggled with painful emotions that seemed to have no connection to reality. I eventually learned to call these emotions “depression,” but that label didn’t help me to understand its cause. I still haven’t figured out all the factors involved, but one has become very clear to me recently.

I’ve realized that many of what I had called “emotional” problems actually began in my thoughts. At some point in my life, I bought into some lies about who I am, which have formed the unconscious background of my thoughts and feelings. Putting words to this idea is difficult, in part because it has been unexpressed for all these years. Many of my conscious thoughts reflect it, but they are only smaller manifestations of it, like in video games when the boss monster sends out smaller monsters to attack you.

The lie at the core of my problems is something like this: I am valuable only if I do everything that is expected of me perfectly. Once it is put into words, I see how ridiculous it is, and my mind comes to poke holes in it immediately. Here are a few problems with it:
1. All human beings are valuable, not because of ability, and not as something they earn, but in virtue of being human beings made in the image of God. I argue strongly for this when faced with many social issues, and I had thought it was an established part of my thinking.
2. I can’t do everything perfectly because I am not perfect. I am not God, and no one expects me to be.
3. This idea doesn’t mention exactly whose expectations I must live. In practice, this means that I try to please everyone I run into, both in big things like doing my job well and in small things like not admitting that I don’t like a movie they like. But it runs into contradictions when two people expect different things. In those cases, it is simply impossible to please everyone.

As you can see, my mind is more than capable of trashing the lie once it is exposed to the light of reason. But of course, it isn’t that simple. This idea doesn’t step out and face a direct battle with my other beliefs and ideas. Instead, it sits in the shadows, sending out negative thoughts and painful feelings like bullets from a sniper. I hope that now that I know it’s there, I can be on my guard against it. I’m trying to fill my mind with truth about my identity and my value, leaving no shadows in which this lie can hide.

It’s obvious that lies affect one’s mind. The whole point of a lie is to get one to believe something false. But these ideas affect our hearts too – they cause us to react in unhealthy ways to the experiences and challenges of our lives. What lies might you have bought into that affect how you think or feel about things?

1 comment:

  1. I think this is an easy trap for you to fall into because you do so many things so very well that it becomes easy to associate your self-image with that. I've got my own issues that I'm working on, but from what I've learned about improving self-image meditation on appropriate Scriptures and verbal affirmations are both good tools to use in dealing with these kinds of issues.