I had a conversation this week with my friend and her mother when I went to meet her sweet 2 week old daughter that was so adorably small that I could just eat her up (not literally, of course, because cannibalism is generally frowned upon in most social circles). We were talking about this tiny child's future and how we as parents can counteract the entitled culture in which we live. Though I'm certain we have different opinions about a lot of things, we hold very similar beliefs in parenting. She began talking about education and respectfulness and then spoke with sarcasm and disdain those 3 little words that I have also grown to detest.
Follow your heart.
"Follow your heart" makes me want to punch someone. It's hands down the worst advice we could ever give someone, especially our children.
Why are we buying into this pop culture's line of crap and encouraging children to follow their hearts? It's essentially saying, "follow your emotions, follow your hormones, follow your whim." Why are we encouraging each other to let our feelings take precedent over our brains?
As my friend stated so eloquently, "Why are we telling hormonally charged middle schoolers to follow their hearts?" Isn't it essentially giving them permission to do whatever they want and take whatever and whomever they want regardless of consequences? This mentality is creating selfish, careless, disrespectful children.
I was at my favorite fro-yo place last Sunday and it happened to be a slow time of day, so it was only my family there. The only employee was a fresh-out-of high-school girl working her way to beauty school. I asked her a couple friendly questions and she began telling me that during busy times, teenagers will enter through the back door, fill up their cups and run out the back door without paying. I was (and still am) appalled at the fact that these kids have not been taught one of the most simple commandments, "Thou shalt not steal." But, aren't they just following their hearts? Their hearts told them, "I want fro-yo. I want it and I deserve it and the store has so much money so this pocket full of my dad's cash is not necessary."
Just a minute...
Let me pull out my soap box...
Here are 10 better alternatives to "follow your heart."
1. Follow the rules. Rules are there for a reason. They make us better citizens, better humans and help us have better relationships. The 10 commandments are here to make life easier. Don't steal, murder, covet, cheat, etc. A moral code that is designed to protect us from unnecessary pain and consequences.
2. Follow the leader. A good one. As long as it's not someone like Jim Jones, it's good to follow the leader. Leaders help us grow. They teach us. If it's a good leader, she or he will care about you and your success. A bad leader manipulates and controls. Follow a good leader.
3. Follow good examples. We are examples for our children. Though we probably don't really want them to learn the outbursts of emotion and frustration from us, they follow us and learn from us. Our children will follow our example anyway, so start early in living an upright lifestyle.
4. Follow Jesus. He's the best example of how to live our lives. Even if you're not a believer in his Diety and his death and resurrection to save mankind from eternal separation from God, no one would deny that he is a great example of how to live and love.
5. Follow the plan. Plans are good. Though they get disrupted and sometimes it's good to deviate, plans are essentially good. I have an eating and exercise plan. I've actually had one for a long time, it's just that I'm finally following it (for now). It's healthy. I'm healthier.
6. Follow directions. There's a reason there is an instruction manual in the box. There's a reason maps and GPS exist. Directions have been thought out and laid out to make life easier. Directions are there to help us get from one place to another. They are there to guide us.
7. Follow the ball. My husband played football, basketball, tennis and baseball during high school and college, and he would tell you that the key to many successes in ball sports is following the ball. Keep your eye out. Watch carefully for what's coming your way, so you can get the best out of it.
8. Follow through. Keep your word. Finish your project. Keep working! So many kids and adults lack the capacity to follow through with much these days. Parents are constantly stepping in to save the day and finish the task, leaving no consequences to learn from. Yes, as parents, we want to protect our children, but we are not doing our kids any favors not letting them suffer natural consequences of laziness or poor choices. There is a fine balance. I know someone who has not held a steady job his entire adult life and is still living off his parents' credit card at age 43. Apparently, his heart keeps telling him that he's too good for his job.
9. Follow your nose. Instinct is God's gift to us to help guide us in making decisions. Not to be confused with the heart, the nose can sniff out bad investments of time, friends and money (among others). It can smell danger. Many years ago, my mother followed her nose to take her 6 week old son to the E.R. in the middle of the night instead of waiting until morning. It saved his life. He was in heart failure and the doctor said he would not have made it through the night.
10. Follow my blog. For the occasional snark, tutorial or my latest rant about parenting or rush hour traffic, click the "follow" tab.
Following your heart is different than following your dreams. Dreams and goals aren't bad, but you'll notice I didn't include that in my list. Dreams are good. Life happens. Dreams change and morph. Dreams are shattered. Some people are blessed enough to live out their childhood dreams, others don't get the opportunity. He dreamed of marriage and an active life; he was in an accident that left him a quadriplegic. She dreamed of a family that loves Jesus; her husband left her for someone else. He dreamed of a good stable job; the company downsized. She dreamed of a big family; she couldn't have children. He dreamed of paying off his house early; he married a woman who loves to shop (sorry, Honey! Your wife doesn't love to follow the budget). If we hold on to our dreams too tightly, we can miss out on enjoying the life we have or we can become bitter when those dreams die. So, sure. Follow your dreams...but hold to them loosely.
You can follow lots of good things. Just please don't follow your heart. Your heart lies to you. It tells you that grass is greener. It tells you that your wants are needs. Your heart tells you that "just this once will be fine." It tells you you won't get caught. Your heart tells you that you deserve. It tells you that you are at the center of the universe.
The prophet Jeremiah so eloquently said it this way:
"The heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick. Who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9)
Who indeed can understand how wicked the heart is? You wouldn't follow someone capable of cheating, swindling and lying, would you? Then don't follow your heart.
Just. don't. do. it.