Setting Our Hearts Right

Confucius, the Chinese sage, over two and a half thousand years ago said:

                  “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order;

                  To put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order;

                  To put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; we must first    

                  set our hearts right.”

What do we need to do to put our hearts right? And how is it that we live out from heartless places and not try to become heartful? Confucius, in spite of the apparent wisdom in the above quote, does not appear to have had a consciousness that when we are in heartless places we are wisely where we need to be. His proscriptive use of the word ‘must’ indicates an authoritarian attitude – that people ‘must’ be told what to do in order for them to put their hearts right!

My own experience is that individuals in the here and now are where they need to be – be that open or closed hearted. I believe that our nature is love but when love is threatened and in the wonderful words of Kahlil Gibran ‘tortured by its own hunger and thirst’, it seeks substitutes for the unconditional love for which it hungers. There is no substitute for the real thing, but without substitutes, despair of ever finding heart is likely to emerge and without hope, death becomes a welcome release. Thankfully, we are amazingly creative and powerful in finding ways to protect ourselves from further hurt and substitutes that gain us some form of recognition. The substitute world is a dark holding world wherein the person who is hiding is holding out for the light of heartfulness – albeit unconsciously.

It needs to be understood by others that individuals who are blocked in their hearts or have heart for others but not for themselves were, as children, deeply hurt and are profoundly fearful of opening up their hearts or having heart for themselves. Unless they encounter persistent and consistent unconditional holding they will wisely stay where they are and not venture out into the light. It is easy to see that individuals who are heartless, have neither heart for others nor for themselves, but can aggressively and, sometimes, violently, demand or command others to have heart for them. Sadly, until they discover heart for themselves they will not trust others being in a heart place for them and they can mercilessly continue to demand but not give love. It is the responsibility of these adults to seek the help and support they require to put their hearts right; it is also the responsibility of those who are terrorised or controlled by these individuals without heart to seek the help and support to find heart themselves, assert their goodness and not be at the mercy of hearts of stone. In manifesting heartfulness for themselves they provide opportunity for those without heart to begin to travel that longest road from the head to the heart.

There is a wise confusion in the belief that individuals are one with themselves when they exhibit ‘all heart’ for others but show no heart for themselves! These individuals continually sacrifice themselves in their seeming caring for others, but the truth is that they are not one with themselves, are terrified or frightened of giving love to themselves or receiving love from others; they have created a protective shell around their hearts. In showing what appears to be heart for others, they seek substitute recognition and dare the recipient of their love (pseudo) to refuse it. When they do, either a harsh withdrawal of love occurs or a hostile silence emerges.

Love of its very nature has no strings attached; love that is used as a means to be needed, to belong, is conditional in nature and is not love at all. In truth, true love only emerges from the interior well of love of self, from a belonging to self and a heart-centred place, where the unique lovability of self and each and every other individual is embraced – no enmeshment, no co-dependence, no strings attached – love that knows no bounds.

Is unconditional love of self and others enough; does it satisfy our deepest longings? Such a love certainly brings deep emotional and social security, but human beings also seek a transcendent belonging, a longing for immortality. Certainly, unconditional belonging is a prerequisite for the spiritual quest but it does not satisfy it. More on this elusive quest next week.

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Clinical Psychologist/Author, National and International Speaker.  His recent book with co-author Helen Ruddle, Relationship, Relationship, Relationship: The Heart of a Mature Society is relevant to today’s topic.