Other people may hurt you. They may try to manipulate you. They may mistreat you. They may hate you. But they can’t control your heart.
Not unless you give them that control.
Obviously, by “heart,” I’m not referring to the heart-pumping organ in your chest. Rather, I’m defining it in the common metaphoric sense.
Your heart is who you are.
Your heart represents who you are down deep — tucked away from the external world and all the noise, the worries, the distractions, the outside influences.
Circumstances, and other people, certainly influence us. They can affect us emotionally and physically. But they can’t penetrate into the inner depths of our very being and take over the helm of our lives.
The only way people can get into our hearts is if we give them access.
Obviously, there are some exceptions or near exceptions. Children and people with mental or developmental challenges are more vulnerable to manipulation or mental abuse. The same can be said for those who have suffered significant emotional trauma, or who have been victims of years of psychological abuse.
I have nothing but compassion for those in such situations, and I pray that they will get the relief as well as the help and support they need.
For most people, however, our mental faculties are healthy enough to maintain control of our hearts.
Staying on top of our hearts requires continual attention to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health, as well as making wise choices in what we focus on, and how we invest our time and energy.
If we don’t attend to our health, or make wise choices when it comes to our focus, and how we invest our emotional time and energy, then we are effectively handing the keys to our heart over to other drivers — not all of whom are responsible.
Here are three things we can do to make sure we keep the car keys and stay in the driver’s seat of our heart:
- Focus on the positives in life
- Refuse to hate other people
- Learn to let things go and move forward
Let’s take each in turn.
Focus on the positives in life
We live in an imperfect world. The Bible describes our world as “fallen” and populated by “sinners.” Regardless of your specific religious faith, (or lack thereof), it’s hard to dispute that characterization.
The world is imperfect. And it is populated by imperfect people.
Life is full of confusion, pain, and suffering. Circumstances can be challenging. And people can be difficult.
That’s life. That’s reality.
But we get to choose our focus.
The good things in life are just as real as the negative or challenging things.
Those who focus on the positive tend to be more positive, more productive, and often more popular than those who focus on the negative.
Be aware of the negative, but focus on the positive.
And be grateful.
Refuse to hate other people
Yes, other people can be frustrating. They can be difficult. They can challenge you, hurt you, betray you, and mistreat you. All of us, to one degree or another, have been hurt by others.
Some of you reading this have been deeply hurt.
This can be the case whether we’re talking about our personal interactions or perhaps what’s happening in the news — or what’s happened in history.
However, here is a hard lesson:
Hating those who have hurt you will not help you.
It can feel good, (in an artificial sense) in the short term. Anger and rage give us the illusion of control, and sometimes the illusion of virtue — especially when we loudly express our rage, (and, even better, when others affirm our expression of rage or hatred).
But hating people because we feel they are hateful only makes haters of us.
You can’t hate someone and not become a hater.
This is true no matter how justified you think you are.
This is where forgiveness comes in.
They may not deserve your forgiveness. But you deserve to forgive.
There’s a popular quote, (with murky origins) that says, (with many variations), “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Learn to let things go and move forward
Emotionally healthy people are able to take the blows of life and keep moving forward. We must learn to take some hits and keep moving forward.
Learn to let things go.
Not every slight, offense, “trigger,” betrayal, criticism, setback, disappointment, or whatever needs your full attention.
If you stop and ponder every time a circumstance, person, or group hits you with something negative, you’ll never maintain the momentum needed to keep your life headed in the right direction.
There are times, of course, when you need to stop and deal with things.
That’s where wisdom comes in.
Wisdom will guide you on when you need to stop and deal with something and when you can keep moving forward.
But your goal in life should be — must be — to keep moving forward.
If you’ll focus on the positives, refuse to hate others, and keep moving forward, you’ll have the emotional, mental, and spiritual health to stay in the driver’s seat of your heart — and your life.