Why Following Your Heart Is a Really Bad Idea

There’s a difference between following your heart and being led by God.

"You just need to follow your heart!” How many times have we been given this statement as a piece of good advice?

Culture tells us this is the ultimate determiner in making decisions: “What is your heart telling you to do?”

In seeking out help, wisdom and guidance, we’ll speak to loved ones, people we look up to and respect, or even professional counselors, and all the conversations end with the same sort of counsel: “At the end of the day, you just need to do what your heart tells you to.”

Now that advice may be well-meaning by someone who believes it’s true, or perhaps by someone who doesn’t know what else to say, or even worse, it’s lazily given by someone with a dismissive attitude wanting to move on from the conversation. However, if this is how we make life-altering decisions about topics like career path, which school to attend, relationships, when to speak up or when to stay silent, shouldn’t we really consider what that overused statement really means?

What We're Following

What does it really mean to “follow your heart”?

First of all, we must ask ourselves, “What is the heart? And is it something beyond the muscle that pumps blood through our veins to the rest of the body?”

According to Hebrew and Greek cultures, the heart actually represents the location of our feelings, desires and emotions. So if we break down the statement “follow your heart”, it would go something like this:

Follow: Implies that something/someone is going to lead me.
Your heart: According to this statement, what’s going to lead me is my heart. My feelings, desires and emotions are going to be my guide.

Hearts can change with a phone call, a word of criticism or a traffic jam. If we truly followed them, we’d be all over the map with our decisions.

How horrifically dangerous is it to follow our feelings, desires, and emotions? Those things change all the time. They can change with a phone call, a word of criticism or a traffic jam. If we truly followed them, we’d be all over the map with our decisions. Unfortunately, many of us are just that, all over the map. Completely lost.

The Bible also has a lot to say about the heart. In fact, it mentions the heart a little over 300 times. In its natural state, the heart is deceitful, sick and no one can understand it. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus pointed out the fallen condition of our hearts, “From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person" (Mark 7:21-23).

If a person was described with the above characteristics, would you be signing up to follow them? Of course not! No sane person would. Why then would we ever follow our heart that is described in this exact way by the One who created it and knows it best?

A New Kind of Heart

Because of the above truths, Jesus had to give us a new heart at the point of our salvation. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).” You might even say that Jesus was the first one to perform a heart transplant surgery.

I can rest assured that He will never lead me to do anything that is contrary to His Word! I don’t follow my heart. The Holy Spirit leads my heart.

Therefore, we should follow the Great Heart Surgeon. This would be a great campaign movement: Don’t follow your heart; follow Jesus. Follow His Word, and His Holy Spirit that has been given to us as believers. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever (John 14:16).”

This is the method that God has given us in making decisions when asking those all-important questions: What should I do? When should I stay, or when should I go? When do I speak up, and when do I listen? Jesus has given us His Spirit. The Spirit (our Helper) that now dwells inside of us speaks to us through His Word. He leads me. He answers my questions, and shows me the truth of the Bible.

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Why is the Bible aspect so important? It’s important because whatever is being told to me has to align with the Word. I can rest assured that He will never lead me to do anything that is contrary to it! I don’t follow my heart. The Holy Spirit leads my heart. I’m following Jesus as He is constantly shaping and molding my heart through the power of His Spirit and the tool of His Word.

The battle is always remembering truth. When my heart tries to bow up to Jesus, desperately wanting to be the boss and leader again, I can know that He is stronger than my heart. Thank God for this great encouragement in the daily war: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything" (1 John 3:20).

My prayer is this: Lord, don’t let me follow my heart. Instead, You lead my heart to do Your will.

This article was adapted with permission from alreadyam.com.

Top Comments

Richard Lyall


Richard Lyall commented…

The whole premise of this article is that the human heart, even when redeemed by the blood of Christ, is automatically at odds with the will of God. I am saddened to find this view so often amongst God's people.

It does not take seriously the teaching of Scripture that we we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18) by the faithfulness of the one who is constantly at work to change us (1 Thess 5:23-24). God is a good Father who will correct us if we go off track.

I'd love to see this article rewritten from the Biblical viewpoint that through the blood of Christ we are firstly redeemed saints who are increasingly capable of wanting what God wants. We are no longer primarily sinners who are constantly trying to become redeemed. We need to start taking seriously what we have become when we were adopted as God's children. We need to start trusting the God at work in us, even when we cannot always trust our fallen humanity, our old nature.

Please can we start taking seriously the power of Christ's blood to make us new, and stop wallowing in the kind of endemic poor self-worth that plagues the church when we consider our old sinful natures more powerful than our new natures.

Chris Nye


Chris Nye commented…

Guys. I wrote this exact article a year and a half ago. For *you*. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/stop-following-your-heart


Chris Curzon


Chris Curzon commented…

This article breaks my heart. If God has redeemed the heart, why should the heart not be heard? Why should we not believe that what the heart speaks comes from deep and REDEEMED longings?? I've heard the passage from Jeremiah quoted so often in this context. Why do not such author quote the resolution, also from Jeremiah:

"This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. -- Jeremiah 31:33

which was so important that it was quoted by the author of Hebrews:

"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." -- Hebrews 10:16

It breaks my heart when writers focus so much on sin that they lose the picture of actual redemption. Very sad.

Wesley Hague


Wesley Hague commented…

I'm going to disagree quite largely.

I think as Christian we are still required to make decisions. God does not spell out, who we date, marry, where we go to school, what careers we purse. Perhaps some people are given greater revelation as to what they are expected to do with our lives. But for the vast majority of us, their is no pre-drawn blue print. We are called to be Christians in our day to day lives.

As Christians we should know which of our passions come from God, which of our skills and abilities, give us and him joy as we engage in them. We are God's workmanship, yes part of us is still sinful. But that is why we should also test the desires, ensure that we keep control of them. Acknowledging that God has given us our ablities, That by following our heart, we can be following God's will as well.

No where in the phrase "follow your heart." does it say to do so blindly.

Joseph Tang


Joseph Tang commented…

If our heart is led by God, it would not contradict or at odd with the Bible. God does not contradict himself. Therefore confirm our the desire of our heart with the word of God. You won't go wrong.

Will Ford


Will Ford commented…

I am a former United States Marine and I write this to encourage Shane Pruitt, Chris Nye and any other Godly men who may believe as they do. Many young Christian men today fall prey to one of the most deceptive tricks of the devil. And that is that your heart is bad or evil. This was true before you excepted Christ. Scriptures state this when it says that Jesus takes the stony heart and replaces it with a heart of flesh. This is part of the transformation process that we undergo when we are saved. Before salvation, we had a body of flesh ruled by a stony heart. Sounds out of whack, right? That's because it was. But then Jesus comes into our "heart" and now we are renewed in the mind, body and spirit, to include our heart. We now start a journey where we have a spiritual body now being lead by a Christ filled new heart of flesh. I'm not talking about flesh as in sexual immorality. I'm referring to Jesus' use of the word flesh in this case about the heart. Your heart is now alive and beats to a different drum. It's no longer this heart of stone which beats to the tossing of every wind and storm of your emotions. You will always have to contend with the effects of having this heart of stone. Your mind was used to it for so long in some cases. The scriptures you keep referring to are mostly from the Old Testament and they new nothing of Christ at that time. They had to make sacrifices in order to be cleansed. Yet if you read, many of them did in fact follow their hearts which were influenced by a passionate God who had His own feelings and a distinct personality. Yes, God gave you your emotions and your feelings. That is not evil. Your heart is not evil. God has an emotional heart as well and He has his own feelings too. The difference is that He is perfect and He is emotionally stable. We are not. But He can and does teach us to be stable as well. We cannot deaden our passions and desires. We must dedicate them and give control of them to the Holy Spirit. Just as young kids join the Marines have to go thru Boot Camp before they are ready for combat, so must you. If I took a kid only three weeks into training, he would not trust his own instincts because they have not been honed or developed. He has not been seasoned with salt. That's we use the term, "he's an old salty dog." Following their hearts, young Patriots lead by God founded this great nation. David was a man after God's own heart! Are you getting the picture now? This is why the unsaved people today want nothing to do with Christianity. We tell them they must deaden the very emotions that make you alive instead of trusting God with their development. It's time to grow up Brothers. Get off your butts and pick up a spiritual sword instead of living in the fear that "I'm so bad. I'm so evil." Stop it right now Brothers. Get up and fight or get out of the way. We are in th final days and I and other warriors need you in the Godly fight with all the passion and feelings that God gave you in your heart: In the words of William Wallace, your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it. Don't be afraid of it. Jus surrender it! I love you! Join the fight. Don't just yack about it! - Semper Fi.

Michael Maree


Michael Maree commented…

Are you trying to confuse people? "Don't follow your heart. Ask God to lead your heart." And then should I still not follow my heart, once God is leading it, or is it ok then? But maybe not because our heart is evil and we still can't trust it, even if God is leading it, right?

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