Monday, May 11, 2009

To Hold Someone's Heart

   Over lunch with some friends a few days ago, one of us observed that human beings seemed to be almost infinite in their capacity and variety to hurt one another. As I pondered this statement for some time, my mind was drawn to the power wielded by our words, particularly in the context of our relationships with those who are or may become nearest and dearest to us.

   When someone voices words of kindness or affection to us, they are essentially asking us to trust that their words reflect their inward intent towards us. They ask us to believe that their words are true, without any hint of guile. And indeed, at this point we must pause and ask ourselves, what does it mean for one's words to be "true"? The answer necessitates the involvement of the definition of truth - "that which describes things as they really are". Thus, with words of kindness and love, they ask us to believe that those words describe the intent of their inmost spirit towards us as it really is. And in doing so, whether either person realizes it or not, the consequences become serious; for we trust them with that which is most precious and sensitive - our hearts.

   Modern culture and media most commonly uses the term 'heart' in connection with one's emotions and feelings, among other things. In this context, the promulgation of myth and the potential for abuse is enormous; I am reminded of the saying that "nothing is as widely believed as that which is least understood". What does it truly mean to ask for someone's heart, and in winning their trust, to take their heart into our hands? And, on the flip side of the coin, what does it mean to give our hearts into the hands of the one who asks for it?

   While looking up the meaning of the word 'heart' in many languages, I found the most insight provided in the ancient Hebrew, which uses the word 'lev' [1]. While the ancient Hebrews viewed the heart as the centre of emotion, they also understood it to be the centre of thought; there was no dichotomy with the mind residing in the brain and emotions ascribed to the heart. Instead, the 'heart' was perceived to be the centre of one's being, holding all thoughts, both of the mind as well as emotion. For them, it was the very locus of all of one's being.

   If this is indeed the perspective of the Bible, then the implications of being entrusted with someone's heart are very serious indeed. For when we trust someone with our heart, we give them that which encompasses our most fragile sensitivities, thoughts and emotions - all that defines us and makes us vulnerable. The phrase "my heart in your hands" takes on a very literal meaning indeed; it is like cupping water in one's hands. If you've never tried doing that, I suggest you try it now. In the light of this analogy, the words 'love' and 'commitment' take on new and serious dimensions - the one who loves appreciates the fragility of that which he/she holds in their hands and is committed to keeping their hands together, otherwise the other's heart will fall and shatter, or be spilt on the ground.

   Without this understanding, the phrase 'I love you', perhaps the most used and abused phrase known to mankind, becomes a horrific instrument of destruction. How awful to say such a thing without meaning it, to convince another of one's love and take their heart into one's hands, only to open those hands when one is no longer interested! How terrible is the one who voices words of love and commitment to another, only to discard them when someone else comes along! How selfish to play with another's spirit for one's own mental and emotional gratification, and then spill that heart on the ground without regard! It is perhaps one of the worst acts that one human being can perpetrate upon another, to violate another person in such manner. For as bad as it is in which one violates another's body, even worse is that which violates another's soul. Thus, betrayal of any form becomes the act of those who do not comprehend what it means to hold another's heart in their hands.

   Having said all this, what about the happiness of those who do understand these truths, and is there anyone into whose hands we can place our hearts? For when properly understood, giving one's 'heart' into another's hands and holding their 'heart' in ours is possibly one of the greatest privileges of the human existence. I will probably pen my thoughts on this matter in the coming posts. Until then, have a good week and God bless!

- The Wisdom Seeker

[1] Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings: Heart ~ lev