We all know how important it is to keep our bodies healthy and our hearts strong. In Australia we have been indoctrinated with such information as ‘we are what we eat’ and ‘two fruit and five veg’, and ‘drink two litres of water a day’. We also hear about the ‘good and bad fats’ in order to keep our cholesterol in check. Fitness is also crucial, with the ‘find thirty’ slogan that encourages us to keep fit by ensuring we get thirty minutes of exercise a day. And if we want to take it further we go to the gym, ride a bike, take up swimming, or perhaps a team sport, in order to stretch and challenge our fitness and increase the strength of our body and heart.
So what about our ‘other heart’, the heart that carries our gamut of emotions? The part of us that feels joy and hurt, love and hate, jealousy and rage; the heart that chooses to lash out in disgust or show compassion and reach out to another. How do we keep it healthy and strong? How do we ensure it is being well fed and exercised? It is through our mind that our heart is ‘fed’, stretched and challenged. And what is ‘going in’ is inevitably going to shape what is ‘coming out’.
I have a very clear memory, from when I was about 15 years old, that illustrates this. I had recently returned to Australia (having lived with my family in Pakistan most of my life), and some new friends had passed on a couple of ‘girly’ magazines. I devoured them as only a child previously deprived of such things can do. But as I did so I began to realise that my joy was depleting. My self confidence was taking a nose dive and my heart was hurting with the expectations and comparisons I was placing upon myself as I read. I decided then and there to find something more encouraging to read.
Each of us has to assess for ourselves what it is that encourages or discourages us. What information makes our heart stronger, and what wears it down? Is that TV program, although highly entertaining, really making us a better person? Are those conversations building us up or tearing us down? Magazines, books, songs, social media, people…they can all play a part in making our hearts stronger or creating insecurity, fear, or anger.
If our heart is gaining strength then we in turn can help to strengthen the heart of another, but if our heart is being weakened we have little hope of passing on hope, joy and encouragement.
How strong is your heart, and how can you make it stronger?
photo: Paul Vardy
Artwork/mural: Lady Bananas, Tomahawk & Lady Poise