In the book, Brown draws a correlation between perfectionism, worth, and touching things with only pieces of our hearts. Many of us are living with the unspoken belief that the closer we are to perfection, the more worthy we will be of the love, happiness, and pursuits we desire. As Brown writes, we “hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.” We hustle to acquire a fabulous life, hustle to maintain it, and hustle to appear worthy of it all.
With each failed attempt at perfection, we begin to touch more and more things with less and less of our hearts. To touch life with our whole hearts would open us to the possibility of failure, sending a harsh reminder of our imperfection and fragility.
So we hold back. Set the bar lower. Dream with a practical mind rather than with a free spirit. Base our relationships solely on reciprocity. Make excuses for the things we cannot do, the places we cannot go, and the love we cannot find. But never do we admit that the root of the problem is our fear of failure, our feelings of inadequacy, and our belief that we can somehow make ourselves more worthy.
For years, I have been telling myself that my halfhearted approach was my way of heeding the Bible’s instruction in Proverbs 4:23 to “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” However, I had a tendency to look at that scripture from a selfish place: let me guard my heart from the things and people that can hurt it; let me protect it from the big, bad world to ensure I can bring a whole and healthy heart to some unidentified safe place in the future.
However, the time and place for a whole and healthy heart is here and now. The things I am to guard my heart against are not simply manipulative or evil people who will chew it up and spit out my loving qualities. I must also guard against my own assumptions, complaining, pride, and disappointments, lest my heart spew judgment, unforgiveness, ungratefulness, and bitterness. And yes, I must even guard against perfectionism to ensure my heart does not leak fear into every area of my life.
Fear – bully that it is – is at the root of nearly all of my half-heartedness. Fear of being rejected or hurt; fear of getting my hopes up only for them to come crashing down; fear of feeling too intensely, caring too much, or loving too hard; fear of things falling apart and of me falling to pieces; fear of being less than, faulty, or mediocre. As Brown has helped me to see, the fear of being unworthy has made it impossible to “look at life and the people around [me], and say, ‘I’m all in.’”
Yet even learning the importance of wholehearted living, I still had questions. I wondered if it was wise, let alone possible, to put my whole heart into everything in life. It has taken a while to write this belated birthday post because I have been pondering where to draw the line.
To give my whole heart or not give my whole heart, that is the question. It took some time, but God led me to the answer: “trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, New Living Translation) Wholehearted living begins with trust in the Lord. If I practice trusting Him with my whole heart, even when I don’t understand what He is doing, He will direct me to the dreams, relationships, and situations that I should touch with my whole heart. It is not a guarantee that I will not be hurt, or that I won’t have to work with Him to rebuild my broken heart time and time again, but it is an assurance that there will be purpose for all that flows from my heart, as well as for all those on the receiving end.
My theme for the year is Operation Wholehearted. I’m abandoning the notion that I must “hustle” for my worthiness. Unless I’m behind a microphone, there should be no performing. Outside of God, there is no perfection. Pleasing Him should be my priority. And I have nothing at all to prove. Because Christ thought I was to die for, I am enough.
I’m done touching things with only half of my heart. I will finally be vulnerable enough to look at life and say, “I’m all in.”
SheryLeigh is a woman who loves God, words, and people. She is currently living and loving as an author, blogger, poet, and spoken word artist in the Washington, D.C., area.
A communicator by education and trade, SheryLeigh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Management from Webster University.