How Is Your Heart?
“More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”—Prov. 4:23.
1. What impressive and sobering facts are known about the human heart?
THE human heart, as to size, is only about as large as your fist. Yet it is a real powerhouse. Think of it! Every few minutes your heart circulates the five to six quarts of blood in your body around the 60,000-mile network of arteries, veins, and capillaries, bathing each of the trillions of cells of your body with the precious fluid of life. Since before you were separated from your mother’s womb, you have been completely dependent upon this intricately designed organ’s beating day and night without letup. If it stops beating for more than a few minutes, the cells in your body begin to die, starting with the fragile brain cells, which, in being starved of vital oxygen and other nourishment of the blood, begin to perish, making death imminent.
2, 3. (a) Despite medical advancements, what continues to be the chief cause of death? (b) What can be done physically to safeguard the heart?
2 To do its enormous job for an average lifetime of approximately seventy years, the heart necessarily must be rugged. It is, but the heart is greatly affected by the way a person lives and thinks. The strains and living habits of this modern world put a crushing burden on the heart. Things can go wrong with it, and despite advances in medical research which have brought forth heart transplants, mechanical hearts, and other devices and techniques in the field of cardio-vascular therapy, there is still relatively little that doctors can do for you if your heart begins to fail. Heart disease is still the number one killer by a wide margin.
3 Doctors do tell us, however, that there is much you can do to safeguard your heart, but this must be done before the trouble begins. Improper eating, smoking, heavy drinking, anxiety, prolonged stress, violent emotional outbursts, not getting the proper amounts of rest and exercise, all have detrimental effects upon this vital organ, hastening death or perhaps making a person an invalid for the rest of his life. Wisely the Bible counsels: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.”—Prov. 14:30; Eccl. 2:23.
4. While safeguarding the heart physically is vital, what is much more important? Why?
4 It is serious business when we talk about this little organ on which life is so dependent. We have only one. When it goes, death has indeed claimed another victim. In reading these sobering facts, you may even feel your own heart begin beating a little faster and a tinge of anxiety pass over you. But despite the urgency of protecting our hearts from the physical standpoint in order to live an average lifetime, it is even more urgent to safeguard the heart because of its important role in motivation, in originating desires and affections, if we hope to live forever in God’s new order now so near. That is why the Bible warns: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” How we develop and protect our hearts spiritually, and how our hearts motivate us, will be deciding factors to the One who “is making an estimate of hearts,” in determining if we shall live in the righteous new system of things of God’s making, or if we shall go into perpetual death because our hearts failed us spiritually.—Prov. 4:23; 21:2; 24:12.
LOOKING DEEPLY INTO THE HEART
5. Is the “heart” part of the mind? Explain.
5 Where and what is your heart? You may say, What heart are you talking about? You know you have a heart in your chest, one that is pumping blood throughout your entire body, serving every single cell with that stream of life. But do you have another “heart” in your head, a “figurative heart”? Is it part of your brain or is it that abstract capacity of the brain that we call the “mind”? No! The brain, in which the mind resides, is one thing and the heart in our thorax, with its power of motivation, is another thing.
6. How does the Bible use the word “heart”?
6 With but few exceptions, the use of the word “heart” in the Bible is limited to the operations of the heart of man as the powerhouse of one’s desires, emotions and affections, the place that comes to include the capacities for motivation. The Bible does not speak of a symbolic or spiritual heart in contradistinction to the fleshly or literal heart, just as it does not speak of a symbolic mind, and thus we do not want to make the mistake of viewing the literal heart as merely a fleshly pump as does orthodox physiology today. Most psychiatrists and psychologists tend to overcategorize the mind and allow for little if any influence from the fleshly heart, looking upon the word “heart” merely as a figure of speech apart from its use in identifying the organ that pumps our blood.
7, 8. (a) Describe the interplay between the heart and the mind of an individual. (b) What influence does the heart have as to personality traits?
7 The heart, nevertheless, is intricately connected with the brain by the nervous system and is well supplied with sensory nerve endings. The sensations of the heart are recorded on the brain. It is here that the heart brings to bear on the mind its desires and its affections in arriving at conclusions having to do with motivations. In reverse flow, the mind feeds the heart with interpretations of the impulses from the senses and with conclusions reached that are based on the knowledge it has received, either at the moment or from the memory. There is a close interrelationship between the heart and the mind, but they are two different faculties, centering in different locations. The heart is a marvelously designed muscular pump, but, more significantly, our emotional and motivating capacities are built within it. Love, hate, desire (good and bad), preference for one thing over another, ambition, fear—in effect, all that serves to motivate us in relationship to our affections and desires springs from the heart.
8 The Bible makes a definite distinction between the heart and the mind. Jesus did so when saying we must love Jehovah with our “whole heart” as well as with our “whole mind.” (Matt. 22:37) What we are at heart determines in large measure what we are as to personality. In this regard the apostle Peter speaks of “the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.”—1 Pet. 3:4.
9. What do some scientists believe about the heart, apart from its being a pump for the blood?
9 Let us consider some significant points about the fleshly organ in your chest, the heart, called in Hebrew lev and le·vavʹ and in Greek kar·diʹa (from which we get the word “cardiac”). Some medical scientists and psychiatrists believe that the heart does considerably more than pump blood. For instance, Dr. D. E. Schneider, a neurologist and psychiatrist of New York, points out that, when the human embryo is forming, the heart and the brain develop from the same area, that the heart is in part nerve tissue and, additionally, has the capacity for manufacturing and storing certain highly potent chemicals that exercise a regulatory effect on the body, including, according to this research, the brain. His conclusion is that there is “evidence for a two-way relationship between mind and heart,” and that, even as the mind has its effect on the heart, “the heart [yes, the fleshly one in your chest] in turn may influence the mind intensely.” Certain other researchers have arrived at rather similar conclusions.
10. In heart-transplant patients, what conceivably causes the serious phychotic behavior?
10 It is significant that heart-transplant patients, where the nerves connecting the heart and brain are severed, have serious emotional problems after the operation. The new heart is still able to operate as a pump, it having its own power supply and timing mechanism independent of the general nervous system for giving impulse to the heart muscle, but just as it now responds only sluggishly to outside influences, the new heart in turn registers few, if any, clear factors of motivation on the brain. To what extent the nerve endings of the body and the new heart are able to make some connections in time is not clear, but this cannot be ruled out as one of the several factors causing the serious mental aberrations and disorientation that doctors report are observed in heart-transplant patients. These patients have donor-supplied pumps for their blood, but do they now have all the factors needed to say they have a “heart”? One thing is sure, in losing their own hearts, they have had taken away from them the capacities of “heart” built up in them over the years and which contributed to making them who they were as to personality.
11, 12. (a) What has been reported on the behavior of heart-transplant patients? (b) What significant observations are made on the heart’s makeup and function other than as a pump for the blood?
11 Medical World News (May 23, 1969), in an article entitled “What Does a New Heart Do to the Mind?” reported the following: “At Stanford University Medical Center last year, a 45-year-old man received a new heart from a 20-year-old donor and soon announced to all his friends that he was celebrating his twentieth birthday. Another recipient resolved to live up to the sterling reputation of the prominent local citizen who was the donor. And a third man expressed great fear of feminization upon receiving a woman’s heart, though he was somewhat mollified when he learned that women live longer than men. According to psychiatrist Donald T. Lunde, a consultant to surgeon Norman Shumway’s transplant team at Stanford, these patients represent some of the less severe mental aberrations [italics ours] observed in the Shumway series of 13 transplants over the last 16 months.” The article continues: “Though five patients in the series had survived as of early this month, and four of them were home leading fairly normal lives, three of the nonsurvivors became psychotic before they died last year. And two others have become psychotic this year.”
12 While the giving of the drug prednisone and the mind-wearying effects of a serious operation and a long confinement under intensive care are given by Dr. Lunde as the chief causes of these strange personality disorders, it is interesting to observe that Dr. Schneider, “a New York psychiatrist-neurologist and a student of heart-brain interaction, sees other factors modifying Dr. Lunde’s explanations for the psychoses encountered in the Shumway heart transplant series. Dr. Schneider . . . maintains that ‘the heart is more than a plumber’s pump—it is a neuroendocrine battery. It has a little brain all its own, the S-A and A-V nodes and the conduction bundle, and the little waves from this bundle can be discerned along with each heart wave on an ECG [electrocardiogram]. Beyond this, the heart’s extensive manufacture and storage of catecholamines may affect the levels of these neurohormones in the hypothalamus.’” (Ibid., page 18) Dr. Schneider observed that many non-heart-transplant patients who were given prednisone or confined for long periods did not get psychoses.
13. (a) How is it that a person may be living and yet be dead in God’s sight? (b) In what more vital way can it be said of the heart, “out of it are the sources of life”?
13 Whatever medical science may yet learn about the human heart, the Bible definitely makes a distinction between mind and heart, separating them. And, with the heart playing such a vital role, how important it is to safeguard it, not just by dietary self-control and other physical means, but by watching what sinks down into our hearts as impressions come to it from the senses and as the result of interactions of heart and mind! If the heart stops and the body does not get lifegiving blood, we perish, including our heart and mental faculties; but even though we are living, if there is not a steady flow of proper motives, desires and affections from our heart, we cannot expect to please the Life-giver, Jehovah. “The one that goes in for sensual gratification is dead though she is living.” (1 Tim. 5:6) In this light, “out of it are the sources of life” takes on greater significance. It is from the heart that we are motivated to worship. “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness.” (Rom. 10:10) We must love Jehovah with the whole heart and worship him “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) In creating man, Jehovah made a special place in the heart of man for himself, which, of course, needs to be cultivated and nurtured by each one. It is the fool or senseless one who “has said in his heart: ‘There is no Jehovah.”’ God can be replaced in the heart by other persons, objects, or concepts, if one chooses to have this done, but human creatures are made naturally at heart to worship their Creator.—Ps. 14:1; Prov. 3:1-7.
14. How is the heart involved in expressing our emotions?
14 It is interesting to observe, too, that the heart is one of the first organs of the body to be affected by emotional circumstances. Our hearts leap with joy; sudden danger brings a violent racing of the heart. Fear causes trepidation of the heart. Grief and sorrow bring it pain. From the heights of joy and pleasure to the depths of despair and pain, the sensations of the heart are felt throughout the body. Appropriately we have many words and phrases that incorporate the word “heart.” To name a few: Take to heart, fainthearted, tenderhearted, hardhearted, with all your heart, heartrending, set your heart on, heartening, change of heart, and so forth.
CONTRASTING THE HEART AND THE MIND
15. Describe the faculty of “mind.”
15 The mind, as we use the term in English, is the intellect or knowledge-processing center. It gathers information, thinks on it and, by process of reason and logic, reaches conclusions. With its powers of learning and perception, the mind relates the pieces of information it receives into concepts and patterns. (2 Tim. 1:13) When the pieces fall into place with clarity, it can be said that one has knowledge of a matter. Wisdom and understanding come when one is able to turn this knowledge into practical worth and see clearly how the related parts fit together into the whole with meaning, usefulness, and workability.
16. With respect to the Israelites in the wilderness, what insight does the Bible record give as to heart motivation?
16 The fleshly heart, in contrast, is intimately associated with affection and motivation. The psalmist wrote: “In my heart I have treasured up your saying, in order that I may not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11) We can see that the heart is what motivates one’s mind and course of action, by the case of the Israelites when preparing for and constructing the tent of meeting in the wilderness. The record says that “everyone whose heart impelled him,” all “whose hearts incited them,” contributed materials, skill and labor. (Ex. 35:21, 26, 29) It is because the heart has this motivating capacity that it focuses attention on what the person really is inside, what the apostle Peter called the “secret person of the heart.”—1 Pet. 3:3, 4.
17. Illustrate the difference between the mind and the heart.
17 A simple illustration will help us to see the difference in the role played by each. Almost anyone can gain a knowledge of mechanics by study and application. However, the person not having developed a love at heart for things mechanical would have little or no motivation to learn about motors. If his car stops running, he likely would not know where to start in making the repair. Yet this one might be a skilled musician, an expert lawyer, or a devoted homemaker, each loving his work and pursuing it because at heart this is what he (or she) wants to do as a profession. But, in examining closely the background of a skilled mechanic, likely you would find he loves to work with motors, and, as a boy, he always wanted to know what made things “tick.” Hearing a powerful motor start up and run smoothly is music to his ears. Now, what are we talking about? Yes, the heart! We are discussing his affections, motives and desires, not just the mental ability to learn about mechanics.
18, 19. (a) In what ways do the mind and heart work together? (b) How does what is taken into the mind influence the heart?
18 Now, although the Bible shows the heart and mind to be separate and distinct, this still allows for close interrelation, interdependency, and interplay between them. Your heart can be fed by your mind, for it is really with the conscious brain that we see, hear, feel, and receive the effects of our other physical senses. In turn, your mind, which is seated in the brain, can be moved or motivated by your heart.
19 From youth the mind is exercising a strong influence on the heart. If the right kind of information is taken into the mind, right conclusions and impressions are formed, and, as these sink down into the heart, there is a good influence in molding, controlling, and directing the motivations, desires and affections of the heart. If wrong information is taken into the mind, wrong concepts are built up, and as a result prejudice, hate, fear, pride, greed, stubbornness and other despicable traits take root in the heart and are reflected in the personality of the individual, especially if these wrong conclusions and impressions were formed early in life. That is why one, in becoming a Christian, must ‘be transformed by making his mind over.’ Paul admonished: “Be made new in the force actuating your mind.” This new force of mind is built up as we get God’s Word firmly implanted in our minds and respond fully to God’s spirit, carefully watching afterward that our minds are not “corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.”—Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24; 2 Cor. 11:3.
20. Describe the general environment that shapes the hearts and minds of the majority today.
20 The majority of mankind today are raised in homes and neighborhoods where the environment for learning is not good. Permissiveness in home and school training has gone to seed, producing a rebellious, thrill-seeking generation. The learning about bad and the indulgence in it make deep circuits in the minds and corrupt the hearts of individuals, so that when they grow older they do what has already become natural to them. The abnormal becomes normal. Sex is for thrills and something about which to make dirty jokes, rather than for what God made it, the clean, pleasurable act within the confines of marriage to produce children. Have a good time, make money, get ahead, become somebody, do not let anyone push you around, indulge yourself, steal if you can get away with it—these are just some of the attitudes and goals impressed almost inerasably upon the heart from youth up by the environment of this world.
21, 22. (a) How are the hearts of those who turn away from God described? (b) In contrast, what is taking place in the hearts of those who are receptive to the Word of God?
21 Each generation, the present generation even more so, has produced a majority who have turned away from God, becoming “empty-headed in their reasonings” and “their unintelligent heart became darkened,” so that “God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness.” They proved to be like most in the nation of Judah whom Jehovah described as having their sins “engraved on the tablet of their heart” as with a diamond point. Because God has not brought speedy execution of the wicked, “that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.” (Rom. 1:18-32; Jer. 17:1; Eccl. 8:11) Yet down through the stream of time there have been a precious few who have worked against great odds to cultivate in their hearts love for God and righteousness. Today, even deep into the “time of the end,” Jehovah’s witnesses are finding thousands whose hearts prove to be receptive to the Word of God, heeding the counsel: “Put away all filthiness and that superfluous thing, badness, and accept with mildness the implanting of the word which is able to save your souls.” “As for that [seed] on the fine soil, these are the ones that, after hearing the word with a fine and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance.”—Jas. 1:21; Luke 8:15.
22 While it often involves making drastic changes in their lives, such as turning from a course of immorality, cooling down their tendency to be hot-tempered, reorienting their ambitions, being completely honest and industrious servants of God, they courageously make these changes. If we “call upon the Lord out of a clean heart” and work for a good heart, we have the promise from Jehovah that he will help us to have one.—2 Tim. 2:22.
23. What honest examination should be made of our hearts?
23 So, how is your heart? As far as you know, your heart, medically speaking, may be sound for the moment, but the more important question is, How is your heart when you weigh out the motives, affections and desires arising therefrom? When you examine your heart in the light of God’s Word, do you find that it is motivating you in the right direction, and does it have right desires and affections? Where deficiencies are found, are you having success in renewing and strengthening your heart as well as your mind, so as to think correctly and to resist the tendencies of the imperfect flesh and the temptations around you? If you are having a measure of success now, it is vital that you keep building and safeguarding your heart.
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