Seven Enemies of the Heart
Most people believe that the spiritual life matters. Even those who reject organized religion will tell you that they believe in the importance of spiritual growth and formation. However, we live in challenging times where there are many obstacles to achieving spiritual growth and inner peace. These obstacles need to be named because in many ways, they serve as “enemies of the heart.”
The first obstacle is FEAR. We live in a culture of fear and politicians use that fear to control us. Fear keeps us in a state of uncertainty because we never know what might happen next. Fear can be crippling and even paralyzing, sucking away our quality of life and our ability to enjoy the present.
The second obstacle is ANGER, which seems to be the direct result of fear. In a highly polarized and contentious culture where partisanship has become toxic and even deadly, anger is real. We see it all around us. Einstein once said that, “Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.” Emerson said, “For every minute of anger, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.” But Aristotle put it best: “Anybody can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Acting out in anger is usually a bad idea.
The third obstacle is ENVY, much of it resulting from major socioeconomic divides within the culture. Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute once said, “We must recognize that fermenting bitterness over income differences may be powerful politics, but it injures our nation. We need aspirational leaders willing to do the hard work of uniting Americans around an optimistic vision in which anyone can earn his or her success. This will never happen when we vilify the rich or give up on the poor.” Envy is a dangerous road to travel because there is always somebody who has more. Envy is often the result of ingratitude and a lack of contentment.
The forth obstacle is LUST. Lust has destroyed many marriages and families and decisions that are made in just a few short moments can have life-long consequences. Lust has become even more common in a culture that glorifies sex and ignores boundaries.
The fifth obstacle is RESENTMENT. Failure to forgive and let go of the past keeps many people in unnecessary bondage. Some are better than others at letting go of the past.
The sixth obstacle is NEGATIVITY. Psychologists have confirmed that our brains tend to automatically remember negative situations and criticism but it takes a more concentrated effort to focus on what is good and positive. Negativity becomes a downward cycle, and there is nothing worse than two negative people feeding off each other.
The final enemy of the heart is MATERIALISM, turning to things to satisfy spiritual longings. This is age old but it never works. Of course, we all enjoy nice things, but houses, cars, clothing, jewelry, and money do not satisfy our deepest spiritual hunger. That hunger can only be satisfied by God, relationships, love, and acceptance.