Matters of the heart cannot be changed by legislation, medication, or even incarceration. No bylaw, wealth, government, or contract can make a person’s heart softer, kinder, and more open to loving others. Yet so much relies on the unseen work happening in the hearts of people. The health of families, the love found in marriages, passion for a work project, and the care we have for our neighbours; these are all matters of the heart. The state of our heart, whether ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ is something we tend to everyday, even if we do not consider how.
Author Daniel Hochalter wrote that, “a hardened heart wants to fight; a broken heart wants to heal.” The experiences we’ve had in life shape how we reach out to others, with violence or care and with anger or compassion. Hearts that were once full of love and joy may become hard as life presses in. But this is not how it has to be.
In my years as a pastor I’ve found that there are some ways of fostering a ‘soft’ heart, no matter what your circumstances, that brings life to you, your family, and your neighbourhood.
First, be a grower. Growers are people who make space in their lives to care for, and foster, good things. You could grow a garden, care for a pet, or coach a kids t-ball team. When we help something or someone else grow, we do too.
Second, celebrate. Soft hearted people fill their hearts with gratitude and spot good news all around them. Throw a big birthday party, a backyard BBQ, or go on a day-trip with your family. Everyone has something to be thankful for.
Thirdly, focus on people. It’s easy to live mechanically; to punch the clock, pay the bills, and maintain the routine. But in every routine we’ll find people we love. It is amazing what a moment of grace towards other can do for them, and for our own hearts.
Fourthly, hope. When we lose hope we lose a lot. When we renew our dreams and believe that the story of our life is not over, our heart comes to life. More than that, when we hope, we begin to have hopes and dreams for others. We become those who cheer on the best in people we meet.
In you is a heart that was made to beat with new life, hope, with gratitude, and for other people. God made the heart beating in your chest to reflect his own, loving heart. There are no easy ways to help your cranky neighbour or your angry boss. Those who see life as a fight carry hearts hardened by pain that has turned into a callous. Below the hardness in everyone is a heart that longs to beat with life and love.
No new law, a better economy, or government will change the heart of our city. It takes a realization that that your neighbourhood is made up of hundreds of hearts, both soft and hard, that work together to make our lives what they are. Be tender towards everyone you meet, our hearts may have been soft once, and may be soft again one day, too.