Dr. Shawn Stoever and Greg Smalley wrote a book that is scheduled for release in June about fully engaging your heart in your marriage (The Whole-Hearted Marriage: Fully Engaging Your Most Important Relationship).
They wrote the book because they both found themselves encountering people who were just going through the motions of life without ever engaging their heart.
Shawn was sharing with me that he doesn't think people necessarily make a conscious decision to disengage their heart. It can be the result of many different life circumstances. For example, when he was 9-years-old, his mother died. Shawn's dad was a wonderful father, but he did not know how to talk with his son about his feelings and emotions surrounding the death of his mother. Shawn's response was to stuff everything and kick into survival mode.
It wasn't until he met the woman of his dreams, Christina, who told him if they were going to take the relationship any further she wanted his heart, not just his intellect, that he began to think long and hard about whether he was going to engage his heart and risk being hurt again. While he knew he loved her, this was a huge step - which by the way he did end up taking.
There are a lot of things that can cause people to live life without engaging their heart. The trick is figuring out how to get your heart to open back up in a world that is designed to shut it down.
If you are living life half-heartedly or with no heart at all, here are some suggestions for re-engaging your heart:
Recognize that your heart is important, not just to keep the blood flowing, but to experience joy, laughter, hurt, enthusiasm and other emotions.
Identify those things that rob you of the opportunity to engage your heart, like the death of a parent, lies from the past, fear, friends who have said hurtful things, or compromises you have made. There are literally thousands of reasons people close down emotionally to protect themselves.
Make a conscious effort to re-engage your heart. When your heart is open you can freely give and receive love which leads to the blessing of experiencing life whole-heartedly. If you have no idea how to begin to reconnect with your heart, consider these ideas:
Watch children play or even play with them. Kids naturally live life with their hearts fully engaged.
- Intentionally choose a movie that you know will touch your heart and bring forth emotion.
- Grab a journal and keep track of your feelings for a week.
- Intentionally hang out with people who live life whole-heartedly. Their energy and passion for life is contagious.
Regardless of the path you choose to re-engage your heart, the benefits will be obvious. Relationships, particularly marriage, will have more meaning, feelings will be more accessible
and work may even be more fulfilling. In general, life is more satisfying and enjoyable when your heart is fully engaged.