CHAPTER ELEVEN: Heart
Purity of Heart is a man’s Dominion over his thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It is the second (after wholesomeness of Input and before integrity of Output) of the only three areas of life over which a man has authority.
A pure Heart is one that is unadulterated by anything inconsistent with virtue. Virtue is one of those words (like pornography) that is hard to define but is obvious by its presence or absence. As with the elements of wholesome Input, a man must decide for himself what he considers to be virtuous, although a good starting point is with the traditional seven heavenly virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope and charity.
These, in fact, are the elements of what I personally hold to be virtuous. But, because I am comprised of flesh and blood, my intellectual conception of virtue is continually at odds with an ever-present malice residing within me. From this resident evil comes impure thoughts that are antithetical to virtue. Therefore, to sustain my Dominion, I have to isolate and eradicate these impure thoughts before they give birth to impure feelings because, at that point, it becomes very difficult to keep them from growing into impure emotions—and emotions are much more difficult to govern than thoughts.
So, for example, while I value prudence as a virtue in my brain, my heart often urges me toward rashness, both in my behavior and in my judgments of other men. This rashness first appears within me as a thought, which can lead to a feeling that ultimately produces an emotion that threatens to overpower my will if I do not exert the authority the Creator has granted me over it.
While there are various philosophical explanations for the source of malicious thoughts (personally, I believe that they come from the Devil) the result is the same—an impurity that presents me a choice. I can allow it to fester into a feeling that produces un-virtuous emotion, or I can exercise Dominion over the impure thought before it germinates into something that will defile me.
My point here about the Devil is not to proselytize. While I am a Christian, I do not contend that one must believe likewise to be a Zebra Jockey. I am living proof of that statement as I have been low-Control my entire life but have only been follower of Christ for the last fifteen years. Nonetheless, in order to be forthright, I must attest that my belief system has helped me in significant ways with respect to the exercise of Dominion over my Heart.
First, it has provided me with an explanation for this constant tension between my intellectual conception of what is virtuous and the periodic maliciousness that emanates from within me. How am I to reconcile my belief in the merits of charity (for example) with the decidedly uncharitable thoughts I intermittently have? If I firmly believe in the virtue of charity, why is that I am so often beset by thoughts that gave birth to feelings and emotions that cause me to act so uncharitably towards others? Why is there such a disconnect between my beliefs, thoughts, and actions?
Before I came to faith, I assumed this tension to be the product of a character flaw that was unique to me. As such, I was ashamed of it, and took pains to keep it hidden rather than expose it to the light of accountability with other men who were suffering from the same sense of ambivalence. It was only after I came to faith that I learned from more mature men that this disconnect between my beliefs, thoughts and actions was a universal feature of the human condition rather than an ugly facet of my own individual nature.
As the Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans, there is a unending tug-of-war within all men’s hearts between two countervailing forces:
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Like Paul, I want to do good, but find that evil is always right there with me and will be as long as my spirit is encased in flesh. But this battle I am fighting for Dominion over the purity of my thoughts, feelings and emotions is not unique to me. It is every man’s battle and has been since Adam ushered sin into the world by eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Moreover, this is not a battle I can ever hope to win by myself, in the sense that I can (by the force of my own will) excise the malevolence that resides within me. As an Adapter, I must simply accept that it is what it Is and leave it to Creator to ultimately transform me into what I Could Be, what I was intended to be when He formed me from mud. But until that day, all I can do is make rapid and necessary adjustments to stay in motion on the Azimuth He set out for me and run the race until the end. When confronted with an Obstacle on my path, I need only pedal faster and trust that He will see me through to the other side.
This leads me to the second way in which my belief system has helped me exercise Dominion over my Heart. It was when my faith was new (but weak) that I learned of this internal struggle every man has between his desire to do good and his sinful human nature. Intellectually I understood the concept, but I was still troubled by the fact that we are given any role to play in choosing which of those two paths to follow. If the Creator is all powerful, why doesn’t He just compel us to be virtuous regardless of our thoughts, feelings, or emotions? Unlike a high-Control human, the Creator actually does have the power of Mandamus, so why doesn’t He simply employ it to force us to be good for our own good? Why even give us the choice to be bad?
From the Bible I learned that the Creator told Adam that he would die if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but I couldn’t fathom why the Creator had even planted that tree in the garden in the first place, as it seemed to do little more than provide Adam with the very temptation that would lead not only to his disobedience, but to my daily battle between virtue and vice. Why, I thought, was this battle even necessary? At that time in my life, I found myself frustratingly on the losing side of the fight far more days than not—no matter how hard I tried to find the right path and stay on it.
This sense of frustration continued until the day that I just quit fighting and accepted that my internal struggle is what it Is and there is nothing I can do to Control it. Just as I had lain on the ground after falling off of my mountain bike for the millionth time, I laid down my life after failing to act virtuously for the billionth time and decided to quit trying to be what I thought I Should Be and let the Creator begin transforming me into what He knew I Could Be.
It was on that day that I finally and fully accepted that the Creator has a reason for providing me the freedom to determine what was virtuous, and to decide for myself whether I was willing to resist the impure thoughts that would periodically urge me down the dark and easy path of vice rather than the harder path of virtue.
Eventually, I would come to see this freedom to choose the harder path as the Creator’s way of transforming a man from being a Controller who desires to abrogate the Creator’s authority to determine events and direct the actions of others (or a Passive who is concerned only with the perceived safety of his own status quo) into an Adapter capable of making rapid and necessary adjustments to stay in motion along the Azimuth that the Creator has set out for him.
The Creator wants this for us because it is only the Adapter who is a Flow Traveler, free to enjoy the ride of his life without having to worry about the stumps, rocks and narrow bridges that will periodically appear in his path. He wants us to trust Him and accelerate in the face of Obstacles, confident that our momentum will carry us through, and that the effort will make us more Durable.
In this sense, our sinful nature is like a rocky trail trail over which we are given freewill to ride throughout our lives voluntarily and continually. We can lay down our bikes at any time and quit—or we can choose the harder path and stay in motion.
That choice is always ours.