An Honest Heart

By Ralph Woerner

One of the greatest virtues anyone can ever possess is an honest heart. The positive or negative effect which an honest or dishonest heart can have upon one’s life is enormous.

Whether we like to acknowledge it or not some people have a hard time being honest with themselves. They’re forever blaming others for problems which they’ve created (or which, at least, they’ve helped to
create) rather than accepting responsibility themselves. The emotional immaturity this generates is troublesome, to say the least.

The inherent dishonesty which seems to come so naturally isn’t new to the human race. When Adam partook of the fruit which God had forbidden and was called to give an accounting of himself, how did he respond? Did he confess his guilt openly and honestly? Did he accept full responsibility for what he had done, or did he try to excuse his misbehavior?

“The woman whom you gave me is to blame,” Adam exclaimed. “She brought me some of the forbidden fruit and persuaded me to eat. If it hadn’t been for her I would not have fallen. Eve is to blame for what
happened.”

Because he hadn’t plucked the fruit from the forbidden tree himself, Adam felt this somehow relieved him of responsibility. You know better, and so do I. Why, then, was he being so dishonest with God-and so dishonest with himself-about the matter? Why was he trying to justify his disobedience? He knew from which tree the fruit had been plucked. He knew what God had commanded. He didn’t have to partake of the fruit just, because it was offered. Why was he blaming Eve for his failure? Because of the dishonesty which lurked in his heart!

No one likes to acknowledge personal wrongdoing. It makes him seem sinful and fosters a sense of shame, allowing others to see him for what he is. Rather than swallow his pride and confess his guilt, he tries to clear his name by shifting blame to someone else. By casting himself in the best light possible, he tries to persuade God, and others, that has not as selfish (or sinful) as it seems. The problem is he usually succeeds in deceiving no one but himself.

One thing for sure, God wasn’t deceived by Adam’s excuses. He didn’t drive Eve out of the garden and allow Adam to remain. He commanded both of them to refrain from eating of the tree in the midst of the garden. This should have been enough to secure their obedience, no-questions asked.

Sadly, Eve didn’t do any better than Adam when it came to excuse-making. She blamed the serpent for what she had done. “If the serpent hadn’t beguiled me I would not have eaten. The serpent is to blame for what happened. He talked me into it.”

The serpent hadn’t taken her by the hand and forced her to partake of the forbidden fruit. She didn’t have to believe his lies or accept his advice. She was as free to say no to his temptation as she was to say
yes. Why was she blaming the serpent for her failure? Because, like Adam, she also had a dishonest heart. Even though it was anchored in dishonesty, she preferred to blame the serpent for her failure rather than accept responsibility herself.

Eve may have convinced herself that she wasn’t to blame, but she failed to convince God. He knew she wasn’t being honest with him or with herself. She and she alone was responsible for what she had done.

Exactly what Adam and Eve were hoping to achieve by being dishonest with God in this matter isn’t clear. If they were trying to persuade him that they were not to blame for what had happened, they failed. He drove them out of the garden (with heads bowed and shoulders bent) to wring a living from the stubborn soil by the sweat of their brow (Genesis 3).

The reason I’ve gone into all of this is because the innate dishonesty which lurked in the hearts of Adam and Eve is still very much with us today. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. The bent which we humans have
toward dishonesty is astonishing. We’re far more inclined (when the finger is pointed at us) to blame others for our failure than we are to blame ourselves. Were far more inclined to believe what we want to
believe, because we find it convenient, than we are to search out the truth.

“Man’s heart;” scripture says, “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”. That’s not very complimentary, but it’s the truth. We’re so full of pride and prejudice, we’re so emotionally attached to
our ideas that our vision becomes clouded and our judgment flawed. The dishonesty which lodges in our hearts blinds us to the. truth and causes us to see things as we want them to be, rather than as they are.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking with our emotions rather than our mind. We can lie to ourselves so convincingly we will believe our own lies. Racism, homosexuality and abortion are classic examples
of this. Even though these activities are patently evil, many individuals deceive themselves into believing that they are good. They’re so emotionally tied to their passions that they believe what they want to believe. Whether it’s true or not-or right or not-makes no difference. Our emotions don’t care a whit about right or wrong, honesty or dishonesty. If our mind doesn’t override them, they’ll bring us to ruin.

You’re certainly free to disagree. I cannot answer to God for you, nor you for me. I’m convinced, nonetheless, that those who condone racism, homosexuality or abortion are not being honest with themselves or the Almighty. They’re being so dishonest, in fact, that their judgment is flawed.

Take abortion, for instance. To say that no kind of life is present in the womb (after pregnancy occurs) is scientifically indefensible. If life is not present, why is an abortion needed? Non-living cells don’t
produce babies. Life is present. That’s the problem! The life which is present, if left alone, will produce a child. The life which is present is not vegetable, marine, animal or fowl. It’s a human!

To say that some other form of life (other than human) is present is absurd. The person who says life is not present is not dealing honestly with the facts; neither is the one who says the life which is present
is not human.

The logic which people use to justify abortion is filled with dishonesty. If this isn’t so, tell me why it is that a person can be fined or imprisoned for destroying the eggs of an eagle because this would end the lives of developing eaglets; while babies developing in their mothers’ wombs are unprotected? Are developing eaglets more valuable than developing babies?

How is it that the embryo in the egg of an eagle is a maturing eagle but the embryo in the womb of a woman is not a maturing child? At what point has the embryo in the eagle’s egg matured sufficiently to deserve protection? Up until what point in its development can it be destroyed without reducing the eagle population? Apply this logic to the fetus and see how dishonest our reasoning can be. As I said before, we believe what we want to believe-not because it’s true-but because it’s convenient.

Be completely honest about it; tell me at what point in pregnancy does life begin? At what point does it become human? At what point does it deserve protection?

How anyone can say that a baby developing in its mother’s womb doesn’t deserve protection is a mystery to me. How can we say it isn’t human one month before birth but is human one minute after birth? Wheres the logic or honesty in this?

The very reason an abortion is performed is because the one who’s pregnant doesn’t want to be saddled with the responsibility of the child she’s carrying in her womb. Yet, she convinces herself after it is
aborted that a life has not been taken. Where’s the logic or honesty in this sort of reasoning? Am I not right in saying we believe what we want to believe, not because it’s true, but because it’s convenient,
because believing the truth would be too uncomfortable!

Other Areas of Dishonesty

Sadly, dishonesty is not limited to the issues of racism, homosexuality or abortion; it involves every area of life. We’re capable of being dishonest with ourselves in a thousand different ways. If our marriage
is in trouble, it’s our mate’s fault. If we’re doing poorly in school, it’s our teacher’s fault. If we’re having problems at work, it’s our supervisor’s fault. If we’re holding anger or bitterness in our hearts,
it’s our enemy’s fault.

On and on the blame-game goes. Husbands blame their wives; wives blame their husbands; children blame their parents; students blame their teachers; workers blame their bosses; criminals blame the system.

Occasionally someone will be honest enough to say, “I have no one to blame but myself for what has happened”. It’s not often, however, you’ll find that kind of honesty. Usually someone else is to blame.

I’m convinced we could solve most of the problems in marriage, in school, in business, in life-if we could somehow muster up the courage to be honest with others and honest with ourselves. No pretense, no
sham, no excuses: I feel as I do because… ; I behave as I do because… ; I’m having trouble in my marriage because… ; I’m having difficulty at work because… ; I’m not getting along with my parents
because.. . . Because why? Because I have a bad attitude; because I have a rebellious spirit; because I have little or no control over my emotions; because I’m jealous of someone else’s success; because I have
an unforgiving spirit. Because! Because! Because! There are ten thousand because in our lives which we do not want to deal with- -not very candidly or honestly, at least.

Until we become honest enough with ourselves and with others to get to the bottom of things-to lay it all on the table whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant-until we’re honest enough to look into our own hearts to
analyze what part of the blame rests with us-we’re not going to resolve our problems-not the most difficult ones, at least.Absolute honesty is the key to resolving problems and enjoying life free
from deceit. The first thing we need to do is analyze what part we may be contributing to the situation. How much of the blame rests with us, how much with someone else? Until we do this we’re not going to make a great deal of headway in turning the situation around. Only to the extent that we’re honest with ourselves and honest with others will we be able to deal with life’s problems successfully.

Sometimes others really are to blame for what happened. There’s no point blaming ourselves for what others, have done. This only causes false guilt. If we know we’re not to blame before God we should hold our head high regardless of what others may think or say. God knows what’s true, and that’s all that matters.

Conclusion: Honesty of heart is a virtue which needs to be cherished because of the maturity and spiritual wholeness it brings.

The Psalmist wanted to live a life that was pleasing to God. He didn’t trust his own emotions. So he prayed that God would reveal to him the deepest desires and motives of his heart. This way he’d be able to expel what was evil and nurture what was good.

If God was pleased with that kind of attitude and prayer from the Psalmist (as he surely must have been), I’m sure he’d be pleased with that kind of prayer from us as well. “Search me, oh God, and know my heart today. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” No sham, no pretense; only a sincere desire to live a life that is pleasing to him: that’s the road to happiness!

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