Hardness of Heart
What do we mean when we talk about “hardness of heart”? Folks with hardened hearts have an impaired ability to empathize. They also have an impaired ability to truly connect. This makes healthy, intimate relationships virtually impossible. The harder one’s heart, the harder it is to achieve real intimacy and to truly love.
Hardness of heart can manifest itself in many ways. A person can show it through insensitivity. They can show it through the callous use and exploitation of another. They can also display it in verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive behavior. Sometimes, however, their displays can be so subtle they go unnoticed for awhile. That’s how some folks get trapped into abusive relationships.
There are many ways a heart can become hardened enough to do such the things mentioned above. A person might have suffered so much hurt in the past that they built thick walls of protection around their heart. Or, they can simply have been so successful in manipulating others that they never had to develop any empathy capacity they might possess. And some folks became so successful at acquiring power and so enamored of both it and themselves that they came to despise openness or vulnerability. Then there are those rare but truly unfortunate cases where the qualities commonly thought to make up the human heart simply aren’t part of a person’s constitutional makeup. For more on this type of serious character pathology, see:
- Heartless Characters Think Differently
- Heartless Shoplifter with More than Stolen Goods in Her Bag
- Sincerity of Heart in a Heartless Age
- Is Psychopathy Genetic?
Can Anything Soften a Hardened Heart?
Can enough love soften a hardened heart? Many folks have entered relationships believing it can. The simple answer to the question is simple: sometimes. But the more accurate answer is much more complicated. Sadly, all too many folks enter tenuous relationships hoping enough love will fix things and conquer all. So, the bigger question becomes how to discern when such hope truly exists. And to that question, there is no simple or easy answer. (Find more on these topics in: How Did We End Up Here?)
Like we’re realizing about so many things these days, hardness of heart is a spectrum phenomenon. Folks can harbor varying degrees of hardness in their hearts and for very different reasons. Regardless, penetrating a closed heart is always a challenge. But the important thing to remember is that no one bears the responsibility for “fixing” another’s heart. Only life itself can do that. Intense joy or nearly decimating pain can open even the most closed of hearts. (See: Hitting Bottom Can Help a Narcissist.) And in the end, it’s each individual’s personal responsibility to cooperate with any purification process such events can precipitate.
Next week I’ll be concluding the series on purity and sincerity of heart. And in the coming week’s I’ll be discussing the wider spiritual dimension of all the “commandments.” (See: pp. 140-148 in Character Disturbance.)