Purity of Heart
Purity of heart is more than sincerity or humility of heart. A pure heart is devoid of untoward or evil intention. It’s necessarily, therefore, a heart transformed. All manner of feelings, desires, urges, and impulses inhabit the human heart. And cleansing one’s heart is the work of a lifetime. It takes a lot of mindful contemplation. (See: Self-Mastery Requires Mindfulness.) But you have to know your heart well before you can succeed in this task. (See: Knowing and Following Your Heart.)
We’ve been talking about the 10th and final of the character “commandments.” (See: pp. 140-148 in Character Disturbance.) These are the essential life lessons experience taught me we must learn and embrace to be of sound character. The commandment is all about sincerity of heart and purpose. (See also: Sincerity of Heart and Purpose.) But sincerity alone is not enough. One can be quite sincere (i.e. “without wax” or genuine) and not be of sound or pure heart. I know plenty of disturbed characters who are genuinely who they are. These folks know themselves, understand their motives, and make no bones about them. And some make no attempt to hide their nefarious intentions. They offer no pretense. They like how they operate. And it doesn’t bother them that how they operate may well cause others harm.
A Lofty Goal
Achieving purity of heart is the goal of many religions. But even then, things can go horribly awry. I know many devout followers who still harbor plenty of evil in their hearts. Why? Because merely professing beliefs is meaningless. And just practicing aspects of a particular brand of faith won’t necessarily transform a heart. Doing so can, of course. But not necessarily so. Religious practice without deliberate, mindful attention to our deeper selves can even breed hypocrisy. It’s the condition of our souls that matters.
Purity of heart is a goal that exceeds mere religious practice. It can be aided by a number of non-religious practices, too. But whatever course we take, the goal is the same. To be of truly sound character, we must be right with ourselves, others, and the universe at large. That, of course, is the loftiest of goals.
Nature has wired each of us in certain ways. So, we are differently predisposed in dealing with life’s challenges. But in deeply knowing ourselves, we have the power to elevate ourselves. Of course, this takes both right intention and firm resolution. Still, we can do it. That’s what inner transformation is all about.
Getting in deeper touch with ourselves is the first step. And there are many ways to do it. Some use meditation. Others, use certain psychotherapies to do their “inner work.” The end is the same: knowing who we truly are, the good, bad, and the ugly.
What is Inner is Outer
What’s going on inside of us largely defines how we’ll relate to others. For example, if we’re detached from our feelings or struggling with insecurity, we’re likely to relate to others in emotionally dependent ways. Similarly, if we haven’t reckoned with the unseemly motives within ourselves, it’s hard to discern the potentially harmful intentions of others. That’s why it always pays to know our own hearts, first. When we do, we can see more clearly what might not be right or healthy in our relationships.
I’ll be talking more about this in the coming weeks as the current series concludes.