Decision Making and the Conundrum of a “Bad” Heart


In high school I wrote a worship song with these words: “Cleanse my motives, make them pure. Change my heart to be like your’s. Fill me with your precious love. Dear Father make me holy…” It was really more like a dirge!

By this time, the religious systems I was a part of had me convinced that my heart was very bad. My heart, the thing inside me that feels and is moved, the spirit that holds the essence of what it means to be ME… colourful, pulsing energy that is unpredictable, passionate, unpretentious, desirous, drawn to the truth. The thing inside that feels the most and wants the most… My life force… I had come to believe that this thing inside me was dangerous.

Water Spray by Vince Mig

In my young mind, if my heart was bad and in dire need of correction, then my safest choice was to distance myself from it. Why would I embrace, explore, trust or be lead by something that was bad?? I disconnected myself from its vitality. I put up walls to protect me from its unpredictable, ungaugeable movements, and (though I didn’t realize it then),put up walls to protect it from the outside correction that deep inside I did not understand.

The incessant teachings I learned about knowing “God’s will” for my life compounded this dynamic. We were taught that we might have a certain dream, we might desire to get married or climb Mt. Everest or be successful and rich. BUT that- might- not- be- God’s- will- for- you. Because we couldn’t trust our hearts, our deeper motives for any dream had to be analyzed, questioned, examined. We might just be wanting ourselves to look good, or feel important or pursue a dream only for our own satisfaction. Rather than finding our way by getting to know what was inside, we were taught to find God’s will by the signs in the sky or by what other people told us. I was steered into the confounding pain of feeling desire, but not trusting it. Of trying to find my way, but anguishing that if I did something I enjoyed, I might be doing it for the wrong reason. And if I really found JOY in what I was doing, well then I wouldn’t be finding my joy from God alone and that was an unpardonable sin. Somehow, God had to tell me exactly what I should do with my life so that I would not get it mixed up with my own fulfillment and satisfaction. Somehow, I had to contort my heart to match some altruistic, non “self-serving” aim.

This is an extremely anxious way to live. I’m not trying to say that we should follow every whim we feel or live without contemplation, wisdom and learning. But the core of this anxious state for me was being divided against myself… Not feeling I could trust that anything within me was good. It felt impossible to move forward or chart out a satisfying life for myself.  I couldn’t trust my heart, but trusting in outside “signs” or other people to tell me which direction to go was incredibly uncertain too and made me very vulnerable.

Abusive religious systems want people to remain disconnected from their hearts because that’s how they can keep controlling them, keep them “hanging” in uncertainty with the need to come back again and again for direction. At the heart of the journey of wholeness is becoming free to connect with and value our true hearts, uncovering the lies that scaled over our eyes before and recovering the life we lost long ago. To me, this process is the true “rebirthing” of the heart and spirit.

~ Carla ~

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7 response to "Decision Making and the Conundrum of a “Bad” Heart"

  1. By: Carla Posted: 21st July

    Patricia, yes, that book exposed me to compassion in a whole new way too. It blew open the “box”, so to speak, much like my counseling did too! Thank you for sharing more of your story… I can relate to those feelings- the “fear of God” permeated a lot of my life, this feeling that God was always trying to “teach me” something, that I was always needing correction, that every life event or hardship was meant to fix me somehow. I hated that feeling, that God was always looking at my life and figuring out how to punish me to be “better”. Now I think he’s really my biggest fan, more intent on cheering me on than punishing me. Thanks as always Patricia. Love, Carla

  2. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 20th July

    Years ago at exactly the right time when I needed it, I found the book Compassion and Self-Hate in a used book store. It helped me so much to see that I hated myself and had no idea what compassion was. It is a wonderful book.

    My only exposure to church and religion when I was a kid was through both of my grandmothers. My parents only went to church for weddings and funerals. My mother was raised in the church but didn’t go as an adult probably because my dad didn’t. He was always quick to tell you about all of the alcoholic preachers that he knew.

    The biggest religious influence on me came from my maternal grandmother who went to the Assembly of God church in the small north Louisiana town that I was born in. Some people would call them Holy Rollers because they would “speak in tongues” and sometimes roll on the floor when they were doing it. Their God was an extremely punishing God. They were extremely judgmental themselves. The preacher used to pick up my grandmother and me and take us to church every Sunday morning and evening. When I was six or seven, his wife divorced him. She was an alcoholic who never came to church with him and their daughter. Because his wife divorced him, he suddenly wasn’t fit to be a preacher, at least in my grandmother’s church. So I learned that even preachers could be considered bad. I loved this man with my child’s heart. I never saw him again after he left my grandmother’s church.

    It was also in this church that I labeled myself an adultress at age 3. ( ) The preacher was talking about the sin of adultry and I thought that he was talking about me. My three-year-old mind didn’t understand that to be an adultress I had to be married. She just knew that she was guilty of this sin. (I still have no memories of being sexually abused by the age of three. I just have this very strong clue that it was already happening.)

    As a child, I saw all of these people “speaking in tongues” and no matter how much I tried I couldn’t do it so I felt unworthy of God’s love and felt like I wasn’t good enough for God to ever love me. Later on, when I have the memories of being abused sexually, I felt that I was so bad that God had turned His back on me, otherwise He would have stopped the abuse, therefore, I must have deserved to be abused. All of these beliefs came from the lessons that I learned at this “Hell and brimstone” church when I was a very young child. They taught me to fear God and that I was worthless and deserved to be punished by being abused.

    I was born knowing that God was inside of me, inside of each of us and that He loved us. Even with the teachings from my childhood churches, I never completely let go of this belief.

  3. By: Nikki Posted: 8th July

    Thank you Carla for the link I will definitely look this book up! (((HUGS))) to you and to you all of you!

  4. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 8th July

    Darlene, thank you for adding all of these other strands- you really fleshed out so much more! Your point about “what about FREE WILL” really struck me. Yeah, what about free will? What about equipping people to make their own choices with their own best interest at heart? We’ve been talking a lot about how choosing what is best for us is ultimately best for others too. It all ties together… Thanks Darlene. Love Carla

    Jeanette, hugs to you too! I am so glad that these posts have connected with you. They’ve been opening up new things for me too- absolutely. I have learned a lot from your comments and really appreciate your support. I do believe that what has been squashed can come back to life. It’s like the little tiny roots are still there, just down really deep, and now that we are free to cultivate them ourselves, there is hope. Love to you Jeanette!

    Nikki, that doesn’t sound weird to me at all! In so many subtle ways we were taught that loving ourselves WAS a sin. We were supposed to always put others first, and never think too highly of ourselves, all of that. But I think Jesus took a lot of care with himself. He couldn’t have lived out his mission if he hadn’t. Hey, there’s a book by Theodore I Rubin called “Compassion and Self Hate” which I have found very helpful ( describes self-compassion so well. Big hug and love to you too Nikki.


  5. By: Nikki Posted: 8th July

    Thank you ever so much for sharing this … I often tell people that they are not alone but in this blog you help me to see that I wasn’t alone. I know the very deep feelings of being so disconnected within myself I have been afraid to love myself because I was afraid if I did it would be a horrible sin and I know that sounds weird but that is the truth.. thank you ever so much for sharing this!!

    I don’t think God intended for us to go around self hating but that in reality in order to truly love others we must love them as we love ourselves apart from that it isn’t love whatsoever.

    (((((HUGS)))) to you!

  6. By: Jeanette Posted: 8th July

    This is another great post Carla, I totally experienced the same thing. I’m still afraid of making any decisions about my life, I have squashed any desires I may have had and have no idea how to even get back in touch with them. When I say that my life was stolen from me, this is what I mean. I was too filled with fear to do anything with my life, I was afraid I would be punished. I want it back, I want my whole life back and there are no ‘do overs’. I just have to salvage what is left. I am only now starting to feel the grieving over this huge loss for me. Much more anger at this stage of my process, but I’m starting to feel the grieving part.

    Thank you for putting yourself out there, I know this is not easy, there are a lot of people who just don’t want to understand the pain you have experienced, but I DO understand and applaud you for sharing your experiences.


  7. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th July

    I read and then re read this post. I hope that others do the same because you describe the horrific confusion that happens when our teachers try to teach us out of the funky and dysfunctional way that they themselves were taught. Full of fear and mixed messages from so many different leaders and teachers ~ don’t trust yourself, and make sure that without a doubt that you understand God’s will in whatever step forward you take. And it is all mixed in with messages that others get about “God told me” and “God gave me a message about you” and how the heck to we stand up to the God card? None of it makes sense, what about love, grace and FREE WILL? No wonder so many are frozen in fear ~ how can we ever be sure that we are making the right move? and all of this is on the heals of our childhood training ~ respect your elders and these leaders know more and know better then you do. Not to mention that when we are adults, we are told over and over that we are responsible for our own results, and we grow up hearing that too… and no one wants to have bad results, but we are never actually encouraged OR taught to make our own choices and the fear of making the wrong choices actually rules us and keeps us shut down.

    This whole thing is so complicated that it is very hard to even talk about, never mind sort it all out and I want to say thank you for writing these posts about it. This is a huge area for so many people and it is so foundational for so many who are stuck in depressions and low self esteem issues.
    Love Darlene

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