The Gap Between Our Head (Thoughts) and Heart (Feelings)

Many people can accept the concept of God’s grace and cosmic forgiveness at a head level but cannot yet feel his forgiveness in their hearts.

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Probably the thing we most struggle with in life is the gap between our head and our heart, between our thoughts and our feelings. Let me explain.

It’s the resolve we make in our minds to lose a habit or to forgive someone, or it’s a plan we make, or the decision to accept the magnitude of beneficence in God’s grace. But these resolutions we make in our minds don’t always translate into feelings that align or actions we sustainably execute in the outworking of life.

Addiction is always far easier to overcome in our mind’s eye than it is in the effect of the drawling days where our resolve may be gradually weakened, where we might relapse. The mind is easily inspired to do what is right, but the heart and the habit lag in response.

It’s the same when we endeavor to forgive someone who has hurt us. We decide that it is best to forgive, and so we do. Not long after that, however, a lot of the time, we want to rescind that forgiveness. This, in effect, is what happens when our heart remains suspicious and our heart is looking for evidence that they do not deserve the forgiveness we have extended.

Then we have the situation of the plans we make, bold plans to reform our lives. Many times I have made these plans in my mind in a day or an hour or two. But plans that seem doable hardly ever translate into change because there is a lack of will to do all of what it takes to walk out a new lifestyle that usually requires a more diligent work ethic over the months and years.

It’s like the idea that has penetrated western religion over the decades, centuries, and millennia, that God is a judging God and not a God who has forgiven our sin. Many people can accept the concept of God’s grace and cosmic forgiveness at a head level but cannot yet feel his forgiveness in their hearts.

There is always a gap between our head and our heart, and we all experience this.

None of us is saved from the grief of wanting things to be different from within ourselves. Frustration can so easily become despair as we find ourselves in the land of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the term psychologists use to describe the anxiety we experience when there is a lack of continuity between the head and heart, between our thoughts and our feelings.

Being that it is common that the heart does not often follow the head, our opportunity is to sit in the cognitive dissonance and agree on what we really want with mindfulness. It’s about avoiding frustration and sitting in acceptance. It’s about acknowledging the journey and taking the pressure off that we’re not exactly where we want to be, but at least we are on our way.

Being more intentionally mindful of the goodness of God in the grace that has forgiven us, we enjoy more moments of living in that forgiveness, and we find there are fewer times we feel judged and condemned. Slowly but surely, we begin to live a freer life, even as we begin to congregate with the like-minded. We avoid legalistic churches and legalistic people. We congregate with like-minded, safe, and loving people, where community adds to our desire for and actuality of healing. And we experience much more life as a result.

In terms of our plans, we begin to realize that there are all kinds of idealistic plans we could make, but we begin to accept our life for what it is and the realistic hopes that we bear. There are still so many things we can do, but we can’t do everything, and we begin to realize there is a sanctity in doing one thing and in doing that thing well. And there is peace in that.

When it comes to a person or a situation that we struggle to forgive, we are given the perspective that we can’t change what we would love to be different. We more fully realize that the situation is complicated, yet the opportunity is to move forward. We recognize that there is no stock in harboring grudges and bitterness against anyone, no matter how deserving they seem to be. It’s powerful when we realize that forgiveness is a process, and the fact that our head has decided to forgive the person or situation is enough. And then we simply focus on the positive things we wish to do, leaving the extended ruminations, acknowledging they take us nowhere.

The habits that entrap us in lifestyles that are not good for us are our most powerful opportunities for living the life we’ve always wanted to live. It’s worth the effort, one day at a time, to live honestly and abide by one’s mind, trusting not in our feelings, and to travel by faith through what Jesus calls the narrow gate toward a burgeoning life of hope and freedom.


This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework

Featured Image by [email protected] from Pixabay

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About the Author

Steve Wickham is a Kingdom Winds Contributor. He holds several roles, including husband, father, peacemaker championing peacemaking for children and adults, conflict coach and mediator, church pastor, counselor, funeral celebrant, chaplain, mentor, and Board Secretary. He holds degrees in Science, Divinity (2), and Counselling. Steve is also a Christian minister serving CyberSpace i.e. here.