The Making of a Hard Heart

An analogy came to me yesterday when I was teaching in the treatment center about anger. It struck me how we develop a hard heart. I’d like to share it with you.

There are three ways to express our anger:

  • We blow up.
  • We clam up.
  • Or, we let out our anger in a controlled release.

In my book, STUCK, I compared it to shaking a pop can and an aerosol spray can. The pop can will explode and make a mess when the pressure is released. This is what typically happens when we let our anger fly. But an aerosol can provides a steady, controlled release. The user has full control the entire time. You may not believe it, but you can have the same kind of control over your anger. It doesn’t have to control you.

The shaken pop can can stay unopened, but the pressure remains. The same is true for us. We can hold in our anger but it doesn’t go away. Most people are under the false impression that if they keep quiet and hold their tongue for a few days that their anger will magically disappear. It doesn’t. It stays in your heart.

The Making of a Hard Heart

Now, here’s the diagram that I drew. I drew a heart and then drew horizontal lines from the bottom to the top. I told my clients that every time they hold in their anger they lay down a layer of anger. Layer after layer. Year after year.hard heart

I live in western Wisconsin. There are many exposed cliffs. You can see what happens after years and years of sedimentation. Layer after layer was laid down, compressed and turned to rock. That’s what happens to your heart if you don’t deal with your anger. You grow a hard heart.

The sad thing is, a hard heart happens so slowly that you don’t even know it’s happening. But people around you do.  They try to talk to you but you push them away, tell them they are crazy, or it’s no big deal. You think you’ll get over it and move on. But you don’t. You just lay down another layer of anger. And your heart grows harder.

If you don’t watch out, your heart will turn to rock and then you’ll start losing people in your life; your spouse, your kids, your friends. Everyone. You might lose your job. You might even lose God…not that he walks away, but you walk away from Him. This happens more with men than women. Men seem to be more comfortable shutting down like this. They die alone. 

The sad thing is, a hard heart happens so slowly that you don’t even know it’s happening.

So, what’s the answer to a hard heart? What keeps this from happening?  Deal with your anger. Confront the pain. Grieve the losses that got you mad in the first place. Talk to the people who caused the losses. Talk to God about the losses. Learn to forgive. I talk about all of these things in STUCK and throughout this blog.

I hope you’ll take a look in the mirror and take action before your anger gives you a hard heart. Things get harder then.