The heart is what matters. As humans, we focus our energy on our behaviour, which flows from our heart, so it's like applying a fresh coat of paint to the outside of the Titanic while the inside cabins fill with water.
It's much easier to work on our words and actions than it is to change our hearts, but surface changes do not last. What we need to leave to our children is a world where we all look honestly at our hearts. What is lurking there?
Unacknowledged rage against people who have wronged us?
A desire for those we do not like to suffer?
A sense that we are right and everyone else is wrong?
Paralyzing fears about safety and security which we are terrified to acknowledge, even to ourselves?
Until we look honestly at our own hearts, the changes we make to our behaviour will only last for so long and then fail. It is deeply hard to be truthful about the darkness which lives in all of us. Facing it is the path to growth and change.
I am learning to love from my heart. To forgive. To lay down my life for someone else. It is so damn hard that it feels like running a million miles uphill with no available oxygen to breathe. It was much easier to blame others for their bad behaviour while I tried to control what I said and did, but learning to really love with no strings attached has changed me from the inside out.
I am transformed. After I clawed my way out of the mud and filth of my own heart, and faced the fear I felt when I looked at what I really thought about other people, I began to experience true freedom from the expectations of myself, God and others.
Everything that matters in this life comes from the heart. When people are unspeakably mean to me, I see now how afraid they are of what lives inside of them, and I try to practice extending grace. This is never easy. It always requires concentrated effort, and I must work at swallowing my own pride and my sense of what is right and fair being violated.
There are times to stand up and say, "no more", and times to be silent and recognize that we are all damaged and in pain. Learning to know the difference between the two requires the ability to make mistakes, and to forgive yourself, and to recognize that inching your way toward improved health is a bloody, messy, and mostly ugly process.
But it's also beautiful. It's real, and you can measure your incremental growth patterns over a long period of time. It's living in the light without fear instead of cowering in the darkness of your own soul and lashing out like a wounded wolf against anyone who has a differing view.
Love and grace can change you, but that transformation happens in the heart, and then it slowly changes your behaviour. Trying to fix your actions first is putting the cart before the horse. It exhausts you, and feels pointless, but that's because it is pointless.
Don't waste all of your energy on what doesn't last. Look into your heart, offer grace and mercy to yourself, wade through the fear and you'll slog your way through the dark and out into the light of freedom and joy.