A good heart. What is it really? That was the bull’s eye of a conversation I recently had concerning intriguing current events and conditions in the world these days. Confusion, chaos, natural disasters, pandemic threats, social turmoil and inequalities, political upheavals. The list can go on and on. There is no intent of sounding dismal here, but just relaying an exchange not rare at all – but rather, common anywhere and any place these days. The casual discussion peaked to a perplexity accented by the question – what is happening? Are these the signs of the time? Some may wonder what that question alludes to. Almost like a cliché used when baffled about widespread dire occurrences. And usually, the question is asked with some alarm.
Without advancing theories or ideas that may stir fear or anxiety, I bring this up because of the way my conversation ended up. In a nutshell, my take was this — there are circumstances beyond our control, and we watch with some helplessness because we desire solutions, rectification, a fix. The truth is, we can do something. We all can contribute to making life more purposeful in a better world. How? Keeping a good heart. Sounds too simplistic for a complicated and ambivalent world whose proclivity is success without a soul, you might say.
So what really is a good heart?
When churning ideas to characterize a good heart, I thought of my Mama, Leoncia Manuel Pandes, who passed on Nov.7, 2017, a month shy of her 101st birthday — a beautiful woman with a good heart (sketch by Marie Recine – used in my book, Something Curious, Book 2: Simply Awed).
First, it’s a heart after God’s own liking. A heart that’s intimate with the Lord. A heart that knows and acknowledges who always is in control. A good heart operates consistently and steadfastly on the conviction that love is a basic precept taught and desired by God, expressed in the ultimate sacrifice on the cross of His only begotten son, Jesus, redeeming us back for His kingdom. That is the biggest heart of all, and the best heart of all.
So what is it to have a good heart?
It is having empathy for others, concern for the needy, the marginalized, the less advantaged, the lonely. It is acting on compassion and translating that into acts of help and service.
It is giving without expecting any return, any reward, or any praise for a good deed.
It is being genuinely generous without taking pride in one’s own generosity and acts of mercy.
On the receiving or giving end, it is not taking stock of how much one gives as the base measure, but of sincerity in the spirit of kindness.
It is lending a sympathetic ear to one distressed, offering counsel when needed, or a quiet understanding when silence is the catalyst to calmness and peaceful relief.
It is not taking boastful or prideful credit that is not due, or even when it’s due. It is being selfless, thinking less of self and more of others.
It is rejoicing in other people’s good fortune, not coveting that fortune nor allowing envy ro wish it was ours.
It is delighting in humor and wit, because lightheartedness can lead to wholesome pleasure, and surprisingly, a clear mind.
It is being sensitive to the feelings of others without judgement or condemnation.
It is not looking down at those of less stature in any capacity or holdings, but giving them equal value and respect, for all are valuable in the eyes of God.
There are many more desirable characteristics of a good heart, and I’m sure, you can offer descriptions of your own. But I would like to zero in on gratitude, being grateful for whatever we have and not anguish for what we do not have – but rather, work with what we have in constructive ways.
The truth is, blessings are all around. Some of them, perhaps, not easy to recognize due to distractions of the mind and the heart. But when we do see them, we acknowledge them – grateful in humility, for One so mighty and powerful has chosen to freely bestow those blessings to us. For God loves a thankful heart. God loves a humble heart. God loves a good heart.
To all the good hearts – Happy Thanksgiving!
[P.S. — A tall order for a good heart you might say. And yes! Because the standards of a good heart are high! But if and when we fail and fall, we get up and by the grace of God and with God’s help, we try all over again. We can do it!
And to those of us who fail and rise to try all over again — A very meaningful and Happy Thanksgiving, too! Just remember — God loves us all very much.]
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