Head Beliefs vs. Heart Beliefs

brainheartThere are some life skills I’ve picked up that have pretty much made the adult me.

The ability to apologize. You wouldn’t believe how far that takes you with people.

The ability to laugh at oneself. Which, naturally, makes me a one-man comedy.

The ability to say no to purchases I don’t need. No TV/Netflix, used cars…it adds up over the years.

But probably the most valuable life skill is the ability to articulate the hidden lies I’m believing.

I submit that we have two kinds of beliefs: head beliefs and heart beliefs. Head beliefs are the ones we’re aware of, the ones we’ve explicitly processed and given mental consent to, like the existence of gravity, or the depth of God’s love. It’s easier to articulate those beliefs, though we don’t necessarily act according to them.

On the other hand, heart beliefs exist without words, as something closer to instincts, triggered often by challenges or difficult choices. Typically, they’re very hard to put words to, because they race through your mind in the blink of an eye in those moments. We can live for years without spotting them.

An innocent example is procrastination.

When we put off a task, something deep in our hearts has probably said, “This isn’t a big deal to me right now.” Otherwise, we’d do it. Again, that belief rarely slow-marches through the mind for full-on processing. It flashes through, more an instinct than a statement. (You know how “mind-readers” in the movies “hear” others’ thoughts in complete sentences? That’s not how thoughts work.)

Another example is outbursts.

If you haul off and yell at someone after a hard day, it’s often because of some deep impulse that, if you’d have had time to catch, examine, and put words to it, would go something like, “I’ve had a bear of a day; I’ve earned the right to let loose on this moron”?

A dark example is pornography.

Men, when we linger on a photo or video we shouldn’t view, it’s because our hearts flashed a message like, “It’s okay to view this.” It’s unspoken, almost imperceptible, and opposed to the louder voice – the head belief – saying “this isn’t right”. Too often, the heart belief wins out. If it were our heart belief protesting the sin, as it does with, say, bank robbery, we wouldn’t do it.

I classify beliefs this way because of a saying you might have heard in a church before: “The distance between heaven and hell is two feet – the distance between your heart and your head.” Meaning, it is with our heart that we truly believe, while mere head knowledge gets us nowhere. The Bible treats the heart as the core of the person; Jesus says that it’s the heart that generates what comes out of a man (Matt. 12:33-35).

And I’ve found this double-mindedness to be very true in my life.

I struggle to drop that tithe check into the plate. My head says God will catch me. My heart cringes, not trusting God to come through at all.

Work trips me up. My head says it’s okay, it happens. My heart wants to apologize excessively fishing for reassurance.

A friend moves away. My head tells me it’s hard, but this is life – be happy for his new opportunity. My heart is freaking out. “Everyone’s going to leave.”

Any of this sound familiar?

Here’s the disturbing thing: not only have I slowly realized this second layer of beliefs operating underneath, I’ve realized those heart beliefs are driving the majority of what I doToo often, it’s unspoken instincts that determine how I treat others, how I organize life, how I view God. Most of us could probably confess to a heart belief of God’s not really in control or God doesn’t really care, because honestly, that’s how we live. We live as if we’re on our own, as if nobody is going to come through for us.

Which means that one of the greatest possible life skills is the ability to put words to those heart beliefs. Only then can we change them.

Here’s an effective way I’ve found for uncovering heart beliefs: simply hit a crisis, big or small, and pay attention to what bubbles up from the soul. Nothing like crisis to reveal the true you. Don’t react, speak, do anything – just let the moment pass, turn your eyes inward, and try to articulate what your emotions or instincts are saying. (God is a huge help with this reflection process, by the way. In fact, sometimes only he can really get the right words.)

Then we ask God to change our heart beliefs, to transfer what’s in the head down to the heart. We ask him for his truth, meditate upon it, soak it in.

He’ll come through. I’ve experienced it. Slowly, the ship of my soul is tacking. I’m seeing him as kinder, more patient, more holy, and more glorious than I ever thought.

How grateful I am for God’s ability to catch, sort, and tack hearts.


I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

10 thoughts on “Head Beliefs vs. Heart Beliefs

  1. So true!
    The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer.17:9
    Been realizing that too, on how not to listen to the heart. I like your advice that when something happens, to pause and analyze, kinda bridle the heart, and not allow it to be rash of untamed emotions. Definitely a workout to gain spiritual abs!

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I could nitpick, I think it’s an angle on simple sin that the post reveals, and spiritual warfare is part of the process of dealing with it. Satan definitely doesn’t like to surrender his lie-footholds easily.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful and toe-stomping at the same time. Well done, my friend. Yes, the heart is woefully overlooked by a majority even in the church. We call them deep-weed-sin-roots here. You have to break out the trough and break a sweat sometimes, but the garden is that much prettier when you’re done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said, and you just accomplished what a lot of people wish they could do–stomp all over the preacher’s toes…..thanks for writing this. Now excuse me, I need to dress the wounds on my toes!


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