The Head and the Heart
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ . . . Philippians 1:9-10
While treating those with substance use disorders, it’s easy to err in either being too compassionate or being too tough. Those addicted to chemicals often have a dysfunctional relationship with medications and will frequently come to me, asking for something that is counterproductive to their recovery. At that point, it’s easiest to just give them what they want. As a physician, I desire to help people and there’s a part of me that feels giving people what they ask for is a good thing. But, in this case, it can be harmful. So, sometimes I must say no. In doing so though, I can often go too far in the other direction, becoming a cruel taskmaster.
Those who are addicted require love and compassion but love without truth will give in to their self-destructive nature. They require truth, but truth without love will be cold, calloused, and downright mean. Those addicted require both love and truth.
In today’s passage, Paul addressed this dualism. In it, he prayed for the Philippians to grow in love, coupled with knowledge. To know the will of God, and to live it, they needed the heart and the head. They needed both love and truth.
This isn’t something we apply only in our interactions with the addicted. This is something we must apply to our own lives. In our own thoughts, words, and actions, we must continually strive for both truth and love. If we simply follow our hearts, without using our minds, we’ll regularly choose unhealthy behavior. Emotions are labile, continually changing. Love without truth to govern it leads to chaos. If, however, we simply follow logic and reason, we’ll become cold, calculating tyrants. Truth without love to soften it is simply a legalistic set of rules, harsh and cruel.
When I have a strong emotional impulse to do or say something, my first impulse is often wrong. I frequently must ask myself if I’m being reasonable – and often, I’m not. I must filter my emotions through my brain. Likewise, when I believe something to be true and important, I often want to smash others over the head with that truth. At such times, I need to temper the truth with love and compassion.
In all things, I must learn to balance both love and truth. They are opposite sides of the same coin and one without the other is incomplete. They need each other to be whole. One without the other is actually evil and destructive.