Apr 30

A Hardened Heart

A hardened heart

Crusted over

Closed off to the light, 

to the Spirit

To change.


But it wasn’t always that way.


It hardened over time


A little pride here, 

a little there.

And all the while you thought you were fine,

Learning, growing, maturing, developing, becoming


But what are you becoming?


Hard to see it at the time, 

but all those things you were so consumed with,

which so occupied your mind and heart

Were actually driving you away from the very things 

that matter most.


And took its toll on your heart.


A little pride here

A little stubbornness there

All in the name of some good cause

Which masked its true insidious purpose of

feeding the natural man,

And puffing up the ego.

driving out meekness

and any desire to change.


A hardened heart:

Can’t penetrate it.

No longer soft, 

No longer receptive.

Locked. Blocked.

Iron walls

which you thought were being built for your benefit

But which now turn against you.

Built over time, 

Like plaques on an artery wall

Closing yourself off to that life-giving Spirit.

To the light and joy and love that could be yours 

If you would only

Let it in.


A hardened heart.


I started writing this poem after pondering the many references there are in the scriptures to the state of one’s heart.  For instance, most recently when I read The Book of Mormon cover to cover, it really struck me- how many times it talks about having a soft heart vs. having a hard heart. There are so many times where ancient prophets have pled with God’s children to “harden not your hearts,” and I find that fascinating. 


I’ve also been pondering about how many of life’s experiences and pursuits can lead us to a ‘change of heart’, or can have an affect on our hearts – whether hardening it or softening it. And how indiscernible it is!  The hardening that builds up inside our heart is often hardly noticeable as it’s building up. You don’t even realize it’s happening. And the sad irony is that: by the time your heart is fully hardened, it can be harder to feel  that your heart is hardened, because your heart is hardened. And then we become “past-feeling”, no longer penetrable- no longer receptive to the true light that seeks entrance but which now just bounces off our now hardened heart.  


And even seemingly harmless things can lead to our hearts becoming hardened! I think Satan will try just about everything to get us to harden our hearts. He doesn’t care by what methods, provided that the cumulative effect leads to the hardening of our hearts. There are countless ways and diverse means, and he cleverly disguises the “hardening agents” he uses and tries to introduce into our hearts. He knows he won’t get the soft-hearted to take his bait easily, so he wraps those “hardening agents” in a cloak that makes it seem good. He lies to us, telling us that any ‘change of heart’ must be good. He tries to get us to harden/close ourselves off from the good, by convincing us that we’re merely closing our hearts off to the ‘bad’. How careful we must be to not let ourselves become hard-hearted without recognizing it, and to not allow things into our heart–anything— that will have the cumulative effect of hardening it over time. Doubtless some things will make their way in, but let us always stay in a state so we can remember what it was like to have a soft heart, and thus be able to revert back to that again before the hardening takes too strong of a hold on our hearts. We have the power to rise above deception. We can choose to stay soft hearted! 


Symptoms of a hardened heart:

  • Stubborn, unyielding, inflexible, obstinate

  • Prideful, critical, cynical, unbelieving.

  • Stiffnecked; only looking one-way; unwilling to bend; tunnel vision.

  • Believing that you see all things clearly while others don’t.

  • Trusting too much in your own wisdom, experiences, expertise.

  • Insisting you know better. Believing you are always right.

  • Not willing to admit that you may be wrong. Not open to feedback.

  • Resisting counsel and advice, unwilling to receive direction.

  • Insensitive, past-feeling, spiritually numb

  • Feels justified in everything, doesn’t feel any need to change.


A hardened heart is rooted in pride. Pride is so easy to detect in others, but, ironically, so hard to discern in ourselves. In our hardened state, we’re so blinded to it that often takes a wake-up call to recognize where pride has seeped in. I’ve had a few of those.

I’ve found that the spirit of the Lord is often a spirit of correction. We too often think of it as merely a spirit of ‘validation’– something that makes us feel good. But it’s not.  It’s a spirit that invites us to do better, be better, which calls us to repent and to make changes to align our will with God’s. (Hebrews 12:6: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth”).  It’s a spirit that the ‘natural man’ resists, because yielding to this voice requires a willingness to change. This is why having a soft heart (humility) is so important! It keeps us open and receptive to that still, small voice.  I’ve also found that feeling ‘defensive’ is a pretty good key indicator of the beginnings of a hardened heart. Soft hearts are inclined to be charitable and quick to forgive, while hard hearts tend to respond defensively and get easily offended. 


A hardened heart resists change.

The moment we start being resistant to positive change is the moment our heart is beginning to become hardened.


Change is what life is all about! A culture of a willingness to change should be ingrained into every Christian heart. It should be our way of life. That’s what repentance is! It’s all about letting God change our hearts.  We should constantly be repenting, trying to improve, adjusting our perspective, and aligning our will with God’s. And we’re never fully there yet; it’s a lifetime pursuit. A soft heart embraces the idea of “change.” 


Along these same lines, here is a little video I love because it teaches children about the difference between a soft heart and a hard heart in a very simple, fun way:



And a couple of amazing conference talks on the subject that I highly recommend!

Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change (Elder Dale G. Renlund)

Opening Our Hearts (Elder Gerald N. Lund)




Just a few thoughts I’ve been pondering that I felt like sharing!