Friday, January 13, 2017

My Gut Lied

I went with my gut. Ten minutes later I regretted it. An hour later I really, really regretted it. Twenty years later, I don't think I'll ever forget it. Thankfully, there's a happy ending to the story and I didn't end up lying in a gutter. These days it's a funny story I tell.

The young man on the tram asked me the time. Then he sat next to me. Then he asked me how many stops it was until Bell St. I'll tell you when we get there, I said.

He started to pour his heart out about how lonely he was in Australia. Will you be my friend? He asked. Soon he was writing down my phone number. I went with my gut. He seemed friendly and lonely. He decided not to get off the tram at Bell street. I had two choices of tram stop, both equally close to home. Thoroughly frightened by now, I got off at the first one. My new “friend” followed me off the tram.

He started asking increasingly personal questions. I think by now we can agree, my gut had lied to me. What felt right had turned out to be wrong. Can I come home with you? He asked. Over and over. After about the third or fourth no, he asked rather mournfully, wouldn't your parents approve? I jumped at the chance.

No, I said, definitely not. (No my parents, who were far, far away across the water in another state, would definitely not approve of me taking a complete stranger to an empty house with none of my house mates home.)

I was infinitely relieved when he gave up, and I was finally able to walk home without him following me. Shortly after I got home the phone rang. For me. My new “friend” asked when he could see me again. Nothing I said seemed to put him off. At last he told me, You're the only girl in my heart. If I don't see you again, I will die.

This time I didn't do what felt right. Fine, I said. And hung up. I never heard from him again. Probably he was just a foreign student wanting to marry an Aussie and become a citizen. Or something like that. I don't know. What I do know is that my gut lied to me.

Go with your gut.

Just do what feels right.

Stay true to yourself.

We hear and see these a lot. They seem to be the catch-cry everywhere I go. Hidden in those phrases is a tiny grain of truth. Scientists have shown that our instincts, fuelled by mirror neurons, can help us make decisions our rational brains can't explain. If properly trained those instincts can be lifesavers in emergencies. However, our gut has a dark side.

The Bible sheds light on the whole truth.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

In other words, our instincts are unreliable and sometimes downright deceptive. How do we know when to trust our instincts? For a start, nothing that compromises on God's law or contradicts the Bible is right... Even when it seems like the only way out of a stick situation. Beyond that, the more we train our instincts and emotions with truth, the more we get in the habit of doing the right thing when it's really, really hard, the more reliable our instincts will become. The Bible says:

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

But not only that:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)

Had I turned to God for wisdom before giving away my phone number, I might have been spared a lot of fear and anxiety.

Everywhere we turn there are catchy slogans and eye-catching memes, but before we go with our gut, nod our heads and click the like button, we need to ask ourselves if they are Truth, or just a little bit of truth mixed in with some dangerous lies. The truth may not look or feel as good, but it's always the best option.