“Trust your gut.” “Follow your passion.” “Look inside yourself.” “What’s your heart telling you to do? Do that.” Ever heard that advice? I have, many times, and I’m not knocking it. I think it’s helpful to seek your heart or listen to your gut, however you want to phrase it. Too often, people make decisions solely to please others, leading to a life that’s hollow and lacks authenticity. Our gut feelings can tell us a lot and can guide us in the right direction. But we have to be careful because the gut isn’t always right. It’s not always guided by the truth. It can be operating on lies or, at the very least, limited information.
While it’s good to listen to your gut, it can’t be your only guiding principle. It has to be tested and questioned. Here are 4 ways to tell if you can trust your gut.
1. Does it have all the objective information?
Our gut is often informed by our experiences, which gives us a limited perspective and can even feed our biases and prejudices. We always need to broaden our perspective and consider the full picture. When our gut tells us something, we need to consider our blind spots. If we discover them, we need to reconcile their impact on what we are feeling. It may make our gut feeling off point.
2. Is it selfish?
Little kids’ actions are almost always based on their gut feelings. They see what they want and move on it. One of the first words they use is “mine.” Much of the world continues to be motivated by selfishness, and you’ll find evidence for that on the nightly news. We can even be selfish without realizing it. Sometimes our kindest acts are peppered with selfish desires. We have to honestly ask ourselves if our gut is just trying to satisfy our desire for comfort, greed, or pleasure at someone else’s expense. If so, our gut is a voice to avoid.
3. Is it confirmed by others?
Sometimes you have to stand apart and do what’s right no matter what the crowd does. However, if a decision you’re going to make is the right decision, it’s typically confirmed by someone trustworthy and wise, and often, by multiple people. If you are following your gut against the advice of wise counsel, I would suggest you’re playing a risky game.
4. Is it morally right?
I heard a celebrity recently say she knew something she did was right because her feelings said so. The problem with that is we all feel differently at times about what’s right and wrong. We have to have a higher standard or measuring stick for morality than our feelings. King David wrote in Psalm 139:23–24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” David knew how deceptive his gut could be, so he asked God to show him the parts that were offensive so his heart could be purified.
Sound off: What are some other ways to tell whether you can trust your gut?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How does it make you feel when your friends are being selfish?”