Pope Francis gives a very concrete action plan “Communicate with your heart, in truth and charity”. By listening and speaking with your heart to the other heart, your communication can become positive and wholesome. The solution rests and springs from the human heart. Pope Francis, quotes Pope Benedict XVI’s words: “The Christian's programme —the programme of the Good Samaritan, the programme of Jesus—is “a heart which sees”. This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly.” Speaking with the heart, therefore, is seen as a life-long project for every Christian.
Symbolism of the Heart
The heart is a universally recognized force and is the most popular symbol in the world today. “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart,” affirmed the famous American author Helen Keller. It is perhaps the best and most profound expression of human love, the fountain from where everything good springs and resides. Obviously, while we all know that the biological heart is the most vital and delicate organ of the human body, the spiritual heart is at the centre of true humanity, and the source of all human feelings and emotions, and of intellectual and spiritual faculties. Interesting to note, that Pope Francis uses this metaphor of the heart, to affirm it as a powerful instrument to bring that great transformation that the world needs.
Understanding of ‘Heart’ in the Scripture
All religions have a special understanding of the concept of the ‘heart’. It is the place where God resides, where God’s grace can be received or where one can experience that pure spiritual energy. The Sacred Scripture also gives us beautiful affirmations concerning the heart, through which we perceive that the heart is the key to relate to God, to see God and experience God and likewise to love and relate to every human person. The heart is the source or the control centre that determines one’s choices and decisions, and it reveals one’s identity. In fact, a ‘change of heart’, ‘purification of one’s heart’ is an essential requisite in order to experience the transformation of one’s whole being and becomes the perfect ground for all positive energy to flow into life.
Why don’t we Speak with the Heart?
Speaking with the heart is not a spontaneous gesture. Often our minds and hearts are filled with prejudices, fears, anxieties and insecurities that our communication becomes very much guarded. On the one hand feelings of pride, envy, ego, and selfishness prevent us from opening our hearts. On the other hand, bitter emotions of anger, guilt, and revengeful feelings also do not help us recognize the heart in the other. We want to communicate more of ourselves, and often truth and charity are scarce or are found to a lesser degree. We do not communicate to listen and to understand the other person.
Our communication doesn’t involve tuning in, listening with patience and understanding the other with an unbiased attitude. We are also so stubborn with our ideas and thoughts that we keep filtering or prejudicing what the other person is saying. At times, in our communication, our intentions and purpose are not benign, but vengeful, argumentative, and mean-spirited. As a result, we do not recognize the other person as our brother or sister, and often race, colour, language and social status become vital blocks to our communication.
‘Heart to Heart’ Communication of Jesus
Jesus was an outstanding communicator who spoke with his heart. He had a magnetic personality and could penetrate the heart of every person, touch them, heal them and transform them as he spoke from his heart to their heart. The example par excellence is the episode of those two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), which Pope Francis also offers us for reflection in the light of this theme.
The Risen Jesus accompanies the two disciples of Emmaus, without any invitation. He is patient and listens to them without interruption. He then speaks to them with the heart, accompanying the journey of their suffering with respect, proposing himself and not imposing himself. His attentive listening and speaking with the heart makes the two disciples feel truly heard and realized, and their ‘hearts are set on fire’, and they get back joyfully to proclaim the risen Christ to their brothers and sisters.
How can we Speak with the Heart?
Speaking from the heart is not about acquiring a skill, or speaking with the right person, time or place, and not even merely doing the right thing. It does not need any special preparation or any pre-plan as it flows straight from the heart and should proceed toward the heart of the other. It is communicating at the deepest level that connects you with what the other person cares deeply about. It means being simply honest and genuinely empathetic with whomever you communicate with. The heart must be listened to, it is the supreme source of life, the physical and spiritual home of our existence. Only by listening and speaking with a pure heart can we see beyond appearances and touch the other.
Speaking from the heart fundamentally springs from love, truth and charity that reside in one’s heart. This is the foundation that paves the way for every genuine conversation. It is not a communication that is expecting acknowledgement, appreciation, and approval for oneself, but it is about recognising the other. The key to “speaking from the heart” is that it’s about the other and not about oneself. It will be difficult and challenging to speak with the heart if one does not have this genuine care and concern for the other.
‘Cordiality – A Powerful Weapon for Communication’
Revolutionize the world with cordiality, tenderness and gentleness. The words of the father of gentleness, St. Francis de Sales, ring in our ears: “A spoon full of honey gathers more flies than a barrel full of vinegar”; and the saying from the book of Proverbs (25:15), “a soft tongue will break a bone”, all affirm the power of cordiality. Today more than ever, speaking with the heart is essential to foster a culture of peace, allowing for dialogue and reconciliation.
Pope Francis makes it very clear that this choice should spring from genuine concern for others. He exhorts the communicators to create a revolution with the communication of the heart, and convey the ‘gentle strength of love’. Today, in the dramatic context of global conflicts that we are experiencing, the affirmation of non-hostile communication becomes indispensable, and this cordiality can touch even the most hardened hearts. It does not mean, we compromise on everything, rather we proclaim the truth with charity and gentleness.
‘Speaking with the Heart’ – the Core of the Synodal Process
The verbs ‘to listen’, ‘to share’, ‘to hear’, and ‘to respect’ mirror the underlying principles of Synodality. Pope Francis affirms this in an emphatic way: Listening without prejudice, attentively and openly, enables speaking according to God’s style, nurtured by closeness, compassion and tenderness. We have a pressing need in the Church for communication that kindles hearts, that is balm on wounds and that shines light on the journey of our brothers and sisters. He says, “ I dream of an ecclesial communication that knows how to let itself be guided by the Holy Spirit, gentle and at the same time, prophetic, that knows how to find new ways and means for the wonderful proclamation it is called to deliver in the third millennium”.
Become Revolutionaries who Speak with the Heart
Go with your heart and you are sure to face victory. The language of the heart can overcome all barriers and destroy all enemies. The Arabic proverb: “Throw your heart out before you, and run to it”, clearly states that if each one is charged with this sensitivity, readiness and understanding to seek and offer the truth in charity, it becomes the key to transform the other person. ‘Speaking with the heart’ is a strategic choice, an intervention designed to mobilize others and transform others.
Saint John Henry Newman’s conviction was, “In order to speak well, it is enough to love well”. Quoting him, Pope Francis explains that true communication is not a strategy, marketing campaign, or manipulation of any kind. Rather true communication, as Newman put it so well, is about who we are, “a reflection of the soul.” It is all about how we love one another. Love is the essence of true communication. Speaking with the heart is essentially feeling for the other and feeling with the other. Perhaps, if this is the echo of the heart in every man and woman, the revolution of cordiality will certainly heal the world, cure humanity of all its woes and transform the world, restoring peace and harmony.