The XXII Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, coincided with American Heart Month. In both the feats of the athletes and the recommendations from various health institutes, we see and hear it is not simply a healthy physical heart we all need.
We also need a mental state that is perhaps reflected in the lyrics of one song from the Broadway musical comedy "Damn Yankees": “You’ve gotta have heart … All you really need is heart."
Olympic athletes often embody what another refrain from this song encourages: “When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win … That’s when the grin should start." Through their examples we see what experts call heart healthy optimism.
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have been studying the impact of optimism on heart patients. In one study they learned that patients with optimistic expectations about their recovery were 30 percent less likely to die over the next 15 years than patients with less optimistic expectations, regardless of the severity of their heart disease.
The Olympic creed speaks to this same optimism: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
This mental attitude of optimism and never giving up and its effect on our health gives us a glimpse that there is more to heart than a muscular organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system of the body. My heart or feelings tell me that if we can understand this in our spiritual relationship to God the muscle can be healthier, and we can live better lives – whether we are Olympians or not.
The Bible offers us insight into the nature of man as a divine idea rather than merely a physical body.
For example, the Lord says to Samuel, when searching for a new king among Jesse’s sons, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (New International Bible, I Samuel 16:7).
To look at the heart as “the Lord looks at the heart” is to view heart not as something physical but more as the inner spiritual qualities of love, strength, purity that a person expresses. One might say this changed view of heart is the most profound “change of heart” a person can make, and it can be a healing factor in heart disease.
In answering the question, “Do you believe in change of heart?” Mary Baker Eddy, a health seeker and Christian theologian, said “We do believe, and understand — which is more — that there must be a change from human affections, desires, and aims, to the divine standard, 'Be ye therefore perfect;' also, that there must be a change from the belief that the heart is matter and sustains life, to the understanding that God is our life, that we exist in mind, live thereby, and have being. This change of heart would deliver man from heart-disease, and advance Christianity a hundredfold." (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 50)
Not matter-based but spiritually-based hearts get the gold of life!