Not long ago, I was watching a movie with the kids. One of the main themes of the film was the perceived conflict between following “the rules” and following one’s heart—between being bound by one’s duty and being free to pursue one’s desires. In the film, the characters ultimately decided that their highest “duty” was to follow their heart.

This is a common sentiment. As a culture, we love the idea of following our hearts, pursuing our desires, being “true” to ourselves. For many, these are what constitute our highest duty. But there’s one small problem…

What if our heart is mistaken? What if what we think we want actually isn’t what’s best for us in the long run?

Jeremiah, the ancient Hebrew prophet, once wrote:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.      Who can understand it?

Just because we have a desire for something doesn’t make it good. And just because we want to do something doesn’t make it right.

I for one know that I can come up with all kinds of reasons to justify what I want to do. If I want something, I can talk myself into thinking I deserve it, or I need it, or that it’s what’s best for me. And I can be convinced that in doing so, I’m following my heart. And if I’m convinced that “following my heart” is the ultimate duty I need to fulfill, I can feel justified in doing what I want, regardless of the long-term impact it may have on me or others.

I’m not against paying attention to the desires of our heart. But at the same time, we should also be aware of our capacity to either be misguided or self-deceived. Blindly following our heart—or what we think is our heart—may work in the movies. But real life is a different story.