Earlier this month we asked readers to share with us their “open heart experiences.” All this talk about open hearts sounds like surgery, but rest assured, our talk is invasive only in a spiritual sense. We are talking about feelings, impressions, or moments inspired by Sister Virginia H. Pearce’s book, A Heart Like His. To learn more about Sister Pearce’s experiment and her book, click here.
Sister Pearce believes “we are changed as we allow ourselves to experience truth… we read in the scriptures about open, enlarged and softened hearts. We all want to live in this world of pure charity. We want to do more than read and speak about it. We want to experience charity in all of its forms. So what about doing a bit of personal experimenting? It may be easier than you think.”
Below is a synopsis of Pearce’s experiment.
Be more aware of the condition of your heart. Is it tight and hard, or is it soft, enlarged and open toward others? As you become aware, can you change it – can you simply choose to be open toward others, free of irritation and criticism and judgment – full of love, concern and respect?
Do this in the normal course of your life. Don’t clear the morning to make extra visits and telephone calls. Just attend to those people who are in your space, those opportunities that present themselves during the course of the day.
Notice the confirmations of the Spirit and be willing to report to someone about what happened or didn’t happen in your experiment.
What follows are selected responses from our readers. Note that many of these experiences consist of a conversation – something so simple. No plate of cookies, no “doing” of anything “extra” – just charity in the form of who we really are, who we are trying to become.
Many thanks to those of you who shared. And to Sister Pearce, thank you for increasing our awareness of matters within the heart. As I read the following experiences I am reminded again of the need to enlarge my own soul, soften my own heart. This experiment is an ongoing one – a continual process of trying to make our hearts more like His.
Our first response is from a sister in Canada who became aware of Sister Pearce’s book just before she lost her job. Upon reading A Heart Like His, she felt prompted to meet with a former co-worker, a woman who had been influential in her job loss and believed some unkind rumors told about this sister. Tearful and shaking, she phoned her co-worker, leaving messages in an attempt to meet. She writes,
I kept calling to make another appointment but without success. I still didn’t know what to say to her if she did agree to meet with me. I kept reading A Heart Like His and finally decided that I needed to bury my pride and simply apologize. Of course I thought I didn’t owe her an apology but the more I read, the more I was certain I was simply to apologize. What caught my eye and my heart was Sister Pearce’s reminder that each one of us has Deity within us. I never thought of the situation from her side of the fence. I needed to remember she was my sister.
One evening… my phone rang. It was her. She said, “What do you want?” I proceeded to tell her that I wanted to meet with her in person, however, I would be happy to simply talk to her by phone if that was the only time she could afford me. I then told her how sorry I was for anything I might have said to hurt or offend her. I did say that I didn’t feel I had said all that had been reported to her, however, regardless of this I wanted her to know I was sorry.
She told me she accepted my apology… that it must have taken a lot of courage for me to apologize. [Our] conversation ended on a positive note. Do I know if her attitude toward me changed? No, I don’t. But, I do know that I have peace within myself. I don’t have the “anger track” running over and over in my head anymore. That is a greater gift than I can tell you. Do I have a job yet? No, I don’t. But, I have faith and I know the Lord is mindful of me. I received a great gift by reading this book – a willingness to soften my heart and listen to the Lord. Thank you Sister Pearce.
Raymond, AB Canada
I have been trying the experiment that Virginia Pearce requested after reading her book. It is amazing to me that just being aware of…your heart…makes a real difference. Keeping that in mind, I have had several opportunities to be there for others just by listening to them longer than I normally would.
I called a friend to see if I could deliver a new Bible to her that contained cross-references, topical guide, and bible dictionary, since hers had none of those. She invited me in and spent the next two hours in tears as she explained what had been happening in her life. As the time passed, I had to remind myself to “crack open my heart” and stay with her as long as she needed. She admitted that over the course of several years I have proffered the hand of friendship many times and she has not fully accepted it. Finally, she was ready because I was willing to allow the time to listen to her. I continue to remind myself that everyone needs to have someone “crack their heart open at least a little,” and I am enjoying the deeper connections with people by doing so. Thanks, Virginia, for your awesome suggestion.
I have read Virginia Hinckley Pearce’s wonderful book, and it made me realize that my heart is, like the Grinch’s, several sizes too small. I tend to be too critical and judgmental and just too busy. Interestingly, as I was reading a page from the book and thinking about my badly pinched heart, the thought came to my mind that I needed to call one of the sisters I visit teach, an elderly woman I dearly love. She wasn’t at church the day before and I was concerned about her health.
Laying the book aside, I listened to the prompting and gave her a call right then. When she answered the phone, she assured me she was fine, but I could hear the tears in her voice. When I asked her what was wrong, she admitted to having been on her family’s website, reading about her young adult grandson who had passed away from leukemia a few years ago. The pictures and memories had triggered sadness at the loss of this beloved young man. A recent widow, she was also undoubtedly missing the comfort of her husband’s presence. After a few minutes, during which I mostly listened as she talked about her grandson, my friend told me she was done crying and was fine.
We visited for another minute or two, until I was sure she was feeling less sad, and she thanked me for calling before we hung up.
It was such a small thing, but I was moved to tears that the Spirit had prompted me to call her, that I had listened to that prompting, and that my call had brought comfort to someone I really cared about. At least for a few minutes, my crimped heart was softened and expanded, and it took no time at all out of my day. I will be using concepts from A Heart Like His to teach a Family Home Evening lesson at a retirement home in July. Members and a few non-members attend these monthly sessions, and the book’s topic seems perfect for a Christian-based discussion about the condition of our hearts. I look forward to preparing that lesson so I can review Sister Pearce’s simple but powerful suggestions about opening our hearts to the Spirit.
Bette Jeanne Lang
Moses Lake, WA
I very much enjoyed reading Sis. Pearce’s book and believed that trying to have an open heart was a true principle I wanted to apply in my life. I was anxious to begin the experiment. My first opportunity came a few days later as a young man knocked on my door. He was obviously selling something, but I wasn’t sure what. His sales pitch was designed to get in the door before he revealed what he was selling. I could tell he was new at his job. He was a little nervous and working at remembering his door approach. Normally, I would have said, “I’m not interested in buying anything!” But I opened my heart, and saw a young man trying to make a living, doing something that was hard for him. I decided to let him practice on me and I let him in.
Two hours later I had been shown all the wonderful characteristics of a very expensive vacuum and part of my living room had been cleaned. As a result of our conversation, the young man sensed I was open, and shared with me that he was “born a Mormon” but didn’t go to church anymore. He had a Book of Mormon, and a friend who had recently discovered the wonders of the Book of Mormon. I encouraged him to read the Book of Mormon and see for himself what it was all about. He left my house, having practiced one more time his sales pitch and hopefully with more courage to continue to working at his job. I realized having an open heart helped me treat him as a valuable and worthy son of God, deserving of respect and kindness.
A second opportunity to open my heart came a couple of weeks later while traveling. I had stopped at a convenience store to use the restroom. A very tired, disheveled, frustrated woman came in the restroom, pushing her aged mother in a wheelchair, sort of demanding people to make way for her. My heart went out to her immediately as I had experienced frustration myself in taking care of my mother and taking her places in a wheelchair. I visited with this woman and complimented her for taking care of her mother. Her demeanor softened and I could see how tired she was. She felt my interest and openness, and before leaving mentioned how she needed help getting them something to eat.
My heart closed again for a moment as I thought I might be conned out of some money, but then I thought, she obviously needs it, and gave her a little. Again, I thought my open heart allowed me to treat with kindness and respect someone I normally would have ignored. I loved Sister Pearce’s book and the idea of having an “open heart” is helping me live a more Christ-like life, to see others as children of God with potential and talents. I feel more love for those around me.
Salt Lake City, UT
Recognizing the condition of our heart helps to change our behaviors. I personally have struggled for 1 1/2 years in a new ward after our ward was split. I have felt so lonely and miss my old friends so much. I realize now that my heart has been closed to the new ward, because my pain of leaving old friends has been so difficult. It is almost like I don’t want to get hurt again if there is another ward change. Maybe I am alone in the trials of ward splits, but it has been devastating to my happiness. Reading this book helped me recognize the state of my heart. I thought it was so open and waiting for love from the new ward. I now see that my heart is closed and in protective mode. Thanks.
After reading this book, I decided to take the challenge to be more aware of where my heart was while I was interacting with others. I began to realize how often my heart was at the back of my chest and shriveled. As I started to make a conscious effort to open and enlarge my heart, I found that I truly was more happy and had more energy. I am going to continue to work on this because I think it will always be something I need to think about. I know that it makes me feel better and my relationships are improving each time I can open my heart and follow the promptings of our Heavenly Father. I am so happy that this book was suggested to me and that I took the time to read it. It truly has made a difference in my life.
Pleasant Grove, UT
A Heart Like His has changed my life and I am very grateful to Sister Pearce for putting her experiment into words. I had been betrayed in the past, and through that betrayal developed unrealistic fears and distrust.
When I read the section in the book about having a shriveled, hidden heart, I realized that is how my heart had become. I am a loving person and did not want to think of my heart in that condition, so I visually moved it out and opened it up and felt it beating stronger and surer. It instantly made me feel so much better. Every day I feel joy when just a few months ago, I was going through a very rough time, in fact, my marriage was on the brink of failure. I feel like my relationships and my attitudes of others have improved. I don’t feel the need to judge or compare myself anymore. I do know that this is a work in progress, but I am so grateful for this start, and feel the future is bright. I’d been praying desperately about being able to ‘let go’ of past pain, fears and problems, but hadn’t been able to. I had begged to have them taken from me. I felt like I had faith, but I still feared. I knew the atonement was real and works for us, but I wasn’t able to let go of the pain and move forward, until I softened my heart.
I appreciated the story of Elder Packer, realizing it is better to put myself out there with an open heart, than to feel safe with a small, shriveled, hiding heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This book was an answer to prayer.
A Thankful Reader