We all have had the not-so-pleasant experience of personally resembling or being around a Grinch. And while it may not have been the actual character from Dr. Seuss’ famed story, the impact was the same. We quickly learned that the Grinch—otherwise known as a grouch—had great disdain for anything that remotely resembled joy or celebration.
And the cause of this crankiness? A “heart condition” called hard heartedness.
Throughout history, the heart has been viewed as central to the essence of humanity. In fact, ancient Greeks considered the heart to be the seat of one’s identity—synonymous with a person’s soul, his or her emotions and will. As it goes with the condition of one’s heart, so it goes with the condition of his or her disposition.
Hard heartedness is defined as “an absence of concern for the welfare of others,” being “cold-hearted,” or “lacking in feeling; pitiless; cold.” Around the holidays, we see that condition humorously depicted in the green-skinned, animated Grinch. His heart’s so messed up with poisonous emotions that the song lyrics say that his “heart’s an empty hole” and that it’s “ a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots.”
Talk about a hard heart!
The story of the Grinch is entertaining and has a good ending, but the truth is that chronic anger leading to a hardened heart can be deadly. For example, people harboring intense and unrelenting anger have twice the risk for coronary artery disease and three times the risk of a heart attack than those who have the least amount of anger. Some scientists even think that chronic anger is more dangerous to health than smoking or obesity!
Chronic anger can also actually harden the human heart by physically hardening or calcifying a person’s arteries. It’s a textbook condition known as atherosclerosis—a common form of arteriosclerosis in which fatty substances form a deposit of plaque on the inner lining of arterial walls—leading the heart to become hard as stone. Autopsy results on such hardened hearts confirm this.
Therefore, the phrase “hardness of heart” is not just another way of saying that someone is cold-hearted, unfeeling or cruel; hardness of heart is an actual physical state of the heart that is a result of severe atherosclerosis. People with this “hard-heartedness” condition will usually suffer from chest pain as a result of physical exertion (also known as angina). Unfortunately, the person has also probably suffered from years of emotional pain and stress that have taken their toll on the heart and its arteries.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though.
Because we are human, we are going to experience people and circumstances that can lead to anger and bitterness. That’s to be expected. The thing to remember, however, is to do a daily (and sometimes more often) “heart sweep” which can clear out all the anger and emotional clutter that could lead to unhealthy outcomes.
It can also help us ditch the Grinch-like attitude.
Seriously, no one wants to be told that their “soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots.”