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Book Summary: Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley

by | Jun 1, 2021

This is a book I often recommend to others.  These are my personal notes from the book.  These are not all direct quotes, but also paraphrases and added commentary from me.  A * designates a note-worthy point.  As always, reading the book for yourself is suggested.  

Heart problems aren’t just behavior problems.

4 Heart Problems— Guilt, Anger, Greed, and Jealousy

“the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart” Matthew 15:18

“for out of the heart come evil thoughts” :19

“watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” Proverbs 4:23

the heart is a hub where we process everything in our lives

The heart steeps into every conversation.  It dictates every relationship. Our very lives emanate from the heart. We live, parent, lead, relate, romance, confront, react, respond, instruct, manage, problem solve, and love from the heart. Our hearts impact the intensity of our communication. Our hearts have the potential to exaggerate our sensitivities and insensitivities. Every arena of life intersects with what’s going on in our hearts. Everything passes through on its way to wherever its going. 

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. 

Secrets can damage the heart. Having or keeping. 

When shame is lodged in our hearts, it impacts our words and behaviors. 

Heart issues take their toll on relationships.

Hurt people hurt people… who hurt other people, who hurt still other people, and on and on it goes. 

Hurt runs so deep it can erase your faith in God. 

The 4 result in a debt-debtor relationship which causes an imbalance in any relationship. 

When our hearts are stirred, we can become most aware of what they contain. 

The 4 can’t withstand the light of exposure. Choosing to “not talk about it.” Silly. Insignificant. Embarrassed. Fear. 

Your story not only explains your behavior, it justifies it. A built-in excuse for everything you do.  Your crutch. You know you don’t act or react the way you should but rather than do anything about it you fall back on your story. Do you really want to remain this way?

Justifiable feelings can create enabling as well. 

Good excuses rarely collect dust. We use them over and over. 

Decide to discard your crutches. 

Use your story as a testimony not a crutch.

Change requires effort, pain/discomfort, forming new habits.

* It takes a habit to break a habit.

Don’t dismiss these 4 “enemies” as characteristics hardwired into your personality. 

Happiness isn’t a matter of disposition or product of our circumstances.

Happiness isn’t synonymous with wealth, beauty, marriage, singleness, or any thing else. 

  • Guilt

“I owe you.”

We’ve done something wrong.

Debt-motivated decisions cause problems– buy love, buy peace, permissiveness, materialism– all become currency

Nothing less than paying that debt will relieve a guilty heart of the burden of guilt. 

—-> Confession

Secrets lose their power when exposed to light.

Confession as a step toward change, not just about guilt relief.

Confession is associated with change, requires repentance/restitution

The bible speaks of confession in terms of life change not conscience relief

Take responsibility.

Resolve your differences with people, not just God.

Confess openly  to the one you wronged- humble yourself, own your part, make relationship right, swallow pride and take extra step

If you still feel guilty, the issue is still unresolved.

God’s forgiveness doesn’t exempt you from the responsibility for confession and restitution.

Guilt chips away at our self-respect. 

Consequences of confession are far less severe than the consequences of concealment. 

  • Anger

“You owe me.”

We get angry when we don’t get what we want. Not getting our way.

What we want may include what we deserve. 

Angry people are hurt people. 

In most cases, the perceived debt can never be paid.

People spend a lot of time waiting for debts ti be paid that can’t be paid.  Anger remains. Intensifies. Spreads. 

Everybody owes me. 

Nothing pleases them.

When a person quits using their story to justify their anger/negative feelings, and allow God to do heart surgery, real change and healing take place.

You’ve learned to leverage your feelings to get your way. or to get something accomplished. 

A heart filled with anger is a heart looking to be paid back. 

—-> Forgiveness

We can feel stuck.

3 kinds of people: want to forgive but can’t/don’t have courage; letting offender off hook and doesn’t seem right; have forgiven but old memories and feelings keep coming up, leaving them to wonder if they’ve forgiven

Ephesians 4:31  Get rid of every form of malice (ill will)

How do you get rid of an emotion? Rid-Remove

Do you make yourself a victim?

Victimization fuels your justification and excuses.  Victims can write off any behavior.  

Do you believe the lie: It’s ok for me to behave the way that I do.  I have  no choice.  I am not the one who needs to change and I have every right to be the way I am.

There’s no incentive to change.  Victims don’t want to be proactive in changing. They want to make sure the other person pays, rather than taking any responsibility.

This opens your heart to bitterness.

Before long, everyone owes you.  Life owes you.

Forgiveness is the way we get rid of bitterness, rage, anger (Eph 4:32)- it enables us to be kind and compassionate.

Just as Jesus did for you.

Matthew 18:21-35

Forgiveness is the decision to cancel a debt.  A debt that can’t be repaid.

Stop waiting for a debt to repaid that can’t.

Creates an imbalance.  A one-up position.

Jesus cancelled our debts.  How does God view your offender?  He loves and has forgiven them too.  He sees all of us in a bigger, broader perspective.

If we hold out waiting to be paid back for the wrongs done to us, we will be the ones who pay.  If we cancel the debt owed to us, we will be set free. 

From God’s perspective, the most destructive thing we can do is feel we have the right to be paid back.

We put ourselves in a prison (Ephesians 1) of sorts when we cling to the debts owed to us by others. 

In the shadow of hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward your enemy.

Forgiveness is a gift that ensures your freedom from a prison of bitterness and resentment. 

Think of what was done for you, not to you.

You don’t forgive because the other person deserves it, you forgive because you’ve been forgiven.

Forgiving is a mindset, an attitude, and a habit.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that it’s something you’ll immediately feel or feel like doing.

It runs contrary to our sense of justice and fairness.

In scripture, forgiveness is never presented as a feeling.  It’s described as a decision.

Forgiveness is a gift we decide to give in spite of how we feel.

  1. Identify who you’re angry with.

Forgetting a debt isn’t the same as canceling it.  Don’t assume you’ve forgiven just because you’ve put it behind you.

  1. Determine what they owe you.

We forgive generally but not specifically.  You know what they did but what exactly did they take?  General forgiveness doesn’t heal specific hurts. You can’t cancel a debt that you haven’t clearly identified. 

  1. Cancel the debt.

Empty chair technique, Write a letter, Burn it – someway physicalize your decision to forgive. 

Pray and tell God.

  1. Dismiss the case.

It can be a daily decision to reopen your case. 

Our feelings don’t automatically follow our decision to forgive. 

When our memories are triggered, old feelings will come flooding back.

Go ahead and face them.  Don’t stuff, deny them.

But instead of reopening the case/wound, restate your decision.  “I’m free, s/he doesn’t owe me.”

Focus on the truth that this debt has been cancelled. 

Your memories aren’t your enemies.  What you do with them will determine thier impact. 

Your feelings aren’t an accurate gauge, usually they’re the last thing that comes around.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be repaid, the problem is that in most cases it’s impossible to be reimbursed for what was taken.  Realize that the debt you’re owed cannot be repaid. 

Nothing can make up for the past. 

An apology doesn’t erase an experience. 

Pursuing or waiting for payback is futile.  It won’t happen.  It can’t happen.

To cling to our hurt while waiting to be repaid is to allow the seeds of bitterness to take root and grow.  

Blaming won’t make us better.  Holding out for an apology won’t either. 

From one forgiven soul to another, you don’t owe me.

  • Greed

“I owe myself.”

Fear fuels greed.  What if. 

Greed disguises itself. 

Greedy people: talk/worry about money a lot, are not cheerful givers, are reluctant to share, are poor losers, quibble over money, talk as if they have just enough to get by, create a culture of secrecy around them, won’t let you forget what they’ve done for you, are reluctant to express gratitude, aren’t content with what they have, attempt to control people with their money. 

Luke 12:15– be on guard against all kinds of greed…

Greed is the most subtle. 

Their stuff is an extension of who they are. 

There’s never enough. to satisfy their needs. 

Supersized sense of ownership.

Thinking God can’t or won’t take care of you.

Needing to find sense of security in outward things.

Assuming it’s meant for you. You earned it. You deserve it. and so on.

Greed looks for something good to hide behind. Future security, opportunistic saving, etc

Luke 12:20

Jesus says to be generous to those in need.  

A greedy person is someone who saves carefully but gives sparingly.

The solution is a habit.

—-> Generosity

For a moment, shift your perspective from potential possessions and income and consider actual possessions and income.  Compare to world.  3rd world countries. Ghettoes. 

Slow down and occasionally force yourself to wrestle with the question: Why do you have so much?

Our culture keeps us focused on what we don’t have rather than on what we do. Leaves us vulnerable to greed.

As long as I’m on a quest for more, then when more does come along I’ll assume it’s all for me. 

Why does God provide you with more than you need?

When you didn’t have enough, did you ask God about your lack? Prob so.  So why not the opposite?

When we don’t have enough, we wonder why.  Why not wonder when we have more than enough.

What might God be up to in providing us with more than our daily bread? To ensure your kids have enough in the future?   So you don’t have to worry?  To elevate your standard of living?   American way.  Retire early?

Artificially induced financial pressure– you’ve chosen to live a lifestyle that keeps pace with or outpaces your income. 

No margin, no peace of mind.

Give to the point it forces you to adjust your lifestyle.  

In your heart, you want to give but you can’t or won’t because you’re afraid you won’t have enough.

* Greed is not a feeling, but a refusal to act. 

You can feel compassion toward people in need and be as avaricious as Scrooge. Greed is evidenced not by how you feel but by what you do.

Generous feelings and good intentions don’t compensate for a greedy heart.

Give until you get cheerful.

Percentage giving.

Be a spontaneous giver too.

We’re not owners, we’re managers of our fortunes. 

god has universal ownership

People who feel guilty for what they have are rarely responsible with it. They believe it’s there’s to do as they please. 

You are the manager of someone else’s assets.  Let this be freedom from the fear of loss in this life.

  • Jealousy

“God owes me.”

Feelings of satisfaction when someone has a setback/loss

God could/can fix this for me and doesn’t

Thinking of what others have and what we lack, and then thinking that God could have fixed it.

* Driving force behind jealousy is really the driving force behind every single relational struggle you’ll encounter in life. Understanding this will set you free from blaming everything an everyone for everything you think you deserve, want, or lack.

James: what causes fights and quarrels among you?

Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

* External conflicts are the direct result of an internal conflict that has worked its way to the surface. 

The common denominator in all your relational conflicts is you.

James: You want something but don’t get it.  Want- yearn for, lust for, strongly desire

James 4:2  You covet but you cannot get what you want so you quarrel and fight. Covet-strive after

An appetite by nature is never fully satisfied.  

Thirsts: stuff, money, recognition, success, progress, intimacy, sex, fun, relationship, partnership

The more you feed an appetite, the more it escalates in intensity.  

Appetites grow through indulgence not neglect. 

Gluttons think just as much about food as starving people.

Our desires and pleasures are not best dealt with by continually trying to satisfy them.

* Our desires are what fuel our conflicts.

Ask yourself what the problem here is ?  It’s not getting what you want. 

Owning that makes a huge difference. 

Until you can own your share of the problem, you’ll always have a tendency to blame another person. 

Blaming never resolves anything. 

Blaming feeds the problem.  Own the fact that the real problem is that you’re not getting what you want. 

* Do you know what blame is?  An admission that you can’t be happy without “their” cooperation. To blame is to acknowledge dependence: if you don’t act a certain way, I can’t be satisfied or content. 

You’ll eventually need to control the actions and reactions of everyone around you. To an extreme degree, even the people in your lane and adjacent lanes on the highway… leads to no hope. 

You end up trying to squeeze your happiness and contentment out of the people around you. 

—-> Go to God (first)

James: You don’t have because you don’t ask God. God wants us to go to him first. 

* Why should you expect mere humans to be capable of satisfying those appetites?  Take them to God instead. 

To pour our hearts out in an unfiltered convo with our creator. 

1 Peter 5:7 Cast every anxiety onto him because he cares for you.

Every single frustration and fear to God. Every concern great and small.

Once you’ve confessed to him that your root problem is that you’re not getting your way, and once you’ve thoroughly and completely dumped your desires and anxiety on him, you’ll find it much easier to deal with the people in your life. Regardless of whether they ever give you the recognition, love, or credit you deserve, you’ll find peace, because you’re no longer looking to these people to meet a need that only God can meet. 

James 4:3 you ask with wrong motives

If you had gotten all your desires, they would have ruined you. 

God loves you too much to give you everything you ask for. 

God wants you to know him as the source of all good things. He wants you to trust him. He’s the source of all good things, not all wished for things.

—-> Celebrate

Jealousy is dangerous because it shapes your attitudes toward other people. It’s hard to actively love someone your’e jealous of. 

Jealousy becomes resentment, resentment needs justification, so we look for it, once we find it were’ safe, no need to resolve our feelings because we know they’re perfectly justified.  Toxic!

Jealousy knows no bounds.

Look deeper and you’ll discover that resentment, with all its shallow justifications is really a cover for jealousy. 

Your jealousy is just a manifestation of the fact that you’re not getting what you want. 

The reason you resent that person has nothing to do with that person. the problem is that you’re not getting what you want. 

Focusing your emotion on someone else fans the flame of jealousy, focusing on your own heart begins the process of quenching it. 

Let God know that you know he could have done better by you.  Tell him how unhappy you are, he can handle it.

We’ve been given what we most needed.  We owe him everything, including an apology. An apology for holding him to a debt he doesn’t owe.

Hebrews 4:16 Approach God with confidence, so that we will receive mercy and fund grace to help us in our needs. 

We will find mercy and grace by going to God. 

Make it a habit to celebrate others. 

Celebrating will allow you to conquer emotions that have the potential to drive a wedge in the relationship. 

Tell the truth.  Expressing the truth helps to free you from the emotional bondage thats such an integral part of jealousy.

It’s much easier to behave your way into a new way of thinking than to think our way into a new way of behaving. 

Refuse to be taken prisoner by emotions that don’t reflect reality. 

It’s powerful and liberating to celebrate success of other people. 

Whose success have you been hesitant to celebrate? or refused to acknowledge?

Is it time you refused to give in to the negative emotion that wells up in you when others succeed?  Instead of saying nothing or being critical or gossiping, what if you made it a habit to publicly celebrate the success of others?

Parenting

Home environments mirror the hearts of those who head the home. 

Modeling will always win over instruction.

Proverbs 4:23 watch over your heart for from it flow the springs of life

Pay attention to what’s going on in your heart

Weekly ask your kids if everything is ok in their hearts.

The questions you ask your kids communicate to them what important to you.

For most, the questions parents asl revolve around behavior and performance.

Our questions have the power to: communicate the value we place on the conditions of our hearts, and our questions can help our kids know what they should be watching for. 

Mad? Hurt? Confess? Worry?

Teach kids to clean out their hearts every day.

Secrets can make you sick.

Confession keeps us from having unhealthy secrets stuck in our hearts. 

You want to teach your kids to have sensitivity to the rhythms of their hearts. 

Ask your kids whats going on, teach your kids to confess, forgive, give generously, and celebrate the success of others.

Lust

Is actually a good thing within the right relationship

Lust isn’t a problem you solve, it’s an appetite you manage. 

Need self control.

Lust is rarely the root problem.

It’s usually a manifestation of one or more of the heart problems. Clean out the anger, guilt, greed, and jealousy and lust will become more manageable. 

Anger and guilt fuel sexual sin.

Porn offers a substitute for intimacy.

The 4 heart issues weaken our resolve against sexual temptation. 

Unresolved anger serves as an avenue through which Satan can access any part of your life. 

Anger distorts our thinking and thus our decision making ability. 

Anger desensitizes us to the harm we’re inflicting on others or ourselves. 

A healthy heart puts us in a stronger position to ward off temptation of all kinds. 

Confession allows us to come out from hiding.

Forgiveness allows others to come out from under cover. 

Generosity allows us to partner with Gd as he shows himself in tangible ways to the world around us.

Celebration makes us a vehicle through which God communicates pleasure. 

These 4 set us free to love as god intends for us to love.

Angry people are not patient people. 

Guilty people aren’t kind.

Jealous people are full of envy.

Greedy people can’t help but boast. 

Anger makes us rude. 

Greed tempts us to be self seeking.

Jealousy thrives on scorekeeping. 

Greedy people are self protecting. 

Guilt keeps us from trusting others because we’ve proved untrustworthy ourselves. 

Try embracing the command: love one another, with a heart tainted by even one of these 4 heart issues. 

Ask others for help or awareness. 

Give God access to those sensitive off-limits areas of your life. 

About Kristi | View Profile
Kristi Schwegman is a psychotherapist specializing in helping couples develop healthy relationships, whether dating, engaged, or married. She also draws from her Christian-based approach to lead individuals in becoming aware of the limiting beliefs that can get them stuck.
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