“There is a saying ascribed to Isidore the Priest warning that ‘of all evil suggestions, the most terrible is the prompting to follow your own heart.’ Once again, the modern reader will be taken aback. ‘Follow what your heart says’ is part of the standard popular wisdom of our day, like ‘following the dream’; are we being told to suspect our deepest emotions and longings, when surely we have learned that we have to listen to what’s deepest in us and accept and nurture our real feelings? But the desert monastics would reply that, left to ourselves, the search for what the heart prompts is like peeling an onion; we are not going to arrive at a pure and simple set of inclinations. In the matter of self-examination as in others, ‘the truth is rarely pure and never simple’. The desert means a stepping back from the great system of collusive fantasy in which I try to decide who I am … The ‘burden’ of self-accusation, the suspicion of what the heart prompts, this is not about an inhuman austerity or self-hatred but about the need for us all to be coaxed into honesty by the confidence that God can forgive and heal. Henri de Lubac, one of the most outstanding Roman Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, put it with a clarity and brevity very hard to improve upon: ‘It is not sincerity, it is the truth which frees us… To seek sincerity above all things is perhaps, at bottom, not to want to be transformed.’… Like the desert teachers, he warns us against the easy assumptions about the natural wisdom of the human heart.”
From Rowan Williams, Silence and Honey Cakes: The Wisdom of the Desert (Oxford: Medio Media, 2003), pp. 49-50.