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3 ways to keep an open heart—even when the world makes you want to run away

Open heart

Living with an open heart might sound a little bit like the intro to a 90s pop song, but it’s actually a mantra that has changed the way that Virginia Pearce Cowley has shown up for others in her life.

Staying open in our world can be challenging. With our own plates overflowing, it can feel easier to shut people out and focus on ourselves. With all the conflict around us, it can feel more comfortable to choose judgment over understanding—but Virginia teaches us easy ways we can resist these urges and instead follow the Savior’s example as we work to be peacemakers and share His love with others.

Working to keep an open heart doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. In fact, “You can only do this in the course of your normal life. Nobody has to do anything different or put more things on their schedule,” says Virginia. She stopped by the Magnify Podcast to share three guiding principles that help her live with an open heart and bring God’s love into others’ lives.

Virginia believes that the most important ways we can help people is to help them feel God’s love, and teaches us how we can do it in 3 simple ways that don’t add anything to our already-full schedules.

1. Take Inventory of the Condition of Your Heart

We might need to make some adjustments to our current reality. Virginia shares these guiding questions to help check in: “Does your heart feel closed up? Does it feel tight? Does it feel protected? Or does it feel open to this person in our space?”

Once we are aware of where we are at we can make small adjustments to be more intentional about how we are showing up in the world. No effort is too small.

Virginia tells a story of an experience her daughter, Amy, had while waiting in line at the craft store one day. Amy noticed a young woman next to her who was on the phone, speaking with an amount of panic in her voice. “I’ve got to do something to calm myself,” the girl said to the person on the phone. “I’m at the craft store, and I’m going to get something that I can work on at home. I think that [will help me] feel better.”

When the girl hung up the phone, Amy simply said, “Sounds like you are having a hard day.” The girl burst into tears and told her how she had a family member in the hospital. Amy said, “It took me two and a half minutes to listen to the girl, but that was the best part of my day.” If Amy hadn’t taken the time to open her heart, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to bring a little bit of the Savior’s example into this young woman’s life.

2. Change Your Focus from Yourself to Your Surroundings

The next principle Virginia shares is that you don’t have to go out of your way to open your heart or bring more of that Christlike love into others’ lives. In the example of her daughter, Amy didn’t change anything about the normal course of her day to share that openness with another person. She simply stood in line and changed her focus from herself to her surroundings. Sometimes it’s as simple as shifting our focus from ourselves to the people around us.

“I can’t meet everybody’s needs, but I look at the people in my space, and if I can be filled with God’s love and pass that on them, then they can feel empowered to do what they need to do to feel good about themselves,” says Virginia. Remember to start with the people in your space and be open to share God’s light with them.

3. Remember Your Strengths

Virginia says that each person has their own strengths that allow them to uniquely bless others. For example, women tend to “have the capacity to be open to others continually,” she says. Remembering that we each have God-given strengths that will help us be open to others can change our hearts. We can reach out in church and simply sit by someone. “Women are great at inviting other people to tell their stories. That’s what women do.”

Listen to Virginia’s episode of the Magnify Podcast for more of her story!

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