Here’s some advice from someone who has just about earned her own personal parking place at way too many medical offices: When you go to see a doctor, never begin explaining your problem with, “When I looked up my symptoms on the internet, it said … .”

If you ignore this advice, your doctor will most likely roll his or her eyes and harrumph in your direction because medical pros universally hate it when we mortals Google our symptoms. But with so much information available online, how can they expect us to resist the temptation to diagnose our afflictions? Isn’t more information a good thing?

Not always.

Let’s face it, cyberspace is full of crazy medical advice. While ineffective home remedies for toenail fungus might be relatively harmless, bogus cancer cures are not, and unfortunately, our computers aren’t equipped with a “crazy filter” to warn us when we’re entering the information Twilight Zone.

I don’t think we humans are wired to handle the sheer quantity of information, medical and otherwise, readily available to us these days. Our brains aren’t big enough, nor are our hearts sturdy enough, to process it all.

English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon asserted that “knowledge is power,” but Sir Francis lived in a much smaller, quieter, unplugged world. While some knowledge is usually beneficial, too much is just downright stressful.

I was thinking about all this recently when I saw a commercial for a personal EKG (echocardiogram) machine that allows you to just grasp a little pad with your fingers and poof! — you can instantly see if and how your heart is beating.

“Wouldn’t it be great to know what’s going on with your heart anytime you want to?” the pitchman asks.

Well, maybe. Or maybe not. It might just turn you into a full-on, raging hypochondriac. We’re already supposed to know our blood pressure, body mass index, exactly what’s in all our food and precisely where it was grown, how many steps we take each day, and how much REM sleep we’re getting. So now we also have to keep track of our heartbeats?

My heart rate goes up just thinking about all that.

I know there are people with heart problems who might be greatly helped by this EKG device, but unless a doctor — a real, flesh-and-blood one — tells me to monitor my heart, I’d rather not, thanks very much.

Not my physical heart, anyway. But there’s another “heart” I do need to monitor because it’s not always OK and it’s the one God cares about the most: my spiritual heart, the core of my true self. In fact, the Bible says everything in my life flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).

So, where can I get a monitor for that heart? Well, not on, that’s for sure. Actually, we’re each created by God with that most necessary monitor already installed. It’s called our conscience — “the dog that can’t bite, but never stops barking,” as one sage described it.

Christians are also blessed with God’s Holy Spirit to warn us when we’re heading out of bounds.

We ignore the information our conscience and the Holy Spirit provide at great peril. In fact, repeatedly ignoring them can result in a hardening of the heart that is spiritually deadly.

If you’re in need of emergency spiritual defibrillation right now, let me yell, “CLEAR!” and apply the zappy paddles in the form of this Scripture: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)”

Yes, that’s scary, but there’s hope. God can take the hardest heart and make it new, clean, and soft (Ezekiel 36:26; Psalm 51:10). All we have to do is ask.

Mary Ann Crum ( lives in Abbeville and is the author of two books, “A Giggle Goes a Long Way” and “Live.Learn.Laugh!” She can be reached at