Above all else, guard your heart
for it is the wellspring of life.
– Proverbs 4:23
Guarding your heart is not just about romance. But yes, this post is about romance.
Since I was young, people have constantly warned me to guard my heart.
It was harder than I thought. I kept getting hurt. I kept having so many feelings. At times I wanted to cut off all contact with the opposite sex, because that seemed the only safe course.
Don’t make my mistakes. To hopefully save you time and grief, here are some insights I’ve gained the hard way.
Misconception #1: Guarding your heart means you are never distracted by members of the opposite sex.
TRUTH: You are human.
If you’re human and alive, you’re going to experience feelings of attraction for other humans at times. (Gasp) If you see those feelings as unacceptable, you will feel distressed every time you experience them. If, on the other hand, you understand that they are mere feelings that don’t need to be obeyed, acted upon, or even focused on, you will have a much healthier, relaxed life.
Of course, if you’re single and the person who has caught your attention is single, too, perhaps those feelings might be worth considering. (On the other hand, you might find that within a day or two, they’ve completely evaporated. Such is the nature of human emotion.)
Misconception #2: If you feel angst or pain, you have failed.
TRUTH: Sometimes we have to go through the process to get clarity.
Sometimes we need a process to know what we want and what we don’t, to know what the other person’s true intentions are. Pain is almost always a part of that process. As are mistakes. And angst.
Unpleasant emotions are a part of life. They don’t mean you did something wrong. Even if you did do something wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Learn from your mistake and move forward. Don’t get stuck in shame, guilt, or regret. The only person who wants you there is your enemy.
Do be wise, though. If you know certain situations are going to stir up unnecessary emotions, do yourself a favor and avoid those situations. You don’t have to be ridiculously strict about this. Please don’t cut off all contact with the opposite gender––men and women were made to need one another. But don’t put yourself through unnecessary angst.
Misconception #3: Guarding your heart is impossible because feelings can’t be controlled!
TRUTH: You can’t control your emotions, but you can control your thoughts and actions.
You can’t control whom you’re attracted to or what your hormones are doing on a given day, but you can control how you think about all those thing and how you handle them. And those thoughts and actions can, in turn, influence your feelings.
Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.
– Song of Songs 8:4
You may not be able to control the fact that you are attracted to a particular person, but you can control whether you fan the flame. You choose whether or not you fantasize about a future with them. You choose whether you stalk them on Facebook or constantly look at photos of them on your phone. You choose whether you expect them to be more than a friend when they have never communicated a desire to be anything more than that.
Don’t pretend to be a victim of your emotions, and certainly don’t attach the weight of destiny to them.
Don’t assume your feelings “mean something.” They might just be feelings. Relationships are not built on feelings, but on choices. Instead of seeing your feelings as a sign pointing to your future, see them as a clue to understanding your own heart better.
Misconception #4: My heart is the only one that matters.
TRUTH: Choosing genuine love safeguards both you and the person you’re interested in.
Liking someone can easily lead to self-absorption. You are so busy thinking about yourself, your feelings, and how you are being perceived that you lose sight of other people. You become selfish. You don’t even genuinely care about the person you claim to like.
I’ve seen it happen many times, and I’ve unfortunately been there myself. Crushes can be springboards to resentment, jealousy, and bitterness.
Instead of getting sucked down that ugly spiral, choose love. The kind of love that wants the best for another person. The kind of love that dignifies and values a person the way God does. No matter how they might treat you. No matter how things turn out.
Guarding your heart is important
It says so right in Proverbs. Guarding your heart, however, is less about controlling your feelings, than controlling your thoughts. We must continually check our mindsets and realign them to God’s.
God never gives us commands without being willing to teach us how, so invite Him into the process. As opportunities arise, move forward knowing that you are fiercely loved by your Father in heaven and that no matter how messy things may get, your hope stands on something bigger. Be honest with yourself about the risks, and then give yourself permission to enjoy the fun of it all. Because that’s an important part of it, too.