**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.
But 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 that 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.
I used to feel guilty because I fell in love super easily.
It took me a long time to realize that the condemnation I felt wasn’t from God. It was from the enemy. There is nothing wrong with feeling things deeply. The question is how you handle those feelings.
For any deep feelers out there, here is some advice:
1. Don’t attach the weight of destiny to your feelings.
As feelers, we often go with our gut and make decisions based on abstract connections in our minds that don’t make logical sense to anyone else. That’s okay sometimes (maybe), but beware of attaching too much significance to feelings you have for people of the opposite sex.
Don’t assume they “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.
2. Don’t let fear paralyze you.
If you’re a deep feeler, you’re probably acutely aware that getting hurt is a real risk, but don’t let that possibility paralyze you. The hurt may go deep, but it probably won’t last as long as you fear. (Not if you’re thinking about it the right way. See Misconception #2.)
Let yourself enjoy the moment. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, it’s messy and uncertain, but know that you are strong for choosing to take this risk with your heart. And know that the love of the Father is carrying and shielding you through the process.
3. Choose unconditional love.
I often find it challenging to love people I like. By love, I don’t mean flirtation, attention-seeking, or one-sided fantasizing. I mean genuine care for someone as a human being.
Liking someone can easily become all about you. You are so busy thinking about yourself, your feelings, and what that person thinks of you that you have no time to care about them. You may develop unreasonable expectations of that person that lead to anger and resentment. Because you feel vulnerable, you may get overly sensitive and punish or shut out the person when they do the least thing “wrong.”
None of those things is very loving.
One of the most freeing decisions I’ve made is to love guys I have feelings for. No matter how they treat me. No matter how things turn out. I commit myself to wanting the best for them. (Often from afar. Because boundaries. See #1.)
It’s not the most natural choice, but it’s like forgiveness. It sets you free. You feel unstoppable. When you choose the high road, no negative junk can weigh you down, because you’re above it all.
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.
Instead of fixating on your feelings, examine your thoughts.
When someone catches your interest, check yourself for unfair expectations. Remind yourself that moving forward in a relationship requires choice on both sides. Make sure you are giving them, and yourself, that freedom.
Move forward knowing how fiercely you are loved by your Father in heaven and knowing 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.
Are there any feelings you’ve let take you hostage? What truths do you need to fix your mind on to get your heart back on track?
Above all else, guard your heart
for it is the wellspring of life.
– Proverbs 4:23