4 unhealthy ways you’re guarding your heart
No one would ever hurt me as much as these friends were hurting each other.
I promised my heart that I would guard it against this type of hurt. All these years later, I’m beginning to realize that my understanding of what God meant by that was totally out of whack.
God asks us to guard our hearts so they’re protected and provided for.
As Holley Gerth writes in You’re Going to be Okay, in the days of princesses and moats, castle guards allowed in supplies, people, and resources and kept out intruders. Guarding wasn’t a one-way job of protecting, but also providing for the needs of those inside the walls.
While we don’t have castles and drawbridges today, the job of guarding hasn’t changed much. Guarding our heart isn’t exclusively about self-protection. It’s also about self-compassion: about letting in the pure, lovely, right, beautiful, and true and keeping out the negative, sin, critical spirit, and those who aren’t gentle with us.
Yet we continue to guard our hearts in unhealthy ways.
As Gerth outlines, there are four unhealthy ways that women guard their hearts.
- We’re on Lockdown so nothing (no person, feeling, or activity) is allowed in and nothing comes out. We may feel protected, but we’re not provided for because our emotional needs aren’t being met. We bottle emotions, and we’re busy keeping everyone at arm’s length. We believe that the key to never getting hurt is never feeling emotions or connecting with another person.
- We’re Wide Open so everything, anything, and anybody has access to our hearts and minds. Everything is permissible, and we’d like as much as we can get please. We aren’t protected, and we know in our gut that we aren’t being provided for either. Rather, we’re more likely to be used by the selfish boyfriend, self-serving friend, or anyone with self-centered tendencies.
- We’re Exit Only so we’re excellent at letting out the gifts of help, service, and encouragement, but we don’t let any help, kindness, love, connection, or joy in. We’re excellent at giving and terrible at receiving. We may feel protected because we’re only letting things out, but our heart isn’t provided for.
- We’re Entrance Only so we’re masters at opening up to receive and take help, encouragement, or praise, but we never return the gifts. We rarely show kindness or share a resource because we’re so locked in to how we’re feeling and what we need. We may feel provided for, and yet, we more often feel used up and empty.
When we’re guarding our hearts in unhealthy ways, we are deeply affected. Here are three of the biggest consequences:
We keep God at arm’s length. Achiever-Friends, we are as near to God as we want to be. He’s always waiting for us, never leaving or forsaking. And yet, we miss Him because we’re too busy keeping out anything that might hurt us. We guard ourselves so tightly that love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and joy can’t get in. God is gentle, so He waits to be invited inside. He’ll never force Himself through the gates of our guarded heart. He knocks and waits.
We don’t experience abundant life. God designed us to love each other, laugh, eat good food, share with His people, live in community, do good works, and feel feelings. Doesn’t that sound incredible?! He’s given us so much richness, and yet, hiding behind the walls of a well-guarded heart, we miss out on friendships, the depth of emotions, and the joy of giving and receiving.
We don’t live like we’re designed. God’s purpose for us is to know Him, love Him, enjoy Him, and glorify Him by living out our calling. When we’re living detached from ourselves, our emotions, our people, and our world that so desperately needs Jesus, we’re not living as He designed us to live. It’s possible that we could miss the entire point of our life because we’re so busy guarding our hearts in unhealthy ways.
Perhaps you’re like me: you’ve been hurt or seen the effects of hurt, so you decided to shut down. Or maybe you’ve decided that, in a quest for love and acceptance, you’d be wide open and available to any opportunity that promises favor. We don’t have to swing between those two extremes anymore. Let’s be God-centered and know Him as much as we can. Let’s experience this gift of life in all the ways that we should, and live out our design.
Let’s move past my elementary-aged solution of shutting down our hearts completely, allowing nothing in, thinking that shutting people out will keep the hurt at bay. Let’s allow the good, lovely, and beautiful in, and let’s keep the hurtful, evil, and negative patterns and people out. It’s the only way our hearts will be both protected and provided for.