Rapunzel had a tower, princesses had castles with moats, and today we . . . well we have fathers, brothers, and the phrase “guard your heart.” We’ve taken these fairy tales and tried to apply them to our lives. Instead of a real tower, a moat filled with man-eating sharks to consume the wrong companion who is trying to infiltrate our walls – we hide behind the proverbial walls of self.

Our walls and towers aren’t crafted of brick and mortar instead they are crafted of fear, worry, and anxiety. They aren’t just our fears or worries, other people are also contributing to them. While I’m speaking figuratively, when we quote the lines from Proverbs 4:23, “guard your heart” this is what we picture . . . a strong wall protecting us from pain and heartache. When others say this to us, they are adding their own fears and worries to our self-made walls, adding to the over protectiveness of our hearts.  For what reason are we protecting our hearts? Most often it’s so we don’t have to experience hurt or pain.

The author in Proverbs 4 mentions nothing about guarding our hearts to avoid pain.

Most often I see this passage used in books, articles, and blogs about dating or singleness. But if you read Proverbs 4 – it’s speaking to neither dating nor singleness. Instead the author is writing about wisdom. Wisdom that should be applied in all aspects of our lives and that every believer has access to.

Stop.

Stop trying to guard my heart. When you (both men and women) attempt to guard my heart or even use that phrase, it's just awkward and makes things harder than they need to be. When you begin a sentence with – “I just want to guard your heart” more often than not you are responding out of fear that what you might say may mislead or hurt me. You don’t need to protect me from what you have experienced. Warn me, correct me, and call me out on sin – but stop interjecting your relational fears on me. I don’t want to fear anything or anyone but the Lord.

I have experienced heartache at various levels and degrees, heartache from a dating relationship, heartache from a friend suffering, heartache over abuse and assault, but I would go through each of those things again and again to learn what the Lord taught me through them. Longing more deeply and passionately for Him through those heartaches was worth it.  Sometimes I still feel pain from those things but with that pain comes the reminder of a God far bigger and greater than my own heartache and those situations. He is a God who is faithful and consistent even when nothing around me is. He is a God who knows me, my heart, my thoughts, and has given me (and you) the Holy Spirit who equips us with discernment.

When it comes to “guarding my heart,” I am the one responsible. We know from Proverbs 4:23 that we are to, “above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” The 'your' in this passage means exactly that, YOUR. And let's stop only applying this passage to dating or courting or whatever Christian-version-of-going-out-on-a-prearranged-appointment-with-a-member-of-the-opposite-sex you prefer to call it.

It’s not so much what you are guarding your heart from but rather what are you filling it with.

We are warned in Matt 12:34 and Luke 6:45 that whatever fills our heart will overflow from it and usually it overflows from our lips – our words and actions are an overflow of what we are taking in. As well, we are to guard our heart from perversity of our mouths and to keep corrupt talk far from our lips.

Let’s move past the issue of guarding our hearts in the most superficial way but move instead towards walking in wisdom. With wisdom we no longer have a need to hide behind walls or our Christian trump cards.  Instead we are able to move forward walking in godly confidence.

What this means to our dating and friendships with one another and the opposite sex . . . 

  • We don’t need to respond in fear or "what ifs" when relating to one another.
  •  We no longer cast our past experiences or anxiety on others when speaking to each other.
  • We are capable and equipped to discern what we should be taking into our hearts and minds.
  • We can freely relate in an honoring and edifying way to members of the opposite sex, in a platonic way that’s not centered on sexuality.
  • We don’t have to over analyze our every move and we can just be present with one another.
  • We respond and walk this life gazing forward while walking in wisdom.
  • We don’t have to know if you are going to marry someone before even going on a date with him or her.
  • We are no longer living under the fear of getting hurt, but living a life deeply rooted in belief of God.

What this means to our everyday life…

  • We no longer fear or feel the need to over-protect people from heartache, but rather having compassion on the hurting and giving wisdom to those in need. 
  • We fill are lives with God’s Word so that wisdom over flows through our words and actions.
  • We walk in the way of the Lord, obedience.
  • We live a life free of the fear of sin and repent boldly before a great God.

I am not saying we should throw caution to the wind when it comes to dating, relationships, or just life in general but that the issue of "guarding your heart" is much deeper. It is rooted in what we are taking in and investing in rather than just hiding behind a wall to protect us from harm. Guarding our hearts frees us from responding in fear so we may live boldly and love people deeply. Coming out from behind our walls allows us to engage and participate in the life going on around us and before us. It means living life deeper in relationship with Christ.