I’m quite sure that when the Bible said “guard your heart, for out of it spring forth the issues of life” in Proverbs, it did not mean to use duct tape, concrete, and barb wire. Building a wall thirty feet high and rigged with explosives is going a little above and beyond just guarding your heart. But have you ever felt so hurt, so used, abused, and broken, that you determined that if God was closing one door, you were going to grab a hammer and some nails, and make sure that bitch stays shut? Where do you draw then line between guarding your hard, and just being guarded and cynical? When I’ve gone from feeling vulnerable to downright violated, I tend to think that instead of guarding my heart, I’d rather just have no heart, because if I reveal too much of my heart, it will inevitably be broken. If you’ve ever felt this way, then take heart, and learn why heeding the advice of guarding your heart, may be the best antidote for healing a broken heart.
Whenever I’ve felt like I’ve had my heart broken, or my feelings hurt, or even beaten down to the point that I begin to wonder if I’m a masochist, I go in the opposite direction-from guarding my heart, to going straight to stonewalling my emotions- guarding too much, totally ignoring the beautifully written danger of holding onto my emotions, and quite frankly my pride, too tightly, as written by C.S. Lewis,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
I worry that being vulnerable, willingly giving someone the opportunity to wound me, feels more like torture than the pleasure we all long for. So I decide I’ll just shut myself off from love altogether. But then I remember the times I’ve done just that, and shutting myself off from love, felt more like cutting off my oxygen. We need love like we need the air that we breath. We are designed with love in our DNA. Our survival and continuation of the species is dependent on love. It is one of life’s necessities to thrive, and not just survive. So rather than harden our hearts, we must learn to guard our hearts. But how do we do that? How do you find the balance between protection from heartbreak, and swearing off all possibility of it?
I have really questioned lately how I am suppose to set goals, be determined in making my dreams come true, planning for success, yet believing in something substantial with another person, yet having no control over the outcome of any relationship, and being completely left to wonder about the other person’s intentions or intended outcome. The number one killer in any relationship is a lack of communication, but it is my experience that it is actually a lack of respect that precedes the communication breakdown. There is some force that occurs, which causes one person to longer deem another person worthy of the effort it takes to not only be vulnerable and express their feelings, but furthermore, to no longer be willing to accept another person’s vulnerability, and to attempt to find meaning in their words or actions. I think Aretha Franklin may have given us a hint….
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.
So if it is more about respect, than communication, and we cannot give what we do not have, then I think to “guard your heart” actually means having self respect. Valuing yourself, determining your own worth, and what you deserve. Most communication is in an effort to influence. Any great leader, parent, teacher, or pretty much any one who wants to accomplish something of significance, must also have the ability to greatly influence others. Children are expert influencers-mainly because they know their inherent worth. In their eyes, all of their demands are worthy to be met. Why do we grow up to feel unworthy of our own needs and wants? Children also aren’t afraid to ask for their heart’s desire. Guarding your heart, means giving up your fears of permanent damage, and the fear of being ashamed of asking for the things we want most, and what might happen if we don’t get what it is we think we want.
Being fearful of love, of the damage another person can cause, when we are exposed and vulnerable, can cause us to not only forfeit our capacity for love, but it may make us stingy with our empathy. Too often, we abuse the “guard your heart” message as an excuse to defend our fear of being hurt, or even being vulnerable. We use this “guard your heart” mantra as a way of controlling situations or people out of fear, which causes us to react out of fear, rather than have a loving response, which can further deteriorate our communication. Fearfully gripping our heart tightly and securely away from the world does nothing more than erode even more connection, which is the one thing we need when we feel exposed and wounded. So to responsibly guard our heart, rather than shut it off completely, we must release our fear of being vulnerable, of being hurt, and remain empathetic to the hurt we can cause, as well. Anticipating how to handle the hurt, and connection to others, can make us less fearful, less reactive.
Just like we can repair physical damage to the heart, we can repair the wounds that aren’t visible. Just like we treat atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries due to a build up of cholesterol, we can treat the hardening of our spiritual hearts. Years of build up from break ups and let downs, disappointments and offenses, can be healed through radical forgiveness. Heart murmurs and faulty valves can occur in the physical heart, but our emotional heart can become faulty by constantly murmuring and complaining about the wrong done to us by others, but being unwilling to accept any responsibility in the role we have played in the demise of our relationship with ourself or with others, or learning how to improve the quality of those relationships. The need to assess the damage of our physical hearts often requires that we seek out the expert opinion or intervention of a cardiologist, and in life, our hearts may need a professional exam or tune up, as well. We can get tunnel vision as to why our relationships fail, seeing fault in everyone but ourselves, so we must be willing to explore what work we need to do in ourselves, to repair the damage done, and to avoid projecting that damage onto others, or in our next relationship.
When it comes to our overall health and wellbeing, relationships play such a bigger role than we imagine. Let’s face it, you can eat all the kale in the world, but if you’re in a shitty relationship, you aren’t going to play at the top of your game. Relationships have a substantial effect on our performance in every area of life-career, finances, spirituality. The more successful you are in one area of your life, the more another area, like your relationships, may suffer. If you’re struggling in any area of your life, maybe it’s time to invest in learning how to let that limitation go, so you can really live your life to the fullest. I’d be more than willing to have a consultation with you to determine wether or not we could work together to improve every area of your health, wellness, and lifestyle. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the coaching programs I currently have available!