But most of the time it is.
Since I was young, people have constantly warned me to guard my heart. But it’s always been harder than I thought. I kept getting hurt in relationships. And because I kept having so many, often conflicting feelings, at times I wanted to “guard my heart” by cutting off all contact with the opposite sex. That seemed like the only safe course.
But it’s a mistake, one you shouldn’t make. To hopefully save you time and grief, here are some insights I’ve learned the hard way:
Misconception: Guarding your heart means you are never distracted by members of the opposite sex.
Truth: You are human.
Sometimes we have unrealistic standards that are extremely dangerous. For example, if you’re human and alive, you’re going to experience feelings of attraction for other humans.
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: If you feel angst or pain, you have failed.
Truth: Sometimes we have to go through the process to get clarity.
We often have to go through a process to know what we want and what we don’t, to figure out what the other person’s true intentions are. Pain is almost always a part of that process. As are mistakes. And angst.
Experiencing unpleasant emotions is part of life. It doesn’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 the enemy.
That said, do be wise in your boundaries. 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 need one another http://www.elizabethhogsten.com/young-and-female-relating-to-men/ . But I do urge you to be wise. Don’t put yourself through unnecessary angst.
Misconception: 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 and act on those situations. And those thoughts and actions can, in turn, influence your feelings.
Don’t pretend to be a victim of your emotions. You may not be able to control the fact that you are attracted to someone, but you can control whether you fan that flame. You choose whether or not you fantasize about a future with him. You choose whether you stalk him on Facebook or constantly look at photos of him on your phone. You choose whether you expect him to be more than a friend when he has never communicated a desire to be anything more than that.
Don’t assume 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.
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.
So don’t forget to ask God what He thinks of that person who has caught your attention. You might be surprised by what He says.
Don’t forget that you are not doing it alone. 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.