I often see Proverbs 4:23 pinned when I’m scrolling Pinterest. If you are unfamiliar with Proverbs 4:23, it reads as follows:
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Often, I see those pins belonging to young women. Teenage girls heartbroken over the end of their first real relationship. Women my age who are scorned and jaded, bitter over a breakup or another round of dating that led nowhere. I think some of them see “guard your heart” and believe it means just that – to guard your heart, to not let anyone to get too close, to keep yourself protected from the possibility of getting hurt.
Except, that’s not what it means at all, at least not by my translation.
Our hearts are just that – our hearts. They do a bunch of stuff for us physically, pumping blood through our organs and all that jazz. It is a vital organ, imperative to keeping us alive. But, it is also the place where we hold our hopes and dreams. It is the place where our passions live, where we feel emotions. It is my belief that it is where our soul lives, where that “thing” that makes us uniquely us resides.
The most beautiful people I know aren’t beautiful because of their outward appearances. They are beautiful because of their hearts, the way they handle themselves, they way they treat others. They don’t let past hurts cloud their judgment or let the world around them make them bitter. They have guarded their hearts and because of this, can love others.
Guarding your heart, to me, means guarding yourself from letting the trials of life harden your heart. If you read Proverbs 4 in its entirety, it sheds more light on the meaning of “guard your heart.” A few verses:
Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers. Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving. – Proverbs 4:14-15
The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. – Proverbs 4:18
Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. – Proverbs 4:24-27
Guard your heart from the fallen world we live in. Guard your heart from becoming bitter or angry. Guard your heart from closing itself off to love and light. Don’t guard your heart from feeling or loving or caring. Guard your heart from darkness.
Act from your heart. Let your heart guide you.
That’s what it means to guard your heart – to keep the dark and bitter thoughts and actions of the world from letting your own light shine through.