11 Ways to Guard Your Heart

It’s very difficult to protect ourselves from all manner of attack, whether it’s physical, emotional, verbal, spiritual, or otherwise.
Here are some considerations for guarding our hearts to protect our lives and the lives of others.

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One of the hard realities of life is it’s very difficult to protect ourselves from all manner of attack, whether it’s physical, emotional, verbal, spiritual, or otherwise.

The fact is we live in a world that often brutalizes the innocent, and unless the innocent ward against such potential ferocity, they’re left wide open to abuse.

Proverbs 4:23 says,

Above all else, guard your heart,
because all your life flows from it.”

Here are some considerations for guarding our hearts to protect our lives and the lives of others:


  1. Acknowledge first of all that you can’t change anyone.

The hard thing with this is we know it but find it very hard to apply to ALL our relationships.

It’s understandable to have good desires for others, but when those desires blur into demands, transgression is inevitable; it leads to judgment and then punishment.  We save ourselves a great amount of frustration to accept people as they are, understanding that everyone is responsible for their own lives.


  1. Nobody has the right to expect they can change you — that’s right, no one!

The reverse of point 1 applies.  Biblically, it’s the Holy Spirit who changes us, with our will and cooperation.  The only time anyone changes is when we, ourselves, see the need to change.  When people persist in insisting that we change, it’s a signal that the relationship needs to change.


  1. Anticipate disappointments.

Try and be realistic regarding your chances.  The biggest disappointments are shocking setbacks that can prove really difficult to recover from.  We either elevate our chances upon a hopeful (or inflated) perception or we endeavor to have more “sober judgment” (Romans 12:3).

There will be disappointments and they can be taken well if only we don’t cast our expectations too high.


  1. Keep your eyes peeled for red flags.

You don’t always need to draw immediate attention to them once you see them (you may want to be more strategic than that!), but it’s truly vital that you see those things in another person that will amount to future abuses.

When others have your interests truly at heart, listen to what they tell you.  Heed what your intuition highlights to you.  Experience is also a great teacher, but learning the hard way redoubles trauma.


  1. View every new relationship as a potential future betrayal.

The fact is, as fallible human beings, we fail one another.  Guarding your heart to this degree is about preparing yourself for at least two situations:

1) when in their betrayal, they do not acknowledge their wrongdoing — and this WILL occur to all of us at some point; and,

2) when they seek your forgiveness having betrayed you — so you don’t hold them apart from their healing, having the grace to forgive where appropriate whilst protecting your boundaries.


  1. Design and implement boundaries for every relationship.

This means overcoming the fear that someone will be disappointed in you — or worse, feel betrayed — because you hold them at a finger’s length or an arm’s length.  We share more intimacy with people who are trustworthy, but we always need to be sufficiently careful — for them AND us — that we don’t remove all boundaries.

The absolute best of the closest most intimate relationships features utter respect for each other’s boundaries.  Boundaries are beautiful because they protect what is holy and safe about the relationship.


  1. Forgive yourself for your failures, embarrassments, and regrets.

Life’s arduous enough as it is without living with the constant burden of pain we can’t do anything about.

Failure is either something that propels us to greater successes — “I CAN overcome” — or it continues to propagate guilt and shame within for baggage that hasn’t been processed and jettisoned.  Some of this is about how we’re wired, but we can always unwire and rewire to some extent if shame or guilt play too much a role.


  1. Hold expectations lightly.

We all have expectations.  When they’re higher or more exacting than they either need to be or should be, we make both ourselves and others miserable and the stress creates conflict.

Conflict handled poorly either hurts others or ourselves or both.


  1. Keep your word the best you can and promptly and sincerely apologize when you can’t.

Probably no better way to maintain good relationships over time.  Psalm 15:4 counsels us to keep our promises even when it hurts, but in the inevitable situation we can’t fulfill what we thought we could, the least we can do is make it right some other way.


  1. Don’t engage in gossip.

This is hard because gossipers abound.  I’m not talking about not being able to share what’s happened to us with trusted mentors and counselors.  We need to do that to process the hurts, betrayals, and disappointments.

It’s actually engaging in what shouldn’t be discussed openly, with obvious mischievous intent, and at times the most discernible gossipers are active within prayer meetings.  Hearts are protected when we ignore the overture to gossip.


  1. Don’t set impossible goals.

This is very important this time of year.  An impossible goal is something that is beyond your reach at any time.  It’s the kind of goal a mentor would advise us against committing to.  Life’s hard enough as it is without making it impossible.

A word to the wise: consider these points as boundaries within your humanity to help you organize for life.

Be wary of the person or people — anyone — who separate/s you from the safety you have the right to, as a human being, to make you more vulnerable than you’re comfortable with.  That in itself is a red flag, and yet many people are startled to find how close people like this are within their lives.

No wonder there is so much heartache in the world.  As much as you can, carve out protective layers to shelter your life, because, as Proverbs 4:23 says,

Above all else, guard your heart,
because all your life flows from it.”

The opposite rendering would be: “An exposed heart is open to the plunder of marauders and souls die under trauma.”

It’s up to each of us to guard our hearts the best we can.



This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework

Featured Image by Bart LaRue on Unsplash


The views and opinions expressed by Kingdom Winds Collective Members, authors, and contributors are their own and do not represent the views of Kingdom Winds LLC.

About the Author

Steve Wickham is a Kingdom Winds Contributor. He holds several roles, including husband, father, peacemaker championing peacemaking for children and adults, conflict coach and mediator, church pastor, counselor, funeral celebrant, chaplain, mentor, and Board Secretary. He holds degrees in Science, Divinity (2), and Counselling. Steve is also a Christian minister serving CyberSpace i.e. here.