“You, my dear, are the queen of guarding your heart.”
My fiancé sent that text message to me about a week ago. It’s true. I guard my heart with fortified walls that only come down when I feel like it. Even when he asks me questions to get to know me on a deeper level, the walls go back up. I get scared.
I wasn’t always that way. It’s the result of a broken heart, the scars of which constructed each one of my walls. They’re there out of fear. But it’s lonely to not be known or to be known but never understood. Or to feel like an outsider because you can’t connect easily with others.
There have been several blog posts floating around the Internet about guarding our hearts. Some argue to not guard it at all while others feel we need to guard ourselves more. I even saw a meme on Facebook the other day accompanied by a C.S. Lewis quote about vulnerability and guarding our hearts.
My fiancé and I are reading Before You Plan Your Wedding, Plan Your Marriage by Greg and Erin Smalley. In it, the authors advise us to guard our hearts when necessary until we feel we’ve entered a safe space where our feelings will be respected. There is a time and a place for guarding our hearts.
But I’ve guarded my heart unnecessarily for too long, and now as I’m approaching marriage, I’m learning how much damage that causes. And I’m learning to take the walls down one by one. I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned recently and pray that it helps some of you avoid the same mistakes I made.
The Bible does instruct us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), but sometimes Christians take that and use it as a means to keep people out. We use it to justify our fear of vulnerability. We don’t want to get hurt. In doing so, we not only hurt ourselves, but we hurt others, too.
My best piece of advice on this subject, and my strongest word of caution, is this: Do guard your heart. But don’t guard it so tightly that your love grows cold.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to 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 become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” —C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I realized that by guarding my heart so tightly, I was no longer able to empathize with others. It became all about me. I didn’t want to hurt when others hurt, or cry with those who cried. I wanted to maintain a stone wall of emotion that was hard to read. I didn’t want to let anyone get in.
I built a wall that caused me to stop feeling. If I don’t attach myself emotionally, I won’t get hurt. That’s the lie I told myself. It eventually caught up to me. Now it hurts me when I can’t express concern or empathize with someone who shares anything personal with me.
We guard our hearts from emotions, and we also guard them from intimacy. I built a wall that caused me to be so focused on not crossing physical boundaries that even when there was no danger, I couldn’t relax and enjoy affection. I pushed it away out of fear. And since one of my fiancé’s top love languages is physical touch, you can imagine the rejection he felt every time I turned down a hug or an innocent kiss on the cheek. I also naturally do not initiate affection because of the vulnerability that requires. There is always the chance I could be rejected, and that would destroy me because of my fears.
I’m learning, and I’m growing as I come to understand the importance of letting myself be known.
Be wise in how you guard your heart, and remember there is a time and place for it. But love is a risk, and it’s one God calls us to take.