Guarding your heart does not mean you should play it safe or take things slow.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
This is a one of the more powerful verses and passages in Proverbs. It’s implications are profound and far reaching. However, it is a verse that is often misused. This verse is often used by people who are new in a relationship as justification to take things slow and be cautious so that they can guard their heart. That is not what this verse implies, nor what God would encourage.
First, lets take the verse itself and its meaning. Proverbs was written by Solomon, much of the wisdom being passed down to Solomon from David. In this passage, Solomon is teaching us wisdom and how to live well. It is important to note that often in that time, the heart refereed more to the mind and to the center of our decisions making and character more so than it meant the center for our emotions as it does today. Solomon is talking more about guarding our character than he is talking about guarding our emotions. He teaches us that we guard our heart with wisdom and that wisdom comes from the Word of God. Solomon is telling us to protect ourselves, protect our character, protect our soul, from the evil of the world and from the sin within ourselves, by protecting what we let into our mind.
Guarding your heart means putting on the armor of God. We guard our heart by reading and living the Word of God, through consistent prayer, and by having a relationship with Jesus.
The verse is rather clear. It is not about romantic relationships. It in no way implies that we should be safe by going slow in relationships. So, why is this verse most often used in such a way?
We often use verses to justify our actions. When we’ve been previously hurt in a relationship, often our reaction is to unnaturally slow the process of any new relationship as a mechanism to defend against potential hurt. Certainly God would not want you to rush relationships, but he does not call you to go slow or play it safe.
Over 103 times in the Bible, God calls us to be bold, brave, and courageous. He never calls us to be safe. He loves us, so he’d not want us to put ourselves in danger, but he’d never say, “be safe,” or “take it slow.” God also makes no reference to the speed in which we should go in relationships in terms of time. There is certainly a process of courting and marriage that God defines, multiple times, in detail. There are certain things that must be in place before we move forward in our relationships (and we often ignore or skip those), but it is not defined by a matter of time. Playing it safe won’t keep you safe. Going slow won’t guard your heart.
If you’ve been hurt and you’re concerned about guarding your heart and protecting against getting hurt, guard your heart by having a strong relationship with Christ. Pray often. Read the Bible daily. If you do this, you’ll be putting on the armor of God and your heart will be as guarded as it can be; your heart will be guarded by God.