So you may have seen the video “Shoot Christians Say.” There’s a lot of funny stuff here that speaks to our evangelical culture. But the part I want to talk about comes at about the 1:41 mark.
There is the idea that somehow it is the guys job in a relationship, heck even in general, to guard the girl’s (or perhaps every girl’s) heart. I think this can be a huge trap for the Christian single guy.
There are a lot of big flaws with this idea.
To begin with, that phrase is used in Proverbs 4:23 –
“Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.”
This is not talking about romance in any way. It’s not even talking about being careful not to love a person too quickly. It’s saying keep your heart focussed on God and centered the right way. Because if you don’t, then everything else will get clouded. (Quick aside – in the bible, heart is not your emotions. It is your very central being. The heart speaks, thinks, remembers etc all throughout the bible – it is not separated out as your emotional self. It is your core self).
Obviously you can set your heart on many things, including a romantic relationship. But it’s not limited in anyway to that. And neither is this verse – especially when read in context.
Secondly, it doesn’t say to guard anyone else’s heart. Do you know why? Because you can’t. I can’t keep someone else’s heart focussed on God.
This is one of the major problems with the whole “Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “Choosing God’s Best” type books of the 90’s. There was this idea that if you didn’t make out or whatever that no one’s “heart” would get hurt. This is of course sold in the context of women’s sexuality being linked to feelings while guys are “just” physical so you could somehow help the girl not get hurt by not making out with her. The problem is that I can have my heart set on a person or relationship without even dating them, let alone without making out with them.
I know this because I’ve had times in my life, especially from about age 16-25, where I had my heart set on someone who didn’t even want to date me at all. Was it their job to guard my heart?
So for starters you can’t guard someone else’s heart for them. But that is just the beginning of the problem.
This idea is often rooted in the idea that guys are bad and girls are innocent. I’ve pretty much never heard a message that a girl should guard a guys heart. (Maybe a couple of times). The idea being as men we are a sex craved animal who will use women. So we need to “man up” and protect the girl from us. Yikes!
This affects Christian guys in a lot of subtle ways that aren’t good. First it can keep them from asking out anybody or certainly from taking things forward if they aren’t sure they want to.
I can remember times where because I wasn’t 100% sure I was into it I backed away in a hurry because I didn’t want to “hurt” that person. Now if you know for sure that you are not into it then yes, you should back away. But a lot of relationships have a some time of not being so sure. If I’m constantly worried about guarding everyone’s heart, I can end up freezing myself.
Secondly, this is one of the ways that we’ve helped Christian guys become less attractive because they end up coming off as “nice” guys. We end up “declaring our intentions” or “having the talk” at times when we don’t have to. We end up being so accommodating that we become annoying. As I’ve said before, no girl wants a guy that can’t stand up to her. And no girl wants to know your “intentions” before you’ve had a first date.
Essentially while trying to guard everyone’s heart but our own, we end up either overplaying our hand or not playing our hand at all.
Am I saying to crush girls hearts? No! No! No! I’m not saying toy with people, make out with whoever, whenever, treat people like an expendable product or lead people on just for the heck of it or because you don’t have the courage to end a relationship. You shouldn’t do any of those things! But that’s not guarding her heart – that’s just called caring about another person. That’s a good idea. That’s right. Don’t use people. Seriously.
But don’t pursue a woman with an attitude of protecting her from yourself. It’s her job to guard her own heart (meaning staying focussed on God and getting her core validation from Him) and it’s your job to do the same with yours. You can be protective of her physically and emotionally as best you can, but you can’t guard her heart in the biblical sense or guarantee that she or you won’t get hurt.
What has the term guard her heart meant to you? Has it been a good or bad thing? Has it held you back and from what?