Like the adage ‘Great minds think alike’, we tend to forget the latter half of the ‘Guard your heart’ bible verse. This makes us miss what it’s really trying to say! I navigate, with much trepidation, the process of letting people in.
If you’re curious about the complete adage it’s “Great minds think alike, and fools seldom differ” – not quite as reassuring isn’t it? However, adages and disappointment aside, when we think of guarding our hearts; it’s almost always linked with romantic relationships. It’s seen as a defensive move to prevent miscreants and chingum boys from using our destiny to wrap boli! While it is wise to protect yourself from dodgy folk, that is not the essence of Proverbs 4:23; the latter half gives us a glimpse as to why we ought to guard our heart – “for everything you do flows from it.”
We are implored to guard our hearts so that our actions are not tainted by ungodly motives (an offensive move)!
The proverbial ball is in your court, you must guard your own heart so that you don’t rot from the inside out! It’s really asking us to deal with internal factors that causes our hearts to become what we fear most – broken. This state of brokenness encompasses and surpasses romantic heartbreak; it ultimately ruins our relationship with God. The subsequent verses (24-26) really drive this idea home – “Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” Guarding your heart is really about YOU!
Ensuring that you think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable so that the peace of God will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).
…in an effort to guard your heart, be careful not to build up walls…
Now, I’ll get off my soapbox and talk about the matter at hand – [not] letting people in. As I stated above, it is wise to protect yourself from people with questionable intentions. However, in an effort to guard your heart, be careful not to build up walls and if you must, create a means of entry and exit. Don’t be a container when you’re really called to be a conduit. The process of guarding your heart, in this sense, requires vulnerability, wisdom and discernment. There must be a way to simultaneously guard your heart, let people in and cultivate meaningful, intimate relationships!
I must confess that I have been an expert in wall building, the kind that doesn’t require doors. It is an exhaustive process. But, the more I delved into Christianity and as the Holy Spirit opened my eyes; I quickly realised being self-sufficient and a Christian is impossible! Not only are we called to be reliant on God; we are called to be open with our brothers and sisters. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).”
I believe part of the reluctance to let people in is that we don’t want to be that person, you know, the one with the ‘unconventional’ past. Letting people in affords them a front-row view on our sanctification process – this is scary. But it allows people to thank God on our behalf, as well as serve as a source of encouragement.
So being open is great! AWESOME! But what does openness look like? We have to ask ourselves our motive for being open – do we share with others to solely make ourselves feel better? Is it always about you? Are you the sole deicider of what constitutes as openness in a relationship? When you meet up with friends, are you only one talking? When you’re in the ‘talking stages’ (whatever that is), are you always the only one talking / constantly prying for information?
Balance is everything! A consequence of oversharing / unnecessary vulnerability (platonic or romantic) is that it can lead to co-dependency in relationships; you unintentionally allow said person to fill the position of ‘Saviour’ in your life. You go to them before you have even processed a situation because they always know the right things to say or do to make you feel better. They might enjoy it for a while but they soon start to feel drained as they simply cannot keep up with being your one (and only) source of joy.
Slightly related, something I find irksome is this phrase: ‘My boyfriend is my [automatically] best friend’. Whilst the idea is well-intentioned it’s just undue pressure. Now, before you bind me up and burn me at the stake – I partly agree with this statement. I think your partner being your bestie is amazing, they see you for who you are, in all of your entirety, all your flaws, all your strengths – they’ve peeked into your soul, they know your deepest desires and fears and they actively choose to remain in your life, forever rooting for you and providing support, love, passion and excitement at every turn, every day for the rest of both your lives – that is nothing short of epic!
The issue arises when you feel your boyfriend has to be your bestie as soon as the relationship is official – this means you need to squeeze 20-odd years of life experiences into a couple months’ worth of conversation. You then subsequently get upset when, he isn’t sharing as quickly or isn’t as hyped as you are about attaining this ‘baestie’ (bae + bestie) title. Being open and trusting someone go hand in hand – vulnerability must be organic, it is only when you’ve built a certain amount of trust you can truly let people in!
Trust is a process and it grows continuously. It’s perfectly okay if your boyfriend is not your bestie – he could become your bestie eventually! I wish I could tell you there’s a timeline in which you reveal certain aspects of yourself to potential friends and partners – there quite simply isn’t! All I can advise is that you must seek the spirit of discernment to let you know when to hold off and when to be free – essentially WING IT (with the backing of the Holy Spirit)! It’s not easy and it’s not without risk but it is worth it.
It is okay to say to someone ‘I don’t quite feel comfortable enough to discuss this with you’ or question (politely) the motive behind the question they’ve asked – however, be sure not to use these to deflect during heart-to-hearts. If you find yourself hugging the mic when it comes to sharing in relationships, take a real interest in your friends / partner’s lives, ask more questions about them. Be patient whilst waiting on their response.
Openness lies on the spectrum – too much of it and you end up with false intimacy, too little and you miss out on true love in all its forms.
Each day, seek to be truly vulnerable.