The Downside of Guarding Your Heart

by Tracie Miles September 16, 2020
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
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“Mom, you have lots of walls around your heart.”

Upon hearing my daughter’s comment and feeling somewhat offended, I immediately replied, “Ummm, no I don’t.” Yet she stood gentle but firm in her statement.

Her comment nagged at my mind. What does that even mean? Have I really put up walls around my heart? And if so, is it that obvious? The more I pondered, I slowly began to see what she was referring to as I stayed more aware of my thoughts and actions over those next few days. There were walls which had gradually erected as a result of my heart taking a beating over the past few years and enduring many painful experiences.

For example, I have a hard time trusting people and always worry someone is not being honest with me. I’m constantly thinking someone will let me down or betray me, so I secretly just wait for it to happen.

My mind is trained to assume that in any situation, the worst case scenario will probably come true. So I stay on guard at all times and often forget God is on my side, that I can rely on His peace in all situations and that He is the one person who can be trusted.

I’m hypersensitive to feeling rejected, betrayed, unaccepted, unloved or criticized, so I protect myself by hiding my emotions and putting on the “I’m fine” mask with a smile. If a conflict arises with another individual, I tend to retreat and ignore rather than face and deal.

My feelings get hurt easily. Then I let my emotions and self-critical thoughts tug at my self-confidence, fueling my deepest insecurities and pushing me back farther behind the walls where it feels safer, which often also leads to conflict in relationships.

Ouch. Reality check. Apparently, I do have a lot of walls that have formed over the years, one heartbreak, one hurt and one thrown stone at a time. Guarding my heart felt like protecting myself. But in actuality, I was only keeping other people from getting too close, keeping myself from trusting for the best in others. These reactions frequently steal my peace and joy and sometimes even stand in the way of feeling as close to God as I wanted to be.

But doesn’t Scripture instruct us to guard our hearts in Proverbs 4:23? “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

This verse is where Solomon gives us one of the most important aspects of the Christian life, because the status of our hearts affects who we are, how we feel, what we do and how we live.

Yet Solomon’s description of guarding our hearts differs greatly from the way we often view guarding our hearts.

Guarding our hearts from a scriptural perspective means for us to be alert, through the power of Christ within us, to what enters and dwells in our hearts.

We need to be aware of what we say and do, because over time, our thoughts and actions shape the status of our hearts. Biblically guarding our hearts is founded on consistent communication with our Lord for direction, conviction and peace.

Putting up walls to protect my heart from being hurt again seemed like a normal self-defense mechanism, even though I often didn’t even realize I was doing it. But I’ve now realized those walls were actually doing more harm than good. All the invisible walls I’d worked so hard to erect were reaping zero benefits in my life.

Thanks to my daughter’s simple, honest comment spoken in love, I’ve learned the downside of putting up walls. There is a big difference between guarding our hearts and putting up walls. Guarding our hearts with Scripture helps keep our faith on track, but the walls we erect to keep people out or protect our emotions can become walls which keep us bound in insecurity, fear, unhappiness and loneliness.

Only God can protect our hearts from pain, and He did not create us to live in a prison of our own making. Instead, He created us for companionship and love. He wants us to live free, full of joy and with peace in our hearts. But it is our choice to climb out from behind walls we’ve built and remember all of those gifts are available through Him, no matter what we’ve been through or what lies ahead.

Life is simply too short to live behind walls, especially when freedom and peace are always accessible if only we ask.

Lord, please help me tear down the walls I’ve built and empower me to trust in Your protection of my heart. Help me release all my anger, bitterness, hurt, offense and unforgiveness to You and live in the freedom and joy You offer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Proverbs 23:19, “My child, listen and be wise: Keep your heart on the right course.” (NLT)

Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)


To help you begin tearing down your walls and living with more peace and joy, check out Tracie Miles’ latest books for tips and encouragement: Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life is Hard, and Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies to Transform the Way You Think, Feel and Live.


Connect with Tracie on her Facebook page for daily encouragement!


What walls of protection have you put up in your life? How might they be standing in the way of your relationships and happiness? What is one good thing that might happen if you tore down your walls?

We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.

© 2020 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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