The warrior learns early to guard your heart and your head. These are physical areas that must be protected to win a battle. The wise among us guard more than the physical heart.
Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.“
Guard Your Heart to Produce Fruit
In classic stories and battles, we often see the bad guy meeting their end with a stab in the heart. Even mythical vampires can be killed with a stake to the heart. That being noted, the Proverb is not talking about your physical heart. Our emotional and spiritual heart drives our life. IT can even end our life.
Depression is an excellent example of this link. There are stories of people that “died of sorrow” or sadness. Clinical depression provides scientific evidence of this being possible. When we are sad or angry our bodies show physical changes that are negative. On the other hand, when we are happy or “in love” our physical attributes will be impacted in a positive way.
When our heart and intentions are good we will find ways to produce good for others. However, when our heart is poisoned we will spew venom and hatred at others.
Guarding the Ephemeral
A physical heart is pretty easy to guard and protect. Our emotional and spiritual heart is more challenging to defend. We will have good and bad influences through our daily lives. The trick is to let in the good while turning away the bad. One of the best ways to do this is to surround ourselves with “good people.” We are products of our environment. Thus, when we spend a lot of time with positive people, we will be more positive. On the other hand, when we spend time with cynics we will become cynical.
This guarding goes beyond people. We can look at the music we listen to, the books we read, the locations we visit (physical and online). All of these will impact our heart and attitude towards others. Please note that the directive to guard your heart is not a call to avoid all risk to your heart. That is an option, but that path is not going to lead to a better life, just one of safety.
Teaching Children this Wisdom
The challenge in teaching this Proverb is that it requires time to see the impact of an unguarded heart. It is complicated by the idea that it is better to love and lose than never to love. When we love we remove guards from our heart and that may end in pain. However, the journey before we hit the painful end may bring more than enough joy to be worth it.
I think this bit of wisdom is best to take in small steps. Start with a focus on the physical heart. Point to examples of death from a pierced heart. Explain how the beating heart they can fill is pushing blood throughout their body. Describe how the physical heart is essential to every other part of our being. This realization is the first step. From this starting point, you can lead the discussion to emotions and spirituality. There are great stories that can help make this link. The one that jumps to mind is the story of The Grinch. Dr. Seuss describes this mean individual as someone whose heart is two sizes too small.