Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Guard Your What?

"Above all, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." - Proverbs 4:23.

This is probably one of the most altered, mistaken, and perverted (in the old sense, not the creeper sense) verses that is talked about in the church.

There are twelve words in that verse. None of these twelve include any of the following: virginity, penis, vagina, body, nakedness, sexuality, marriage. And that's just a partial list of all the words that aren't in this verse.

Proverbs 4:23 is unequivocally not about sex. This is not a pro-abstinence tract, nor is it restricted to women. This verse has been used for restriction, laid down like some kind of law, as if there were a punishment attached to the end. As if there were eighteen words instead of twelve, and the remaining six were, "Or you will go to Hell."

Guard your heart. What is the heart? It's the metaphorical center of love and caring. It's the part of the analogy-body that feels and empathizes. Even if people thought the brain was a giant radiator, the mind was the center of thought, wherever in the body it was thought to lie. The heart is reserved for pure emotions. So in the end, what are you guarding? You're guarding feelings, emotions like trust, love, dedication, kindness, and empathy. You're not expending your every last drop of energy on the pigs, who will not appreciate the pearls you've thrown before them. You're making sure to take care of yourself, not in a self-centered way, but in a way that will protect your stability and energy and enthusiasm for life. You're not letting other people take advantage of you, even though you may care for them and help them. You maintain a center, where you can be strong and capable, despite what the world may throw at you.

Guarding your heart isn't about keeping it in your pants. There's no mention about pants here, or any of the body parts under those pants. What it's about, is keeping your priorities straight, and not throwing yourself away. Wanton promiscuity is a definite danger, don't think I'm saying otherwise. Throwing caution to the wind and ruining your body is not taking care of yourself. Disease and unwanted pregnancy are torments to the mind and heart. But the point is the damage they're doing, not the overgeneralized whole.

Guarding your heart means having respect for yourself. It means choosing good lovers and good friends and good coworkers. It means not letting anyone crap all over you and not being a pushover. It means maintaining your cool and your stability among the hurricane that is humanity. It doesn't mean alienating yourself, or being prissy, and it certainly doesn't mean being abstinent, or not dyeing your hair, or not shaving your head, or not getting a tattoo, or caring about this or that political issue and not the other one, or preaching to every person you see, or...

It means, have respect for yourself. Take care of yourself. Treat your body right, and your mind right, and your heart right. Don't let humanity drown you. Don't let others destroy you. Don't throw yourself into a situation where you know you're just going to come out a ruined shell.

Does that happen to people? Yes. Does it mean they didn't guard their hearts? Not always. But sometimes you can see it coming.

You can only do so much. This verse is asking you to do just that: what you can do. Not what you can't, not what you couldn't account for. But what you can do, right now, to be good to yourself, to protect yourself.

Guard your heart. And go be free.

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