Guarding Your Heart and Mind

I used to think that I was supposed to be able to rise above and continually subject
myself to others' negative behaviors such as manipulation tactics, know-it-all
behavior, holier-than-thou ways of interacting, and argumentative tactics. After all,
being a believer in Jesus Christ meant that I was supposed to turn the other cheek,
walk the extra mile, and allow bullies and manipulators to run roughshod over my
heart, right? Wrong. This way of being just about killed my soul and it certainly took a toll on my physical health.
As it turns out, I was not properly interpreting the passages about "turning the other
cheek" and "going the extra mile" correctly and within the proper context. Slowly, God began to teach me how to be kind to all people while guarding my heart and my mind at the same time. Placing limits on abusive relationships allowed me to get out from under the constant strain and stress of striving to be perfect enough only to discover that would never happen.
You see, we humans are all different. Some of us are born with strong personalities
made of metal that can let harsh words and critical judgments roll right off without
feeling a thing. Then, there are those of us on the opposite end of the spectrum - we feel the hurt and the pain more deeply when an abusive person assaults us verbally or psychologically. God taught me that it was okay to be a soft-hearted person with my own set of weaknesses which God would work on slowly, over time.
Because I recognized my weakness of being a "sensitive" person, I realized that God, in His infinite mercy, encourages people like me to set proper limits that will help me to guard my heart from hurt, offense, bitterness, and unforgiveness. For me that meant seeing less of certain people or not engaging in conversations that were
argumentative. I especially noticed that when I did need to interact with difficult
people, I went into it from a position of strength knowing it was going to be a short-
term interaction and that God actually wanted me to set limits and stop allowing
another human being to sin against me.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows
from it.” Guarding our heart is a continual learning process. We have to learn what it
feels like to be protected by God's peace and then stay there. As we get better at
being guarded and protected by God's peace, we will find it easier to deal with the
bullies of life, the manipulators, and the offenders in a balanced and Biblical way.
Jesus shows us how to guard our hearts and our minds. All throughout the Gospels, Jesus was kind to sinners but told them to "go and sin no more." Jesus didn't put up with the lies and deception of the Pharisees, Saducees, and Scribes who were distorting God's Word, misusing the Temple, and abusing the widows. Jesus used strong words ("white washed tombs," 'fools," "hypocrites," "blind guides," etc.) for these abusive and unrepentant leaders. Jesus knew how to balance graciousness with justice and strength.

Jesus also knew that to guard His heart and mind, He would require time away from
people in order to talk with and be refreshed by His Father in Heaven. We can give
ourselves breaks from people too. In fact, it is imperative that we get away and speak with our Heavenly Father every day. If we get into the practice of spending quiet time with our Heavenly Father each morning, upon awakening or soon after, we will find it easier to guard our hearts and minds with the thoughts and perspectives of God.

So, if you've been feeling pressure to strive to get along with the bullies, the
manipulators, the abusers in your life, take some time away from them and go to Your loving Heavenly Father to get His perspective on who you are, what your role is to be in these peoples' lives (if any), and how to guard your heart and mind. You'll be able to save your precious time and energy to pour into the people who are actually open to what God might have you share with them about Jesus.

Matthew 7:6 says, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls
before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to
pieces." I encourage you to pray for the Lord to develop discernment in you about who you fellowship with, who you should share your innermost thoughts with, and who you should set healthy limits with.

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