Keeping your heart soft does not mean keeping it unprotected.
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
You’re allowed to guard your heart, and you should, because a soft heart is easy to penetrate.
It sounds confusing when you’re being told to guard your heart, but keep it soft. It sounds contradictory, but it’s not. You shouldn’t have one without the other. There is no need to guard a hard heart, and if you don’t guard a soft heart, it ends in death. Death of hope. Death of trust. Death of forgiveness. Death of self-reflection. Death of so much more.
I can’t say that I’ve conquered this in any way, shape or form yet, but I’ve come a long way. I used to be so soft-hearted that I was desired often and by many. Not necessarily for who I was, but for what the other person knew they could get away with. I was desired by people who were comfortable living undesirably. I outgrew that naive, soft version of my heart, but transitioned into a hardened, broken heart for so many years. I lived a distracted, confused, anxious, sad existence for far too long. I’ve come a long way from there also, but it is still a struggle finding the balance between the two. I had to grow away from two opposite reactions to who I was and how I was treated because of it.
What Both Sides Lacked
If you are familiar with my story or any of my writing, you know what I am going to say here. I was lacking boundaries both when I was soft and hard-hearted. But, something you may or may not expect me to say is that I also lacked forgiveness. Even when my heart was so soft, I lacked forgiveness. Both of these are necessities for a soft yet guarded heart. We must have enough empathy and grace to love as Christ does, but we must not have so much that it relieves others of their responsibilities and consequences. We must understand what both look like in the light of truth in order to be successful. If we lack boundaries, we are often enabling and allowing sin to grow rampantly. We, of course, are not responsible for the actions and reactions of others, but we are not free of our own responsibility simply because someone else refuses to be accountable for theirs. It was obvious to see how I lacked boundaries when I was naive, but sometimes it was harder to see as my heart grew harder. The only difference in me from naivety to being hardened was how stacked up my lack of forgiveness had become. I am not suggesting that me or anyone else needs to excuse bad behavior in order to be forgiving. That’s why I encourage to always sort things through the truth of God’s Word. He doesn’t call us to say that someone’s bad behavior is okay or acceptable in any way. He does, however, call us to be accountable for ourselves no matter what has happened to us.
How to Reach Forgiveness When it is Not Deserved
We need to know the first things about forgiveness before we attempt to do it on our own (or quit trying out of frustration).
- God forgave us first and often when we didn’t deserve it, and that should be enough to move us to forgiveness of others (especially when they don’t deserve it).
- Forgiveness is not a feeling. If you wait to want to forgive, you will never forgive.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean acceptance of sin.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation, but reconciliation can’t happen without true forgiveness.
- Forgiveness has to happen over and over again, sometimes for the same offense.
- Lack of forgiveness hurts us more than the offender.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean we blindly forget, it should mean that we no longer hold that against the person, waiting for them to pay off the debt of their sin to us.
- Lack of forgiveness is a direct offense to God.
- Forgiveness can’t be done in our own power, but we have to lean on God for help.
So many of us have misconceptions about what forgiveness looks like, holding others in bondage of our unforgiveness when we don’t even realize it. Forgiveness is typically an everyday thing. We are sinned against multiple times in any given day, and we have to choose to forgive every time. Seventy times seven. Really, that’s just saying that we need to forgive unconditionally. What if God chose not to forgive us? We would be in deep trouble. We are called to look more like Christ every day, and that can’t be done without forgiveness. We are going to fail. I struggle with this everyday. Not only for offenses done to me, but more so for offenses done to my children (especially at the hands of adults). I know firsthand how frustrating it is to be considered wrong when we are unforgiving when the offender has done something so heinous in our eyes. Forgiveness is difficult, there is no doubt about that, but just because something is hard, doesn’t excuse us from doing it. Dying on a cross was hard for a blameless God, yet He went there specifically to make sure that we would be forgiven for every offense. We dodge death because of forgiveness (John 3:16).
Do Boundaries Contradict Forgiveness?
True boundaries are not a lack of love or forgiveness. True boundaries are just the opposite. So many people don’t know how to find the balance there. I understand why it’s hard. Many of us have been taught straight from the Bible incorrectly. The problem is, we still play a part in that. We are called to question the validity of the teachings we receive (if wrong teaching starts in childhood, start searching out truth as early as you know how and can understand). We are called to check it against Scripture. When we don’t know how to interpret differently, we should be praying for wisdom and expecting to receive it (James 1:5-6). We should be seeking others who have sound doctrine to guide us as mentors, teachers, preachers, and friends. When we know better, we should be doing better, and we should not stop seeking to know better. When we are taught wrong doctrine, there is a common enemy behind that (Ephesians 6:12). Not everyone who teaches the wrong thing or interprets Scripture incorrectly has wrong motives, but many do. Either way, they are accountable to God for that. How do we implement Biblical boundaries? First, we must know that one life is not more important than the next. We are called to die to self and to serve, but that doesn’t look like laying down to be a doormat for anyone. Wives, being a weaker vessel doesn’t mean that husbands have the right to break you (1 Peter 3:7). Husbands, loving your wives doesn’t mean overlooking their sin (Ephesians 5:25-26). Wives, respecting your husbands doesn’t mean listening to his “laws” over God’s, they shouldn’t contradict(Ephesians 5:22-24). Children, obeying and honoring your parents doesn’t mean that you are their slave, and so on and so forth (Ephesians 6:1-9).
God is the number one authority. If anyone is asking you to go against or compromise His Word, then you have God’s permission to disobey or go against them.
Responsibility For Change
Is your head spinning from all of this? I hope not, but I know that if you aren’t used to hearing these things, it’s a lot to take in. I want you to have the hope that you can be yourself without letting people walk all over and take advantage of you. Boundaries and forgiveness are two extremely important tools for success in all of your relationships. When implemented properly, you will find that you feel stronger and healthier than ever before. You can be whole, and you can have healthy and happy relationships. Change won’t happen unless you implement the change necessary in your own life. Even when it seems to be ninety-nine percent the other persons fault. You are still one hundred percent responsible for your one percent (I’m pretty sure that is a Linda Dillow concept).
Do your part, soften your heart.
Feel free to reach out to me via email, comment below, or find me on social media. I would love to connect and hear your story.
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