I don’t remember how the conversation got started, but I do remember that my brother said something and I replied with, “I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a compliment or an insult.” I’ll never forget his response:
“If you have a choice Claire, assume it was a compliment.”
There’s a lot of wisdom in that. I’ll admit there are times when I’m far too quick to assume something was negative. A word quickly spoken or a missed opportunity for praise can feel like insults when they really weren’t. My perception of the things I hear is a direct reflection of my attitude — and my attitude mirrors the state of my heart.
I remember a speaker years ago saying, “A heart filled with sweetness cannot spill one drop of sour, no matter how hard it is jostled.” That really hit home for me.It’s easy to say, “You make me so angry” or “That’s not my fault.” But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s true or healthy. I am responsible for my reactions. The truth would be, “I am angry about that” or “I did do that.”
What comes out of my mouth is a direct reflection of what fills my heart. It’s no wonder that in Proverbs 4:23 we’re told, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do” (NLT).
Guarding my heart means being mindful of the things I think or feel. When I leave the door open, unattended, I give the enemy an opportunity to slip all kinds of things in there. He can plant envy or jealousy, discontent, anger, or meanness. He can take a natural and positive attention to detail and twist it into a hurtful and critical spirit.
Changes in attitude are often very subtle. That’s why we’re told to be continually on guard. Little shifts in attitude are easily corrected at first, but after a while they become entrenched and then it’s a lot more work to undo the damage.
How can we tell if we’ve left our heart unguarded?
Here are some warning signs:
- If we catch ourselves making assumptions, it’s time to guard our heart.
- If we hear ourselves grumbling or complaining, it’s time to guard our heart.
- If we notice jealousy slipping into our thoughts or words,it’s time to guard our heart.
- If we start reacting before the other person has even finished speaking, our heart needs guarding.
When we notice these attitudes creeping into our hearts, it’s time to stop and pray, asking God to help us see things clearly. We can trust him for the strength to deal with all real hurts quickly and graciously and to let all imagined injuries go. His Spirit will guide us and direct us as we invite him to reveal to us all that needs to be brought to the Father in faith.
Guard your heart.
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