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 what he said next.
“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 an insult when it really wasn’t. How I hear things 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 because….” But just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s true or healthy. I am responsible for my reactions.
My attitude shows me who I really am. What comes out when I’m frustrated is a direct reflection of what fills my heart in the first place. 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)
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Guarding your heart means being mindful of the things you let into your thoughts and emotions. When I leave the door open, unattended, I give Satan easy access 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 you tell if you’ve left your heart unguarded? Be on the lookout for the warning signs in your attitude:
- If you catch yourself making assumptions, guard your heart.
- If you hear yourself grumbling or complaining, guard your heart.
- If you notice jealousy slipping into your thoughts or words, guard your heart.
- If you start reacting before the other person has even finished speaking, guard your heart.
When you notice these things in your own heart, stop and pray. Ask God to help you see clearly. Ask Him for the strength to deal with any real hurts quickly and graciously, and to let any false injury just slide right off. Guard your heart.