Relationships are matters of the heart. I recognize there are different kinds of relationships, but, core relationships (e.g. spouse, best friend, family, etc.), are especially matters of the heart. Your heart and your pride are on opposing teams. Your heart will betray your pride and ego every time. If my daughter were to come home from school and tell me about her day and casually mention some of the kids teased her, but quickly exclaim, “but I’m ok, it didn’t hurt my feelings”, she could be telling the truth. If I walk by her room later that evening and see her crying, ask why she’s upset, and she responds, “I’m a nice person, I don’t know why those kids would say mean things about me?” In that moment, her heart has betrayed her ego, and her heart is communicating what’s really going on inside of her.
Learning to guard your heart will do wonders for your relationships. I love what Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” That’s a huge statement. Everything I do, flows (comes out of, starts from, is conceived) from my heart. In order to have healthy relationships, I have to have a healthy heart. Just like healthy eating and dieting do wonders for the physical heart, the same is true for the immaterial heart. I must keep it healthy. If my mind is preoccupied with money: how to make more, to get more, to become rich, etc. my actions will walk that out. The things I talk about are the things I have been thinking about.
Here are three things you can do to train your heart in order to improve your relationships:
1. Keep a pulse on what things are flowing and moving in and out of your heart throughout the day. Self-talk is something we all do. We are constantly reminding ourselves of things that need to be done, places we need to go and tasks we need to accomplish. But there’s more. Be mindful of the thoughts and attitudes of your heart as well. These very thoughts and attitudes are the things that enter our relationships and begin to shape them and mold them.
We live in a sex crazed world. It seems like marketing teams and advertisers think sex is the secret sauce to effective advertising. (News flash… It’s not!). When I turn the television on and see a young lady, barely clothed, provocatively eating a cheeseburger in the effort to get me to buy one, it doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to tell me something has gone very wrong in our society. How does sex have anything to do with cheeseburgers?!? That constant barrage of images may take root in my heart if I am not careful to identify what’s going on in my heart. More importantly, I may need to identify and be truthful with myself that I may secretly like those images and then begin to uproot any hold they may have on my heart. Allowing that junk to have a place in my heart will begin to erode the intimacy I have with my wife. It will begin to change the way I see women and disregard their intrinsic value. It may cause me to see women as sex objects, rather than equally valued and esteemed human beings.
Be careful to know what’s in your heart.
2. Watch how you treat and interact with other people. As I said before, your heart will betray you 100% of the time. In order to really do the best job at watching your actions you should enlist the help of a trusted friend. Ask this person to give you honest feedback about yourself. Hearing someone else’s perspective(s) can be one of those things that make your defensive walls go up and send you into self-protect mode. This is why it’s so important you ask someone you know loves you and only wants the best for you. When you have someone like this give you feedback, it truly becomes a gift of love.
What that person has to say may sting a little (or a lot), but the purpose is to help you be better. I love what the Bible says regarding this: “The slap of a friend can be trusted to help you, but the kisses of an enemy are nothing but lies” Proverbs 27:6. One of the hardest things in life we will have to do is admit who we really are. When you are finally able to do that, you’ve taken your power back and you’re on your way to becoming free.
How you act and how you treat people are direct reflections of who you really are. You are what’s in your heart. “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.” Proverbs 27:19.
3. Learn to discipline your heart. If you’re anything like me, your heart is always making demands of you. “Eat this!” “Don’t let him talk to you like that!” “You deserve it.” “You make the decision.” The list of demands is never ending. If I don’t learn to discipline my heart, I will quickly become a person whose life is undisciplined and out of control. This will spill over into my relationships and present itself in these character traits: selfishness, arrogance, pride, driven by lust, greedy, immoral, jealous, argumentative, and the like (see Galatians 5:19-21). You don’t want to be that person. Learn to train and discipline your heart so your relationships stay fruitful and continue to grow in quality and quantity.
Take care of your heart, it’s the key to rich, intimate relationships.