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When I chat with people who’ve been emotionally wounded, I tend to observe a pattern. They often say, “When I love, I get hurt.” However, this isn’t true. When we love, we become stronger – even when people don’t love us back. But when we’re intimate with people, we expose our hearts – and open ourselves up to pain.

It’s important to know the difference between love and intimacy. Love is free. Intimacy is earned. The Bible teaches us to love generously, while being cautiously intimate. For example, Proverbs 4:23 states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (New International Version). When we guard our hearts, we are careful about what we share, how much we share, and who we share it with. The more we reveal, the more intimate we become.

Don't mistake “guarding” your heart with “hardening” your heart.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 defines love. To protect and guide us, God wanted to make the definition clear. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (New International Version).

Anyone can have our patience, kindness, courtesy, and respect. But our hearts (thoughts, feelings, dreams, and desires) should only be shared with people who earn our trust. Even Jesus was cautious about what He shared! Although He appointed twelve Apostles, only three were chosen to witness His Transfiguration. Only a few were allowed to know Him intimately.

No matter how much you’ve been hurt, don’t give up on love. Love freely, and love generously. People need to see Christ through your love. But remember to protect your heart, and require people to earn your intimacy.