Guard Your Heart By Detaching From Destructive People

Hello, my Friends! It is a busy time as the school year comes to a close. I live near an elementary school where the children just experienced their last day. From my patio, I could hear hooping and hollering, the sounds of kazoos, and the screams of delight. There is a freedom to summer that children seem to long for. The freedom to ‘just be’ is a feeling I delight in as well. I long for you all to live in that freedom to just be yourselves and who God created you to be. I pray that you feel His care so that your soul can rest in Him.

Today's questions come from comments on a May post. The concept of detachment can be tricky and confusing. So let’s take a deeper dive into what it really means to guard your heart by detaching from a destructive person in your life. 

Today’s Questions: I understand that stonewalling is detrimental to a relationship – but honestly, I found it necessary. When my husband would criticize me, or yell at me the only way I could keep myself from responding in kind was to “stonewall” or emotionally detach from what was happening. I thought I was controlling my anger so that it wouldn’t be destructive to the relationship. What’s the alternative?

How do you “guard your heart?” What does that look like practically? I feel like the only way I know how to do that with my husband is to distance myself from him as much as possible but then that seems like the silent treatment. What does a healthy version of “guarding your heart” look like?

Susan’s Response: I appreciate your willingness to ask further questions about emotional detachment and guarding your heart. Often in my work with women who are in destructive relationships, I hear them describe self-protection as building a wall around the heart and avoiding interaction with the destructive person. While going ‘no contact’ may be a necessary form of finding safety, that is not always the case. When you have chosen for some form of relationship to continue, how can you manage healthy detachment and guard your heart biblically?

Proverbs 4:20-27 (The Message) Dear friend, listen well to my words; tune your ears to my voice. Keep my message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart! Those who discover these words, really live; body and soul, they are bursting with health. Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts. Don't talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step and the road will stretch out smoothly before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust. 

These verses give instruction on how to guard your heart. In other words, destructive people bring distractions and chaos into life. As a believer, you must keep your eyes fixed forward on Jesus Christ. You will be tempted to become deformed in your character if you allow the destruction to take control of your heart, which includes your mind, emotions, and will. You must remain in Christ in order to maintain your CORE strength. When you notice evil on life’s path, don’t engage with it; keep walking past it. In doing these things, you will keep your heart safe.

What does this look like practically? Here are some things that you can practice in each moment with the Holy Spirit's help. Manage your emotions by paying attention to them, get curious about why they are happening, and regulate their intensity so that you can think clearly. Keep your mind clear of fixed negative thoughts, faulty or limiting beliefs, and other people’s opinions. Be intentional about life and honoring your values. Know your boundaries and hold yourself accountable to maintain them. Know God and His purpose for your life so that you can align your will to His will. 

Guarding your heart can be accomplished by following Paul’s teaching in 1 Thessalonians 5:17; “Pray Continually”. By pursuing intimate communication with God, you can gain protection, direction, and peace in each moment, even as you love someone who may feel like your enemy. (Matthew 5:44)

When talking about healthy detachment, I am not referring to building up a stone wall to keep someone out of your life or hiding behind a stone wall because your emotions are too intense. In order to be healthy, it is important to regulate emotions so that you are not controlled by your feelings. It is equally important to use assertiveness to address issues in relationships, which may either be carried out in a verbal conversation or a quiet but active response. 

Here are some ways you can begin to detach in a productive manner. Let go of your desire to set the record straight. Stop your pursuit of trying to get a destructive person to see their need for change. Let go of your need to be understood by a destructive person. Detach from other’s opinions of you. Release any emotions that you may be holding on to that are harming you. Disengage from other’s thoughts that are in your head. Let go of beliefs that don’t belong to you. Quit your need for others to be ok in order for you to be ok. Break away from your need for other people’s approval. Cease your efforts to convince, convict, or correct someone else who has not invited you to do so. Step out of destructive dynamics and conversations. Detach from any fixed outcomes you may be holding on to. 

Have you been able to fully trust other human beings to make you feel ok? Likely not; this is a disappointing and futile pursuit. Where do you put your trust? Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.”

God established the church (the body of Christ) in order to foster interdependence. We are called to love and help one another. However, we are not called to be responsible for others in a codependent relationship. And while we are called to be responsible for ourselves, we are not called to live in isolation, independent from others.  But how could you create interdependence with someone who is destructive and does not participate in a mutual relationship? The short answer is, you can't. 

As long as you continue to try to prompt or convince another person to be mutually dependable in the areas of harmony, balance, and self-improvement, you will be disappointed. Therefore, it is crucial to wisely discern which people in your life are willing and able to offer a relationship built on mutual reliance. This allows you to detach from expectations that your destructive other will be who you want them to be or even who God calls them to be. 

Guarding your heart means protecting it, as much as you are able, from anything that will harm you or lead you astray. When your heart is safe and protected, your soul can find rest in God’s loving kindness. This will allow you to live in the freedom of who God has purposed you to be.

Be well!

Beloved readers, how do you use biblical principles to guard your heart and detach from destructive people in your life?

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20 Comments

  1. Cheryl Wesler on June 6, 2024 at 8:27 am

    This is me! Thank you Lord for providing this post the moment that I needed it.

    • Susan K on June 7, 2024 at 3:54 pm

      God is good, Cheryl!

  2. Crystal on June 6, 2024 at 9:05 am

    Thank you for positing this. I have been going thru a painful separation and the divorce should be final any day. Even tho most things are settled I didn’t realize how the abuse would continue. This blog was extremely helpful. I need to reset how I look at things and firmly accept who he is and that he does not have my or the children’s best interest in mind. Heart breaking but must accept who he is showing up as so I am not constantly in pain which does not serve myself or the world around me.

    • Susan K on June 7, 2024 at 3:57 pm

      Heartbreaking, indeed! I pray that God holds your heart and helps you heal.

  3. Lara Uhler on June 6, 2024 at 10:38 am

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve been really struggling with detachment as well. As I’ve grown stronger in CORE I’ve been able to notice everything I’ve done to enable my h to continue to sin against me. I know this is not sustainable for my health and well being. So thankful for Leslie’s teachings and this group!

    • Susan K on June 7, 2024 at 3:58 pm

      Keep strengthening your CORE and take care of your heart, Lara.

  4. Lisa on June 6, 2024 at 12:03 pm

    I must not only detach from the destructive person, I must attach (or attach more deeply) to God. I must let go of any allusion that the destructive person will ever, can ever meet my deepest needs. Only God can do that. The more I attach to a person with the belief that they can meet my needs if they would just change or if I was somehow different, the more power they can have over me and the more I will strive (in vain) to make it happen. The more I deeply attach to the love of God, His presence and provision for my needs, the less threatened I am by the destructive person and I am more able to respond to their destructive behavior with wisdom. This is how I work out Proverbs 29:25.

    • Susan K on June 8, 2024 at 12:19 am

      Yes, Lisa! So well said. We can find secure attachment in Him.

  5. Karen on June 6, 2024 at 1:10 pm

    So good and helpful! Hard to live that fine line though.

    • Catie on June 7, 2024 at 2:43 am

      I love the deep focus of this question, and it’s seeking after godliness, yet still protecting oneself. Karen, such nuggets of commonsense and wisdom. I’m sure to bookmark the detailed answers in context, of how to depend upon God, and take action steps.

    • Susan K on June 8, 2024 at 12:47 am

      It is, Karen. Keep training!

  6. Jane on June 6, 2024 at 2:36 pm

    This is profound. Truly a different paradigm than what many, including myself, have learned. I have studied detachment, but this is the most in-depth explanation I’ve ever come across. So much truth packed into it!
    I will have to print it out and post it where I can read it often. Changing one’s mindset takes time.

    • Susan K on June 8, 2024 at 12:48 am

      Thanks for your comments, Jane!

  7. Marylou Purpura on June 6, 2024 at 2:47 pm

    So very helpful. I did the exact same thing in my marriage. Now that I’m divorced and reflecting back, I know my passivity was the problem on my side of the street. This explains so clearly what I was feeling. Did not want to answer in anger so stayed silent. Fear of man. I’ve learned from Conquer that was peace faking, not peace keeping! Also am encouraged by the idea of loving the freedom to be me.

    • Susan K on June 8, 2024 at 12:51 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Marylou! What could be different if you really stepped into the freedom to be you?

  8. Annie on June 6, 2024 at 4:02 pm

    Oh WOW! JUST WOWED BY THIS. 3 yrs out from divorce after 50 yr marriage. Explains EVERYTHING❤️❤️THANK YOU SWEET JESUS FOR THIS

    • Susan K on June 8, 2024 at 12:53 am

      Glad to have you in the LV&Co community, Annie!

  9. Sherry on June 7, 2024 at 10:38 am

    Thank you so much Susan!

    This is just what I needed today.

    Like Jane, I need to print this out and refer to it over and over again.
    I want to become more of my authentic self and less the hostage of someone else’s critical and blaming opinions or unreasonable demands.

    I’ve lost touch with my heart due to all of the problem-solving, living in my head too much and becoming too fear-based.

    My heart is my soul and will be eternal. I cannot neglect my eternal soul in exchange for constantly trying to control temporal chaos, cruelty, neglect and resulting pain.

  10. Sharrone Ingram on June 8, 2024 at 12:42 pm

    Thank you for allowing Holy Spirit to work through you to bring this help! I really needed to hear all of this and pray that God will move in my heart and soul to bring about His will for my life!!! I am thankful for this! To God be the GLORY!!!! ❤️🙏🏾🙌🏽

  11. Susan K on June 10, 2024 at 1:31 pm

    Wise words, Sherry! Thanks for commenting.

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