[23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.]
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Here we are given the first two of four instructions on how to guard the heart. The first line of defense is the mouth, and it is not what goes in but what comes out that matters here. Whatever evil there is in the heart is only strengthened as it is given expression. Words turn annoyance into resentment, self pity into victim-hood and envy into bitterness. They have the power to bind us, but they can also set us free. “A gentle answer” resolves a conflict, “gracious words” bring healing, and there is “joy in giving an apt reply.”
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” The second line of defense is the eyes, which represent what we focus on. The more we focus on the right path the less we are distracted by the wrong ones. But in looking straight ahead we are also not dwelling on the past, which distracts us from the opportunities of the present. Perhaps most importantly we are not focused on ourselves, what we have and do, and how we compare with others. Instead we look ahead with a destination in mind, and focus on the next step in that direction.