October 13th 2010

Venting Your Spleen

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Proverbs12:18 (NIV)

‘Well I just told him…. I let him have it… I really vented my spleen.’ How often have we said this or heard this from someone? There are two questions that spring to mind. Do you really feel better having ‘vented your spleen’ and where did the expression ‘venting your spleen’ come from? According to the website www.englishclub.com the phrase originates from ‘The spleen is an organ in the body near the stomach. In European medicine from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, the spleen was thought to be the source of the “humours” that caused the emotion of anger. Therefore one could expel anger by “venting the spleen”.’ In physiological terms what would a vented spleen mean—quite simply if not dealt with swiftly by surgeons—death. Another vernacular expression is ‘you are doing my head in’. The latter has equally devastating effects if taken literally!

Returning to the first question—do you feel better having vented your spleen? Have you reached a peaceful amicable understanding with the other person? How do they feel? Are they glad that you vented your spleen? I suspect the answer to all these questions is ‘No’. So what do you do when you are hopping mad? You may have been provoked or just in a bad humour—not the type that were supposed to emanate from your spleen! There simply has to be an outlet for all that pent-up anger!

King Solomon, reputed for his wisdom, advised, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). In the hot and dusty middle-east how did Jesus advise his followers when discussing ill humour? In Matthew 5 Jesus gave a code for living. The chapter is brim full of how to deal with situations. In verse 37 Jesus says “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’.” What? I hear you say ‘the next thing He will tell us is to do is to turn the other cheek!’ Obviously this man Jesus was not human—oh yes He was and He is also the Son of God. He knew human reaction and He knew the answer.

To follow Jesus’ advice we need His help. When the blood pressure rises and the words of retort spring to the tongue circumventing the mind, pray. Yes—pray! Ask the Lord God Almighty to curb your tongue and soften your heart. The Holy Spirit will give you the calm response or perhaps the courage to have no response at all—maybe even a smile. With God all things are possible … and your spleen will remain intact along with your head.

Jesus, thank you so much for your infinite wisdom. You have given us a more excellent way—you are that way and we choose to follow you. Help us to live at peace with our fellow man by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Study by Irene Wilson 

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