Digging in Deeper: Proverbs 29:11

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”  (ESV)

Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to let everyone know what you were thinking?  Or, maybe you’ve had one of those moments when you wanted to let one particular person know everything you were thinking about them.  Did you follow through with that?  If so, how did it go?

Different people handle that desire in different ways.  Some people hold it all inside and it becomes bitterness in their soul.  Soul bitterness always seeps out eventually and poisons everything else.  This isn’t a good way to handle life.  We need some sort of a release valve when we have hard stuff on the inside.  Shoving it down and trying to ignore it will not make it go away.  It will just bottle it up.  A good bottle can hold for a while, but eventually, if the pressure gets high enough, it will burst.  That always makes a mess.

Some people, though, let it all out in the spirit of being “honest.”  I’ve had a couple of folks like that in my life.  They don’t seem to have a filter between their brain and their mouth.  Perhaps you have too.  I recently had someone rattle off a laundry list of things they didn’t like about me in this spirit of honesty, but then reminded me they loved me before leaving.  I’m not sure I’m up for getting too much of that kind of love!

This second approach, this giving full vent to one’s spirit, obviously isn’t the best way to go about things that are sitting inside our hearts and minds.  Solomon is right: such a person is a fool.  But, in the first instance, holding everything in doesn’t seem like the best approach either.  So is he wrong in the second too?

I don’t think so, but I think he’s pointing to a third approach.  Letting everybody know everything we’re thinking all the time is foolish, unless our minds happen to be as clean as Jesus’ was.  That’s not me, and I suspect it’s not you either.  Holding everything in and bottling it up is a recipe for disaster, though.

A third approach is to wisely use two different release valves to help manage the pressure inside of our spirits and keep it at a healthy level.  The first valve is a trusted accountability partner or group.  This is a person or small group with whom we can be honest about the ugly stuff in our hearts and minds, and who will both listen carefully and be honest with us in return so that we can see when it really is ugly stuff.  Much of our inner angst can be resolved this way.  Over time, this can even help shape our spirits to not build up the ugly stuff in the first place.

The second valve is the Holy Spirit.  When we have hard stuff on our hearts, we can always vent it to Him along the lines of the psalmists and get it out that way.  This can also put us in a place where we are quicker to listen to what He has to say about what’s on our insides, so He can help build within us more of a spirit of graciousness and generosity in our thoughts toward others.

Solomon is right here.  The person is a fool who simply vents their heart and mind without restraint.  The answer is not to bottle everything up, though, but to release it wisely and with the appropriate people (nearly all of whom will not be up for listening on social media), who will help shape us in the direction of Jesus.

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