Published on March 16, 2018

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The Splagchnizomai Difference

Right in the heart of Adventist HealthCare’s five core values is “Service,” which is singularly appropriate.  We describe this value as “We care for our patients, their families and each other with compassion.”  So to understand service we need to know what the word “compassion” means.

There is an interesting Greek word that is used in the scriptures that provides some insight into the way we define compassion in Adventist HealthCare. The Greek word is splagchnizomai. The first part of the word (splagchna) means “internal organs,” so splagchnizomai literally means to be moved so deeply by something that you feel it in the pit of your stomach.

The word is used by Jesus in his famous story of the Prodigal Son. You probably remember the story about a younger son who demands his inheritance and then wastes it on wild living. Destitute and desperate, he decides to go home and beg for a job in his father’s household. Coatless and hungry, he anxiously trudges towards his father’s house.

And it says that when his father saw him coming, he was filled with splagchnizomai, this special combination of love and compassion. Far more than pity, this emotion moves us so completely that we can physically feel it, and we are compelled to respond.

It’s a strong word about a strong response. There is nothing subtle or uncertain about it. Splagchnizomai means a visceral, gut-wrenching, emotional response that is so strong that we are physically moved to action.

Splagchnizomai suggests that when we see human need, we respond physically, emotionally, and decisively. This kind of compassion is not a timid, subtle, or distant response; this is not a quiet virtue. It’s active, pronounced, and demanding.

This muscular compassion with its vigorous response describes our reaction to someone in need. This is included in the meaning of the word “Service” at the core of our values:  We care for our patients, their families and each other with splagchnizomai. We are not passive; we are active. We are not remote; we are engaged. Our service is rendered as a ministry of love and compassion, actively focused on healing.

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