Feel the Need to “Vent”? Read This First!

“I am glad I could get that off my chest!” Have you ever heard someone say that? Or, just as likely, have you said it? In many cases, what came just before that statement was a “vent” statement or session. While people can certainly “vent” in different ways, it usually involves the pouring forth of anger or frustration about some situation or some other person. I was a bit torn as to whether or not to write about this topic, as a “vent” is almost always precipitated by a highly emotional event that caused pain, frustration, anger or, “d,” all-of-the-above. Having observed this phenomenon several times recently, however, both in person and online, the burden to write this post simply became too great not to write it.

I want to say at the outset, my goal in writing is not to come across as a holier-than-thou pharisee who always gets this right. Rather, I am writing as a self-acknowledged sinner , dependent on God’s grace. I am also writing as a brother in Christ to brothers and sisters in Christ as a challenge to all of us to let the truth of the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit make us more like Christ in this area. In this post, I will consider ways “venting” hurts the one doing the venting. In upcoming posts, I will deal with the ways venting hurts the Body of Christ, and how online media – namely blogging and Facebook – have made the situation even worse.

As noted above, it is my perspective that venting causes problems both for the individual and the Body of Christ. That is a bold statement. I will deal here with why venting is such a problem for the individual doing the venting.

1)  Scripture says “venting” is a foolish approach for dealing with anger/bitterness/frustration/etc. Don’t take my word for it. Hear the words of Solomon from Scripture: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11).

2)  Venting perpetuates a lack of self-control, rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to bring forth the fruit of self-control in our life (see Galatians 5:22-23). When we vent we are usually spewing out our frustration, anger, bitterness, etc. in a less than self-controlled way. Some might immediately say, “Isn’t it better to ‘get it out’ than to let it boil up inside me?” In a word, yes. However, the way the question is asked, it would seem to imply that venting is the only way to “get ‘it’ [my anger and/or frustration]  out,” which is simply not the case. Let me illustrate. If you discover you have a skin cancer, there are multiple ways to “get it out.” You can go to your garage, get out a rusty fish-cleaning knife and cut it out yourself. You could also go to your local mechanic and have him dig it out with a screwdriver. [I don’t advocate either of those options.] Or, you can go to a dermatologist and have them remove it with care and skill, in a safe/sterile environment, while giving you informed instruction on how best to proceed toward healing and health. So, recognizing the need to “get it out” does not automatically mean that “venting” is the way to go about doing so, especially in light of the Scripture’s admonition to us to live self-controlled lives in the power of the Holy Spirit.

3) While I may go to a brother (or sister) in Christ to vent, when I do, I am not usually wanting him to function as a brother, but rather as a band-wagoner. If you don’t believe me, just try to offer true biblical counsel to the person who is venting to you, showing them what the Scripture says about their situation and calling for them to ask the Holy Spirit to empower them to respond in Christlike grace and self-control. If you do, you may get a response like, “I’m just trying to tell you how I feel. Clearly I cannot share my heart or feelings with you.” Though they may not say this to your face, their lack of willingness to share things with you in the future often betrays such a perspective.

Let me be clear here. I am NOT saying that we will never have feelings of hurt, anger, frustration, etc. As long as we live on this sin-ravaged earth, with our sin nature battling within us (see Romans 7:21-25), we will have such feelings. I am NOT saying we should never share our anger, hurts, frustrations, etc. with another brother or sister in Christ. I am also NOT saying that the hearer should coldly and callously tell a hurting brother/sister “you just need to trust God more with this situation.”

So how do we handle the anger, pain, frustration that comes into our lives without resorting to spewing it out by venting? First, we acknowledge our feelings of anger, frustration, bitterness, etc. to God, asking for His forgiveness when we fail to walk in the Spirit with self-control. Second, we thank God for the Gospel which reminds us that Christ died, was buried, rose again, and has given us His Spirit to enable us to walk in self-control, rather than being left to ourselves to get through these difficult situations in our own strength. Third,  if our anger, frustration, etc. is toward a brother or sister in Christ, we go to that brother or sister to get the situation resolved, rather than including some other person in the situation. This approach is not only biblical (see Matthew 18:15-17), but it also prevents me from giving a different brother or sister an opportunity to sin by seeking to get them to get on my bandwagon, a point that I will discuss further in an upcoming post. Fourth, if our situation involves only ourselves, we go to a brother or sister in Christ – after we have taken it before the Lord – in a spirit of grace and humility, asking them to pray for us and to show us the “blind spots” where we might be misinterpreting our situation. We give them the freedom to speak the truth of God’s Word into our lives with grace and love, holding us accountable for how we respond to the situation, so that our lives, even in difficult/frustrating/painful situations, will bring glory to God.

Your Thoughts? Comment below.

(Photo courtesy of Jens Karlsson on Flickr)

12 thoughts on “Feel the Need to “Vent”? Read This First!

  1. Venting can certainly be a dangerous thing. What if we were more transparent on a 24 / 7 basis so that we could be working out situations before they get to the point of needing to vent?

    We have this perception that we are supposed to put on a face that says “Everything is fine!” Thinking individuals know that this is not true for anyone.

    Of course, the flip side is coming off as a Debbie or Doug Downer so there needs to be a fine line walked here.

    The way I think we should be handling these things are directly and with the full understanding of our inherent (and shared) sin nature, As sinners we are going to have trouble. Christ told us so.

    He also told us that He has overcome the world. If we truly believe that then it should be much easier to seek Godly help and counsel from other believers without letting worldly influences muddy the waters.

    Not sure that helped or even made sense but I am sure glad you helped me “vent”!

  2. I think Frank Reed has some truth to what he put so eloquent. I have often found myself in this situation more lately than ever so understand I am speaking from the heart….A person does not always vent to bring other with you or gain buy in to your problems. It can be a person reaching, reaching out for help because as Mr Reed put it you can put a face on and have given it to God but you appear to be fine to those around you. People do not know that there is a damaged heart or broken home. You can fool others or fool yourself until it all catches up. You need to be leaning on those that can help and pray for Gods will. You have another situation that has happened to me back in high school, strong christian, great person always smiling, always happy lite spirit and one night after a football game he took his life. No one saw it coming because he was so active and involved in church, community and school. If only he had “vented” or shown signs of deeper issue someof us could have pulled him from the depression he was being dragged to the graves by. God did give us emotions so that we may use them for his glory and understanding. He also gave us ears so that we may hear and listen to those cries and react in a fashion that can help our brothers and sisters through the dark and help them light their lamp that it may not burn dim or out. Just a thought and may not have made sense but I think you have great words to be said.

  3. Frank, I agree that more transparency and authentic relationships in which people are truly sharing the burdens of their hearts with each other are needed. I certainly do not advocate people “painting on a smile” and pretending like everything is ok. As I noted, people can and should share their frustrations with one another. I am simply calling for this sharing to be done in a biblical way.

  4. Jason, I agree that people are not always band-wagoning when they are venting about something. They may very well be reaching out for help when they vent, as you noted. I tried to be careful to say that the “band-wagoning” could be what is going on, though it is certainly not always the case.

    My intent in this post was simply to hold out the biblical standard for how we SHOULD deal with our anger/frustration. The truth is, we don’t always handle it that way. Frankly, I don’t always handle it in the right way.

    My hope is, when I miss it and begin to vent, my listener will respond with grace and love to me, rather than just telling me to go re-read my blog post. I hope I will also respond in grace to those who come “venting” to me. I want to be open to hearing the burden of their heart and lovingly come alongside them, encouraging them to walk in faith and surrender.

    My hope is that I would so walk with grace and compassion toward others that they would freely share their burdens with me, giving me the chance not only to hear their concerns but also to pray for and encourage them as well.

  5. I feel the saddest part with venting is so many people can be deeply hurt, and it cannot be taken back. During the vent times you can’t mention God and they will let you know in a hurry you don’t know anything about God and he is in full control of their life, isn’t it scary how satan is so subtle they don’t even realize they have given him control ! I have found it is better to stay away and pray for the chronic venters.

  6. Anita, thank you for your comment. I agree that venting can be very dangerous, particularly in the ways it hurts those to whom we vent, and those whom we are venting about. I will address those issues in my next post in this series. Also, I certainly understand your comment about staying away from “chronic venters,” opting simply to pray for them instead. I would agree that only the Holy Spirit will change their heart regarding this issue. Therefore it is right to pray for them. We need to also remember, however, that the Holy Spirit often does His work in our lives by using other brothers and sisters in Christ to remind us of the truth of God’s Word and to call us to walk in obedience to it. So, when someone does come venting to you, don’t just avoid them, but instead lovingly and graciously call on them to submit that situation to the Lord. We are not responsible for how they respond to our admonition, only for how we speak the truth to them in love, seeking to stir them up toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). Blessings.

  7. Randy,

    Thanks for dealing with this issue. It is such a common thing to think that belting out in an outburst of anger or frustration is somehow therapeutic. You have exposed that lie in a gracious and truthful way. Very well written.


  8. Brian,
    Thank you for your encouraging words. My hope is that we will not only believe the Gospel with our minds and speak the Gospel with our mouths, but also show evidence of the Gospel’s transforming power in the way we live. My hope is that we will not only have a good grasp of the Gospel but that the Gospel will have a good grasp on us.

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