“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)