We’ve finally come to the last installment in this series on venting. In the first post, we looked at how venting hurts us personally and hinders our spiritual walk. In the second post, we considered the negative impact venting can have on the body of Christ, the church. In this final post, I want to quickly note a few ways that social media (Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) has made the problem of venting worse and has magnified the potential (and often, actual) consequences.
1. The keyboard as an “open mic” – There is a reason a person delivering a sermon or speaking at a conference sounds different from a person with the “open-microphone” at a wedding rehearsal dinner. The former two speeches have been prepared, perhaps rehearsed, hopefully well thought out, etc. The latter is often an emotional, off-the-cuff ramble about some moment the microphone-holder can’t forget and that the bride/groom-to-be wishes he had. In the end, those involved are often more embarassed than encouraged. Likewise, when a person is experiencing the anger, bitterness and/or frustration that leads to venting, it is far more often than not that what is said is more like emotional vomit than thoughtful speech. No one would give a drunk who stumbles into a business meeting or church service the microphone to say whatever is on his mind. However, for the person who is “drunk” on the emotions of anger, bitterness and frustration, the microphone is always on when they sit down to their keyboard.
2. The keyboard as proclaimer of “truth” – In every counseling situation I lead, I always tell the participants, “There are three sides to every story: one person’s side, the other person’s side, and the truth, which often lies somewhere in between.” I am not saying that we intentionally seek to deceive when telling our side of a situation. I am simply saying that, due to our limited perspective, our sinful hearts, and our bent toward seeing everything through me-colored lenses, we tell stories from our perspective. Despite our greatest attempts at objectivity, we cannot fully work around ourselves. So, when we sit down to vent at our keyboard, we purport to tell the “truth,” which really means we want people to see the situation from our perspective. Because the person reading our vent does not know the difference, they accept our claims as “the truth,” when in fact what we have shared has been somewhere between slightly and grossly influenced by our natural self-bias, compounded by the emotional fog of our anger, frustration, etc.
3. The keyboard as an anonymous “sounding board” – It must certainly be the case that some people see their keyboard as an anonymous sounding board. They can say whatever they want to through their keyboard, with no one there in front of them to critique their perspective. They say whatever they want while their keyboard graciously accepts every word without as much as a hint of rebuttal. Because no live person is the immediate recipient of the message, the vent-er often goes on longer and with more emotionally-laden garbage than they would dare dump on a live body, were one sitting in front of them. The problem here is that since there is not a live person there serving as a thoughtful, and perhaps critical, sounding board, that message goes out not simply for a single person to hear (and to objectively and thoughtfully critique) but for an entire social media audience. And, with the availability of Facebook “shares” and Twitter “re-tweets,” the message can quickly go far beyond the authors’ known audience, which leads to the fourth problem.
4. The keyboard as the source of an uncontrollable emotional oil-spill – The photos are likely easily-recalled in your mind. Birds were covered in thick, black oil. Fish were dead and washed up on the beach. The nasty oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused an unbelievable amount of damage. It required a tremendous amount of time, money and manpower to try to clean up the oil that had escaped. And, try as they might, the workers could never clean it all up, nor prevent the tremendous destruction that occurred as a result. In similar fashion, once a person has released his/her vent into the ocean that is social media, there is no way to go back and clean it all up, or to prevent the emotional pain/destruction it can cause. This is especially problematic for the Christian as his/her public testimony can be significantly damaged as a result. If/when the vent-er finally returns to his/her spiritual and emotional senses, it is too late. There is no way everyone who was exposed to the original vent will also hear the foll0w-up apology/retraction, should one ever be posted. Furthermore, it is not only our personal witness that is hindered, but that of the Body of Christ as well, of which we are a part.
For all the benefits social media can provide, when it comes to serving as a tool for amplifying an emotionally-charged vent, social media acts more like a weapon of mass destruction with the keyboard serving as the launch button. I will not re-hash the material from the first and second posts here, but suffice it to say that God’s way cannot be improved upon. We must see venting for the foolish option that it is (Proverbs 29:11). We must opt instead for walking in the control of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16), trusting Him to give us the grace, wisdom and peace to deal with the situations that come into our lives causing anger, resentment or bitterness. When another person is the one that has caused our anger or frustration, we go to that person directly in order to seek resolution, forgiveness and restoration. If we need counsel regarding how to deal with an emotionally-charged situation, we can, in a humble and self-controlled manner, seek the counsel of a brother or sister in Christ – not to act as a band-wagoner for our perspective, but to help us see our circumstances objectively and biblically, in order for us to glorify God through our response to those circumstances.
So, if you feel the need to vent, step away from the keyboard! Instead of sitting in your computer chair, get on your knees and ask God to help you honor Him in the way you respond to the situation at hand. Through the transforming power of the Gospel, you can respond in this way. Because Christ died, was buried, and rose again, we can walk in the Spirit – not fulfilling the desires of our flesh – and bring glory to our Great God!
I pray this series of posts has been helpful to you. Perhaps it has caused you to look at the issue of venting in a different way. If you have any thoughts, questions or comments about what I have shared here, feel free to comment below.
(Photo courtesy of Victor1558 on Flickr)