The Dangers of Venting
Is she okay?
I listened to my friend’s words, the cell phone getting warm under my ear. My friend wasn’t asking about someone’s physical health but more their mental one. Once again, she’d been offended and wanted a sounding board to vent out her feelings. This situation had happened time and again, after all that’s what friends are for, but the more it happened, the more uncomfortable I felt.
I would try to be neutral in my answers and hope that by the end of the phone call she would feel better. As I reviewed the conversation, I couldn’t help feeling like instead of helping her, her words were hurting me. What was I supposed to do when my head and my heart were filled with her complaints? The heaviness left me weary and troubled.
Perhaps you’re thinking that friends are there to vent to one another, but I’ve come to see that, as Christians, what we call venting is often a disguise for gossip. We are called to confess our own sins to one another and not the sins of someone else.
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. -Matthew 7:3-5
These are pretty hard words coming from Jesus, but the bottom line is that we all have something in our eyes. We’re all broken people who are trying to do the best we can, and sometimes we get it wrong. I am often amazed how a perfect God tells us to be in community with so many broken people! But that is exactly what God has ordained for us: the great mystery that He revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ.
We become hypocrites when we believe that someone’s attitude or response is worse than our own.
How could he have not said hello to me in church?
Doesn’t she know better than to fall into sin?
Our self-righteous measuring sticks are warped because we have no righteousness on our own. Yet, we use these measurements against our brothers and sisters in the church. God has spoken from the Old Testament to the New Testament that we are not to gossip.
Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. -Romans 1:29 (NLT)
Why is gossip so dangerous?
- It separates, rather than unites (Proverbs 16:28). God loves unity and the power that comes from it. Gossip divides people and causes relationships to break down. When something you say about someone else inadvertently gets back to that person, it can ruin even the longest-standing friendships.
- It can ruin a good reputation (Proverbs 25:10). We’re not perfect by any means but when we have a choice, we’re called to choose having a good reputation even over riches (Proverbs 22:1).
- It can cause anger (Proverbs 25:23). We assume what the other person is saying is true, but the fact is, we can’t know for sure unless we confront that other person.
- It betrays rather than guards (Proverbs 11:13). We serve a King who is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11). As followers, we are called to be trustworthy, which is a characteristic of a person who has integrity and can guard a confidence.
- It’s a sign of laziness, which can lead women to become busybodies and gossipers (1 Timothy 5:13). When you don’t have anything to do, trying to bring people into the business of others can seem like a way to fill in the time. God has particular plans for our lives that we can’t put on the backburner to hear the gossip of others. (You can also read 2 Thessalonians 3:11).
The hard truth is venting is often a disguise for gossip. You may be saying the truth, but it may not be your business to share it and the one who is hearing it can do nothing about it. So then, what becomes the point?
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. -Matthew 12:34
Venting is about expressing frustration at a situation while gossiping is often pointing the finger at the source of the frustration with unforgiveness in our hearts. What comes out of our mouths is a heart problem that needs to be addressed. God uses us as iron sharpening iron so that we can let our friends know the difference and pray the Holy Spirit convicts them. In this way, we have the blessed opportunity to judge ourselves righting the wrong. Gossip is toxic to the Kingdom, and it solves absolutely nothing.
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. -James 5:16
Where gossip divides, confession brings healing. It allows us to look at the speck in our own eye and submit it to God. When we gather to pray with a trusted friend or within a small group revealing our struggles, we are assured that Jesus is with us.
If I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and allow my remembrance of that sin to colour my thinking and feed my suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love. -Amy Carmichael
As daughters of God, we can easily fall into the trap of venting/gossip. We are inherently built with a need for community and dream of close girl friend relationships. But we can’t let our desire cloud our discernment. Gossip poisons our minds and souls through division and slander. We need to be careful of the words we speak to one another and the true intentions of our hearts. May we echo the words of King David when he said, “Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).