How to Vent Properly in 5 Steps.
We all need to vent. The frustration, shock, hurt and pain that comes from injustice or harsh treatment when we experience things that are wrong can build up and take hold as a root of bitterness in our hearts. Alternatively, we can release the steam valve and let all the emotions come out so that we can then look at the situation rationally and with far more clarity. In order for this to happen though, we need to vent well. We need to do it properly.
Our culture is often not good at venting. What should be a vent often comes out more as a self-righteous rant that produces nothing good. As a seasoned venter, I’d love to share with you what I’ve learnt.
1. It’s okay to vent with God. He’s a big God and He knows your heart and He will cope. Think about Biblical heros who took this approach – everybody from Job to David let off steam in God’s presence, almost demanding to know from Him why he didn’t step in and change everything. Consider Habakkuk for instance:
God, how long do I have to cry out for help
before you listen?
How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!”
before you come to the rescue?
Why do you force me to look at evil,
stare trouble in the face day after day?
Anarchy and violence break out,
quarrels and fights all over the place.
Law and order fall to pieces.
Justice is a joke.
The wicked have the righteous hamstrung
and stand justice on its head.
God, you’re from eternity, aren’t you?
Holy God, we aren’t going to die, are we?
God, you chose Babylonians for your judgment work?
Rock-Solid God, you gave them the job of discipline?
But you can’t be serious!
You can’t condone evil!
So why don’t you do something about this?
Why are you silent now?
This outrage! Evil men swallow up the righteous
and you stand around and watch!
He had so many questions of God, but he was asking the wrong questions. It was not so much a case of: “Why don’t you change things and make things right?”
The correct questions to ask when you’re venting is: “What is Your ultimate plan in all this and what is my role in seeing Your plan come about?”
What if God had fixed everything up for Joseph and made everything nice again and got him back to his father safely instead of being sold into slavery?
What if Jesus had used his divine power to smash his way out of his arrest and had never have gone to the cross because He didn’t want to suffer?
The truth is that God has a plan which sometimes requires us to sacrifice and suffer for the ultimate good. Sometimes things don’t seem just or fair and it’s in those times that we are to pick up our cross and walk through it, trusting God is using your situation toward his final good. I know that when you’re venting it’s easy to tell God how easy it would be for him to vindicate you by striking this guy down with one simple lightning bolt, but He doesn’t do it because he knows that you’re venting and that’s not really where your heart is even if that’s exactly where your soul is right at that moment.
So feel confident to tell God how you feel, and then as the raw emotion eases, look for His purposes.
2. Be careful who you choose to vent with. I remember venting with a trusted pastor and friend twenty years or so ago, only to discover later that everything I said in the heat of the vent was being repeated to others as quotes to further his own cause and to harm mine and the causes of the senior pastor. When you are selecting your vent partner, it needs to be very clear to both of you that you are just venting and that what you say is confidential and that you will probably regret what you said within a day or so.
If you vent with the world on social media, then you have completely lost control of who reads your vent and how they interpret it. That’s not to say that there aren’t times when righteous anger needs to be carefully articulated on social media so as to influence people toward righteousness, but this is very different to venting. It is much wiser to carefully choose one person who is appropriate to that particular vent.
Also, if you select the wrong person, instead of being a nice, clean vent, it may instead become a pity-party and something that will drag you down into bitterness. The venting experience needs to release the emotions, not encourage and strengthen them. For this reason, your vent partner needs to be somebody of integrity who will mostly just listen. If they begin ranting about that person, then you have a more difficult context within which to defuse the emotions. I usually pick somebody who I know genuinely likes both me and the person that I am venting about. Don’t surround yourself with only ‘yes people’ but be adult enough to choose somebody who will give you some gentle yet honest feedback and walk you through the journey to forgiveness and submission to God’s plan.
3. Get to a point where you are sure there is no self-pity involved. Take a moment to consider how many times others have probably needed to vent about something you have done. Having a ‘how dare you’ attitude toward a brother doesn’t help anybody. When you’re without sin, you can start casting stones. Self pity builds a wall that stops you from going forward in your relationships. It builds a ceiling that builds and intensifies your negative emotions rather than letting them be released. Self pity justifies your position and cripples you emotionally. Self pity lies to you. It tells you that you are more special than everybody else. You see your plight as noble suffering and martyrdom rather than childish self-absorption. One of the roles of your vent partner is to point out if you’re falling into this dangerous trap. Self-pity is normal when the emotions are running high, but make every effort not to stay there.
4. Forgive. Know that you’re going to have to get to a point where you can forgive and let go of offence. As Ann Lamott said, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Matthew 6:14 -15 points out that in prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.
5. Come up with a plan forward of how you will make it right with the person who wounded you so that things are not awkward or strained towards that person. Having said that, I’d acknowledge that there are also situations where you need to cut ties with people who are abusive or manipulative. You don’t have to go forward as best buddies, though that’s a great outcome, but you do need to go forward with no hostility or resentment in your heart.
The five-part secret to being a great venter.
The ultimate goal in venting is to
- release the emotion,
- calm down,
- release and forgive the party who has created the situation,
- see what God is doing and
- establish your part to play in that plan.
In the end, God who gives us endurance and encouragement, will give you the same attitude of mind toward your brother or sister that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ever changing: His Kingdom come!
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