I doubt I’ll ever forget the day I opened that Coke.
We were at a birthday party and everyone was dressed in their “coolest” 1980’s garb. (Not because it was an oldies party, but because it actually WAS the 1980’s.)
Someone handed me a Coke and I sat down in the chair and popped the top open.
What happened next is painted into my mind for eternity. The little bubbles in that can started to fizz up. At first, they seemed to lolly-gag in a slow motion sort of way. But within a nanosecond, that little old Coke can became a geyser of sticky awfulness that I’m certain rivaled Old Faithful. (At least in my 5th grade mind anyway.)
It was in my hair. All over my clothes. Even down in my shoes. I had to actually leave the birthday party it was so bad.
Looking back, it makes me chuckle. Not so much at the humiliation I felt, but at the naivete that filled my heart. You see, we didn’t have soda in our house, so even in the 5th grade my experience with a can of soda was pretty limited. I thought you had to shake it. And so I did. I also didn’t realize that those little bubbles were a warning to get up and get that can away from me.
So, I personally caused the geyser of sticky that ultimately humiliated me until I was nearly 20. Ok, maybe not that long, but it’s safe to say that I am still extra cautious with cans of soda.
Venting is Like a Coke Can
As a person who spends the better part of her day interacting on the internet, I see the word “vent” on a daily basis. Someone will pop into a group or even post on their personal timeline something that starts with, “I need to vent” or “Warning: this is a rant.”
This desire to “vent” our emotions comes from the same place that the geyser of stickiness from my Coke can came: pressure. Our lives are constantly under intense pressure. We battle the enemy, our flesh, circumstances, world influences. The list goes on and on.
On occasion, someone or something shakes that pressure up even more and we’ve got the perfect storm. We “open the can” and “vent” all over the world wide web. I know you’ve read the kinds of posts and status updates that I’m talking about. Ahem, and perhaps feel as guilty as I have been at times.
Misconceptions about Venting Your Emotions
It’s comical to think about me shaking that Coke can and having absolutely NO IDEA what I was about to do to myself. I think that often we “vent” on the internet with the same misconceptions. First, we assume it is what we are supposed to do when we are under pressure. We run right to Facebook and spew it all over the place, convinced that we will immediately feel better.
But it doesn’t make us feel better, does it? Oh, we might have a short term sense of relief, but ultimately the problem hasn’t changed and unless we change something within ourselves, we might not see any relief at all.
But it’s worse than that. Venting actually works against us. Remember all of that sticky Coke that spewed all over me? Venting our emotions spews the same kind of awful and we don’t realize it. All of those ugly words get stuck in our hair, our clothes, and even down in our shoes. And it sticks with us.
It’s not that anyone is trying to judge, it’s just that things like that are hard for humans to forget. When we vent our emotions, we often create an impression of ourselves that we truly don’t want people to have. And if venting is a habit, it will begin to shape the character that others see in us.
I think both of these reasons are worthy of reconsidering hitting that send button on our next “vent.” But you know I can’t stop there.
Why Venting Your Emotions is Ungodly
We already know that what we say is very important to God. But do we REALLY take it to heart? Verses like James 1:26 pretty much crush any argument that venting is a good idea. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
Which brings me to the most important point of this post. As a Christian, we have a two-fold responsibility for what we say. First, we are accountable for how it affects us and second for how it affects our witness.
So let’s look at the first one. Does venting have a negative affect on us? Most people believe that venting actually helps them. But is that true? My argument is–no. Venting is never a healthy practice for your spirit. Let’s consider the facts.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we are commanded to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” God doesn’t even want us thinking about things that are not lovely, right, excellent, worthy of praise, etc. (Phil. 4:8).
He doesn’t want us thinking about ugly things because this type of thinking leads to a change in the way our heart sees things. It’s a “meditation” that can actually turn something ugly into something we think is lovely.
Can we seriously say that God wants us to “vent” these things publicly when He doesn’t even want us thinking about them in our hearts?
You and I both know the answer to that! And honestly, I think most Christians don’t vent their emotions for this reason. We are much more crafty. Or should I say, the enemy is much more crafty at talking us into a “proper” venting strategy. Can you guess what it is? You got it–we disguise our “vent” in prayer.
We simply take the thing that has made us so mad, about which we are ready to explode a geyser of ugliness, and we label it a “prayer need.” As soon as we do that, we take the liberty to spew it all over the internet. I see it every day in my single mom group. These precious women (who truthfully are experiencing horrific circumstances) ask for prayer to help them deal with their no-good-2-timing-jerk of an ex-husband.
You see where I am going with this? Prayer is not an excuse to spew ugliness on all of those who read your request. It’s also not an excuse to say ugly words about another person or situation. It’s still ugly and it’s still wrong.
And it kills your witness. Have you ever considered that? Can we really be effective for God if we are venting our messy emotions all over people? The answer is no. Emphatically no.
Remember the “sticky” of the Coke. Venting is a residue that sticks to our witness and mars our ability to shine the light of Christ. The next time something “Christian” sounding comes out of our mouths, the residue will still be there killing our witness.
It’s clearly a bad witness verbally, but let’s not forget that it actually hurts people. It hurts the people that you are venting about just as much as it hurts you. Trust me. We don’t need messy details spewed all over them in order to understand that we can relate to each other. They can know that they aren’t alone in feeling a particular way without “venting that raw emotion” all over them.
When we feel and act this way, we forget that Jesus died to extend the same grace and mercy to whomever it is causing our frustration. AND, we likely lose the opportunity for God to use this situation to grow us closer to Him.
Stop shaking the can, already
So what is the solution? It’s simple. Not easy, but simple.
Instead of venting and ranting all over the place, get on your knees. God can hear your true feelings without bias and He can set your heart straight, too. Instead of shaking the can, we need to step back and let God work on the inside first. Once that happens, we can “open up” again without causing harm to ourselves or those around us.
Like I said, this isn’t easy. But one thing I have learned in the Christian walk is that most things worthy of my attention are not going to be easy… but they are all worth it.
What do you think? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.