When is it Okay to Vent?
The first and most applicable definition is from the Bible, and it is called “railing”. This type of venting is NEVER okay. The second definition, also from the Bible, is called “reproof”. This is defined as “blame expressed to the face” (Webster’s 1828), and is exemplified by Paul in Galatians 2:11, when he withstood [Peter] to the face. This type of venting is a last resort, and is performed by MEN – more specifically, by church leaders. When women perform this type of action, it is called “teaching”, and you’ll find it in Titus 2. It must always be accompanied by a meek and quiet spirit, which is the necessary ornament of all Christian women (1 Pet. 3:4). A third definition I’ll offer, which is a healthy alternative to venting, is “supplication”: “entreaty; humble and earnest prayer” (Webster’s 1828). This is the meekest and godliest manner by which Christian women can make [their] requests known unto God (Phil. 4:6b). We’ll talk more about these last two in a subsequent article.
PART ONE - RAILING
They that utter railings are most foolish (Prov. 10:18b). To rail is to verbally abuse. It is to speak accusingly to someone or about someone. Abusive language is often used, name-calling is often included, and anger is a marked, accompanying emotion. Today, we call this “venting”, and it seems that many men and women – even Christian ones – feel entitled and/or accustomed to doing it.
Not only is this proclivity something that bubbles up within us as a result of our own angst, it is probably also due in part to the fact that many “experts” say that venting is healthy. They claim it relieves frustration and removes tension. Another reason we vent so readily is because such behaviour is frequently modelled for us via the television and movie media. But rather than concede to the advice or actions of many, let’s consider the advice and actions of One.
A fool utters all his mind; but the wise reserves his in part (Prov. 29:11).
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing (1 Pet. 3:8-9).
The wise will hide discretion; but the mouth of the hasty draws near to ruin (Prov. 10:7).
A fool’s mouth is ruin to him, and his lips are a snare to his soul (Prov. 18:7).
Noam Chomsky once said that when people in a society begin to speak openly about that which is taboo, the taboo becomes the norm. Consider the content of conversations that have been portrayed for all to see via Hollywood film and television decades ago. How often did people talk about sex? How often did wives rail at their husbands? How often did children resist their parents’ admonition? How often was there hateful language and killing? Are fornication, divorce, disrespectful children, and violence considered normal today? Yes. Talking about it and seeing it on screen contributed to its normalisation; it brought the sinful thoughts and lusts of our hearts out into the open, where they took on the appearance of common.
How often do the characters of a television show or movie express anger, blame, guilt, or stress that is unjustified, illogical, or whimsical? Do they vent (rail) either to each other or about each other? The power of the media is that it can hijack the average American living room, regularize that which is taboo, and thereby reset the standard of what we consider to be normal. It can desensitize us to anger, violence, and sex. It can teach us how to think, act, and speak by modelling the immoral, dramatizing the mundane, and justifying the atrocious as a matter of course. This is the prince of the power of the air at work in our own homes. Christians ought to know better than to invite such disaster into their hearts and minds by staring at a television screen every day. This form of media influence is deceiving and indoctrinating. It is godless.
If you are a follower of Christ, ask yourself: What do you consider normal about your thoughts and words? Are they normal compared to worldly standards, or to godly ones?
Before we speak, we think. Some people take longer to think than others, but chances are good that we will eventually speak about what we think about. So, what do YOU think about?
As Christians, we are responsible for what we think about AND for what we say. Jesus made it clear that hateful thoughts equal murder and lustful thoughts equal adultery (Mt. 5:21-28). About our words, He said, Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment (Mt.12:36). The fact is, we are accountable. Other people are accountable for what THEY say. We are accountable for what WE say.
I still remember when, as a worldly university student, I read books by Wayne W. Dyer, James Allen, and Norman Vincent Peale about the power of the mind. While these authors motivated me to control my thoughts, they could not supply me with the Power to do so, which is the Holy Spirit, given by God to seal and empower the saved. These writers were on to a partial truth, but lacked the wisdom and spirit of King Solomon who, centuries earlier, wrote that as a man thinks in his heart, so he is (Prov. 23:7 KJV). The Bible teaches us that the heart ponders evil and conceives of wicked devices; it is untrustworthy, proud, idolatrous, dishonest, and unclean (Mt. 15:19, Prov. 24:2, Eccl. 9:3, Ezek. 14:4-7, Prov. 15:7, Is. 59:13, Prov. 16:5). What we think about in our hearts defines us and defiles us (Prov. 23:7 KJV, Mt. 15:19-20).
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man (Mt. 15:18).
Our thoughts remain between us and God until we voice them. But before they cross the line into the realm of words that cannot be taken back, the only person they hurt is US. The fact is, God taught us how to think and what to say, so if we disobey Him, we will be subject to His punishment. How much more punishment will we be subject to if we open our mouths offensively and falsely accuse a member of the body of Christ?
Proverbs 6:17 tells us that God hates a lying tongue – it is an abomination to Him. 1 Peter 3:16 tells us that false accusers will be ashamed. 1 Timothy 5:13-17 tell us that women who gossip, speaking things which they ought not, have turned aside after Satan. Why such a severe saying? Because Satan is the father of lies (Jn. 8:44), deceiving, accusing, enslaving. If our witness is false, we are liars, and are certainly not following after the God we claim as Father. James 3 teaches that the tongue can set us on fire of hell (Jas. 3:6b). It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (Jas. 3:8b). It matters very much what we think about and what we SAY.
What does God tell us to think about and to say?
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously (1 Pet. 2:22-23).
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Phi. 2:3).
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Phil. 4:8).
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:10). And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:11b).
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Col. 3:16-17).
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11a).
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers (Eph. 4:29).
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:4-5).
If the weapons of our warfare are not found in and of ourselves, but by the power of God, then we must rely fully on HIM to help us. The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is our weapon of choice.
In Delivering Women, I shared that just after the birth of my second child, I had taken on a dark thought-life. I imagined all manner of calamities befalling me and my loved ones at the hands of all sorts of assailants. I was worried, sleepless, and distraught. A friend confided to me that she, too, suffered in her mind and had found peace in Bible memorization. A light went on for me – of course! What better thoughts could I nurture but the very words of my Lord and Saviour? Soon I, too, found peace in the memorization and quiet recitation of Scripture.
This Christmas, as many of us face the family members and “friends” who have vented to us or about us in the past, let us keep ourselves from lashing out against them in our minds and with our words. Let’s put an end to the verbal abuse we heap upon “the unjust”, “the unkind”, “the ignoble”, or “the envious”. Let’s bridle our tongues, knowing that if we are able to do that, then we are able also to bridle the whole body (Jas. 3:2b).
Read the Word. Memorize it. Think about it, talk about it, and DO what it says!
Thanks for reading.