“I just need to vent.”
I used this line often on coworkers, friends and eventually, my husband. Venting is accepted as a way to deal with anger and negative emotions. But what if I told you venting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
According to Brad Bushman, one of the leading researchers on anger management, “Venting to reduce anger is like using gasoline to put out a fire—it only feeds the flame.” Psychologists have determined that venting isn’t the best way to deal with anger. But long before psychologists came to this view, the Bible was already supporting it!
Scripture doesn’t say anger is wrong; in fact it says “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). But how we deal with our anger and frustration matters to God. Here are some things you can do the next time you’re struggling with negative emotions—all based on biblical guidance.
1. Be Quiet
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. (Proverbs 29:11)
I love that this verse actually uses the term “vent”! Unfortunately the only person “venting” in this context is labeled a fool. A fool is someone who lacks restraint and wisdom. He does not possess self-control, and his life bears the fruit of his choices.
Instead of letting all your emotions pour onto the people around you, learn godly self-restraint. Quietly holding back your anger until an appropriate time and place, and you’re with the appropriate person, takes wisdom. God grants wisdom to those who ask, and blesses those who walk by the Spirit into the fruit of self-control.
2. Bring Peace
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. (Proverbs 15:18)
Another problem with venting is that it trains our minds for conflict as opposed to peace. When we stir up those emotions by telling another person, we’re spreading conflict from our life to theirs. While there are certain people you can and should talk to about issues in your life, wisely choose when, how and with whom you do so. Our goal is to bring peace, not dissension.
3. Renew Your Mind
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Allow God to renew your mind about the issue. Until our minds and hearts are changed, our emotions will still get the best of us. Even if we stop venting, we will be internally bound up in the problem at hand.
4. Persevere in Prayer
As someone who struggles with anger, I usually start by praying through the issue. I don’t stop praying until the anger lifts. Too many of us don’t persevere in prayer; we say a quick prayer hoping God removes the emotion, but when it doesn’t happen, we assume He isn’t there for us. I have found we must persevere in prayer, both for the issue and for our own hearts.
5. Seek Good Advice
After you’ve prayed, talk to someone who is godly and wise and will give you good advice. Don’t talk to them until you have a tangible outcome you hope to receive. You’re not just dumping the issue in their lap—you’re seeking their advice. This prevents venting and helps you make the most of the issue.
While it feels good in the moment to vent our anger, it doesn’t help us grow in the grace of Christ. Let us emulate His meekness (which is strength under control) and take our difficulties to God first, then His community, so we can overcome.