Venting is the term used to describe the letting out of strong emotions over a specific situation. When we rant to our spouses or close friends about what just happened or how our boss treated us, we are said to be venting. The term venting comes from the idea of providing an outlet for air, liquid, or steam. We vent air conditioners, clothes dryers, and pressure cookers. When we express our strong emotions through words, writing, or physical aggression, we are “venting” our emotions.
Venting can be a harmless way to process built-up passion over an event or conversation. Venting can allow us to calm down and return to rational thought. As long as the venting does not take a sinful form involving foul language, hateful speech, or physical harm, it can be a healthy way to calm ourselves so that we regain control of our emotions. Venting is best done with trusted people who understand we are only venting and won’t hold us responsible for everything we said in those heated moments (Proverbs 18:24). Likewise, we should be willing to allow friends to vent to us when needed.
For Christians, a few passages of Scripture need to be observed so that our venting does not dishonor the Lord:
1. Matthew 12:36 — “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.” Jesus warns us that God keeps record of our words. What we say with our mouths matters to Him. Venting does not give us the right to disobey the Lord with our words. Rambling on, rehashing the event over and over again, or refusing to forgive and move on is one way we are speaking “idle words.” When venting becomes our pastime, we may have crossed a line from temporary release to permanent lifestyle.
2. Ephesians 4:29 — “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Other versions say “foul language and abusive speech.” Many people use venting as a cover to release the ugliness that really is in their hearts. They degrade themselves with gutter language, curse people, and spew hateful thoughts that they would not normally verbalize. Even when venting, we are to remain self-controlled and not assume that injustice gives us permission to contaminate our mouths with unwholesome talk (James 1:26).
3. Ephesians 4:26–27 — “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Venting is one way we can quickly process our anger and release it before nightfall. When we keep frustration bottled up, we run the risk of physical ailments, anxiety, insomnia, and other woes. Venting is a safe way to handle emotions that are too explosive to keep inside our heads. This verse warns that, if we don’t quickly find healthy outlets for our anger, we allow the devil to step in and bring further harm.
By venting our frustrations in healthy ways, we can also bring good out of something bad. Literature, art, and music are ways to vent that can lead to beauty, wisdom, and worship. The classic hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” was penned by Horatio Spafford in 1873 after losing his daughters in a tragic accident at sea. Rather than pointlessly venting to God and others, Spafford channeled that emotional agony into a beautiful song that has touched millions. When her daughter Cari was killed by a drunk driver in 1980, Candace Lightner vented her rage in constructive ways, forming the national organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to help curb the number of alcohol-related accidents.
Many of the psalms can be considered written “vents” by David and others, expressing a plethora of emotions that still resonate with us today. In Psalm 51, David vented to the Lord about his sorrow over sin, crying out for forgiveness and healing. This is an example of venting that benefits others. We are going to become angry. That’s part of being human. But we don’t have to sin when we express that anger. Venting in appropriate ways to appropriate people at appropriate times is one way we process our feelings, strengthen relationships, and move on.