It would be almost impossible to find someone who at some stage in their life has not been angered to the point of venting to another. Often, we complete our tirade with the final words, “I just needed to vent.” “I just needed to blow off some steam.”
Lately in our culture we have seen the same thing on our streets. While some have peacefully protested in their concern over a lack of care for the value of life, others have vented through destruction of property, looting, cursing, shouting, and even cordoning off six city blocks and declaring their own state. These are more visibly apparent forms of venting, but it is no less a matter of venting to use social media as our voice of anger expressing our disgust for what disturbs and disappoints us.
Some people think that venting is a healthy exercise for those who should not bottle up anger. Unfortunately, this is both a wrong view of what is healthy and what is actually a definition of anger. As we consider anger biblically, we see that it is not some mystical force of emotion that wells up inside us like a kettle ready to blow steam. In his book, Uprooting Anger, Robert Jones biblically defines sinful anger as, “our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil.” As we look at the various biblical examples of anger, we see this definition working. Cane’s anger at Abel was the outworking of his misperception of injustice at Abel’s sacrifice being accepted while his was not. Esau’s anger at Jacob was his active response to his perception of a moral injustice of losing his birthright. Haman’s anger against Mordecai was based on his perception of the reprehensibility of the Israelite people. Peter’s anger was displayed three times when people had the audacity to recognize him as one of Jesus’ disciples and place his life under threat. Many times in the bible human anger is the outworking of sinful and selfish motivations of the heart.
The bible never tells us that bottling anger is the right thing to do. Depending on the situation, the Scriptures tell us to approach our brother or sister when we have been sinned against with a view to restoration of relationship (Matthew 18:15). We are told to cry out to God in our pain and suffering (Psalm 34:6, 61:2). Perhaps the right response we need is to forgive someone (Luke 17:3-4). What we will not find is Scripture telling us to blow off steam through destruction of property, gossip, or any other sinful response, even including the subtle tweets that sooth your desire to poke.
The wisdom literature in the bible shows us clearly that venting is the way of fools. Proverbs 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Ecclesiastes 9:17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
The way of wisdom is not the way of war. The wise person is patient and quietly assesses the situation with a calm spirit. The wise person speaks with a disposition of peace and a spirit of gentleness. The wise displays wisdom not only in words but in mannerism and careful strategy with the right priority. If you are Christian, that calmness is found in the eternal relief of the cross that impacts every situation in this world. Christians take time to measure every possible response against the priority of the mission of Christ.
If you are a Christian, please don’t be a fool. It speaks very little of the gospel.