For all my young adult years, until the recent past, I've been a "venter." In other words, if something/someone was bothering me, whoever I was close to with an ear to listen was going to get the full story about just how I'd been the victim of some great injustice. I'm sure my husband still gets his fair share of this from me, but even with him, the person I am most comfortable with in all the world, I am trying to be more virtuous.
It wasn't until I moved to St Paul and heard it mentioned that a particular formation talk was on speech and particularly not venting, even to one's spouse, that I even considered that perhaps this was...sinful. "WHAT?" I thought. What's wrong with voicing a bit of frustration?! Needless to say, rather than the correct response of trying to let that wisdom sink in, I simply decided that I must not have much in common with this person (yes, instead of seeking holiness, I just stuck my head in the sand...and probably vented to my husband about it...except that if I had done that, he would have lovingly corrected me 'cause he's that awesome!)
4 years and lots of percolation later, I have slowly taken to heart why venting is never helpful and is, in fact, sinful. Here are a few of the reasons:
-It doesn't solve the problem or even seek resolution
-It shuts you off from the possibility that you may be partly at fault
-It feeds pride and squashes growth in humility.
-It is gossip at best and probably slander
-It doesn't move toward or seek out love
If you're anything like me, you may be sitting here wondering, well how on earth am I supposed to process anything if I can't talk about it?! I agree, for women, it can be very helpful to process things. I do feel like there can be an intentional difference between processing and venting. Here's what I think appropriate processing should include:
-Compassion for any others involved in the situation (ie, the person(s) that offended you). And no, the line "I love so-and-so, but...." doesn't count as REAL compassion; how many times have I used that line?!!
-Assuming the best of the other person(s)
--(note: if this clearly isn't an option, at least giving the benefit of the doubt that they are a) too wounded or b) too ignorant to know better, in which case, see the first point)
-Honestly and objectively analyzing your own conduct and determining if/where you were at fault
-Having recognized your weakness, choose to work on that area and, if necessary, apologize for your behavior and choose to forgive the other person(s) regardless of their recognition/admission of fault.
If we can't choose love, choose forgiveness and have the humility to recognize and admit our weaknesses, than how can we call ourselves followers of Christ; who are we imitating?
So, again, I am a WORK IN PROGRESS. But I do think I have seen the light in this area. Please hold me accountable; my humility thanks you.