Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Ethics of Venting

“The words of gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.”
-Proverbs 18:8

I was emailing a friend yesterday about the possible differences between venting and gossiping. How do you stop venting from becoming gossip (or slander)? How do you tell the difference? Most people agree that we should be able to vent our frustrations, feelings, etc. in some healthy way. If we don't it gets bottled up until eventually it comes out in unhappy ways. But how do you protect your venting from becoming gossip or slander? I think its a slippery slope and I have seen way too many Christian teams, churches, families, and friendships slip off the mountain without even realizing what happened to them (and I'm guilty of it myself).

What are the ethics of sharing one's frustrations with others who are not directly involved? How can we vent without talking to people behind their backs? What are the ethics involved? I'm curious to hear what others think as it is something that affects us all.


Moxymama said...

I think confiding frustrations to a trusted friend is okay assuming that the point is to vent. I think it becomes gossip, slander, etc. when one makes it a point to tell anyone who will listen a particular issue you may have with someone else. Who else really needs to know that? I guess all venting in some form is talking behind someone's back, but I think there is an appropriate way to express frustration, displeasure, etc. without necessarily condemning the person as a whole.

Anonymous said...

This is a touchy subject because so many people have been hurt by gossip or slander, but we are all probably guilty of it as well. I think that talking to a close friend about an issue is ok, as well as a pastor or someone who would keep it confidential. If the person whom you are frustrated with hears about your frustrations from someone other than you then you know you have gone about it the wrong way.

It is always best to talk directly to the person you have issues with, regardless of how difficult or awkward that may be!


Dayna said...

You did it again Mark! Got me hooked from the title on... and then want us to answer! It’s refinery all over again! :)

Colossians 3:17 And WHATEVER you do, whether in WORD or deed, do it ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or WHATEVER you do, do it ALL for the glory of God.
Philippians 2:14 Do EVERYTHING without complaining or arguing,
When the topic of venting is held up against these verses, I know I want to be very careful what I say (and to whom).

In order to glorify God, and not ourselves (which is often attempted to be done by putting others down… often in form of slander or gossip, which are sometimes disguised within venting and complaining) we need to constantly be in “tune” with Him in WHATEVER we do. If our motivation behind what we do is to bring Him glory, we won’t be doing much gossiping, slandering, or complaining, right?

I think that each time we feel the need to vent; we should go to God first! And then, with the desire to bring Him glory, we can: A) vent to Him and B) ask Him the right time, place, and person to talk to about situations in our life… He cares for His kids! He doesn’t want us wallowing in the muck of sin. And that is what gossip, slander, and complaining are…

Thanks for opening the can of worms a little wider for me!

Mark said...

I'm not sure if it's so much the person you are confiding in (a trusted friend) vs the content/situation. Is motive part of what makes something venting vs gossip/slander? In my email to my friend, I suggested some of the following possible guidelines:

1. Venting probably can't contain slander (an attack or accusation against the other person that is not proven).
2. Venting should probably contain the same information and words that you would use if the person you are not happy with is with you.
3. Venting should only be done after you have already talked to the person directly that you are not happy with.
4. If in doubt about wether something you say might be gossiping, don't.
5. Perhaps venting can be done without sharing all of the details, especially the name of the person and the specifics of what they did/said.
6. Talking it over with someone who is an authority person in the situation (after you try talking to the person about it) seems the best way to handle differences.
7. If one is upset about a person's behavior that effects the team, one should bring it up directly and specifically in a team context and ask the team for help. Bringing it up one on one with others (especially before talking to the person you are upset with first) is probably almost always a bad idea.

Those are my thoughts!