Venting is Bad for You … and Others

young adults fighting
It turns out that science confirms what I suspected: Though “venting” sounds therapeutic, it’s actually bad for you — and especially others.

Maybe this has happened to you: You have a hard day at work or at school, and you just want to tell someone all about it — the frustration, the irritation, the injustice. It’s happened to me. I talked about it in “Venting and Losing:”

Feeling the need to “process,” I vented my frustration to my exercise buddy. Although she tried to console me, my venting caused my self-righteousness to rise and made me even grumpier.

Over the next few days, I stewed over the situation and “vented” to several other people. As I griped about my unfair situation, I found myself not only being frustrated with the initial relationship but being critical of others as well. Soon it seemed as if everyone was letting me down.

It turns out that science confirms what I suspected: Though “venting” sounds therapeutic, it’s actually bad for you — and especially others.

In “Complaining is Terrible for You, According to Science,” the author explains that complaining alters your brain and can negatively affect mental health. Venting also makes you less healthy by reinforcing negative thoughts — making you less positive over time — which compromises the immune system and leads to disease. But maybe the more surprising finding is how your complaining affects those you vent to:

[N]ot only does expressing negativity tend not to make us feel better, it’s also catching, making listeners feel worse. “People don’t break wind in elevators more than they have to. Venting anger is…similar to emotional farting in a closed area. It sounds like a good idea, but it’s dead wrong,” psychologist Jeffrey Lohr, who has studied venting, memorably explained.

Complaining stinks. Maybe that’s why the Apostle Paul wrote:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).

It was a breakthrough moment for me when I realized that God’s standard was that venting be non-existent. And while there are times when it can be healthy to talk through frustrations with godly counsel, God invites us to come to Him directly with our grievances and ask Him to show us a godly path through frustrations and injustices. That’s the way to truly feel better and to keep from stinking up the room with our negativity.

About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, who is a family pastor, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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