From the mailbag: “Is it hypocritical to vent about someone but act nice to their face?”

We all need to vent from time to time, to blow off steam about a person or situation. When venting becomes gossip or slander, now we’re veering off into real issues.

There are several potential dangers. Pick your venting friends wisely. My “vent circle” is pretty small, usually my wife and another friend or two. Of course, I like venting to the people I have issues with. I’d like to say that is because venting does not good if the people I’m venting about don’t know what’s wrong. In truth, it’s because I simply delight in not wasting good lines behind people’s back. That’s my own issue.*

The reason I mentioned gossip and slander is because what seems like harmless venting can sometimes shape people’s perceptions. I know that if I vent to someone who doesn’t know the person I’m venting about, my venting caricaturization of them is what will form the basis of their impression of them. I can’t then turn around and wonder why once I introduce my friends to each other, they don’t quite get along.

We’re called to love, even when we don’t always like someone. The true test of what we claim to believe lies in whether we can love our enemies and those not easy to like. Granted, sometimes the most loving thing we can do is put some distance between us and certain folks, but I would imagine the best road to take would be to be loving to their face and loving behind their back.

Which is exactly why Jesus gets on my nerves sometimes.

*Being self-aware doesn’t make it better. It usually makes me twice the jerk since I’m aware of what I’m doing and thus increases the likelihood that I’m doing it deliberately.

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