There’s that tension building up inside of you. With each frustration, it mounts. You tell yourself it’s not a big deal, it’s nothing, and then — bam! — you’re seething, and you’ve got to tell someone, anyone, what a colossal frustration you’re forced to put up with.
Maybe that’s not you at all. Maybe you’re a perfectly well-adjusted human who deals with annoyances head-on, or never gets annoyed. Can we meet up for coffee sometime so you can teach me your ways?
Because lately, I’ve been struggling with mounting frustrations, confessing them to others under the guise of venting. You know the mentality: I just have to tell you this, so I can get it out of my system. Can you believe how annoying this is?!
While reading Shauna Niequist’s Aug. 29 entry in her devotional, Savor, a passage hit all too close to home. She described that scenario perfectly — and labeled it what it truly is, gossip. “It makes you feel like you told the truth. And you did. Just not to the person involved. It scratches that itch, that impulse to tell the truth, but it has no power to transform, and it destroys trust,” she wrote.
I’m not ‘getting it out of my system.’ I’m creating a pattern of negativity, and probably making the person I’m venting to wonder if I’m ever venting about them. Who needs that in their life? But also, why is it so relieving to do? Well, honestly, it avoids conflict. You get someone’s sympathy as they commiserate, you feel more connected to the person you’ve ranted to, but it’s all hollow.
“Gossip infects everyone involved — it creates false little alliances, false trust: you and I get it, he doesn’t,” she continued. “We’re on the inside, giggling just a little about that guy over there.”
You feel safe and in on this joint complaint, but no progress is made. And the frustration doesn’t truly dissipate. It just becomes a grievance in your filing cabinet of a memory, so the next time that person bothers you, it’s pulled up. You’re creating a backlog of proof, building a case against that person, rather than the situation.
It compiles and warps into passive-aggressiveness, as the frustration seeps out in different ways. It makes you grumpier, a human storm cloud to those around you; it causes people to wonder if they can trust you. It all compounds and piles up, gradually, all under the guise of venting, ranting, and letting off steam. Sure, there are times when you need to confide in someone to figure out how to address an issue appropriately. That’s a different situation, as long as it doesn’t become the excuse to bust out that imaginary voodoo doll.
I am so guilty of this sometimes; now I’m trying to work on it. That means dealing with the uncomfortable mess of upsetting people by telling them how I see the situation, and dealing with the awkwardness, potentially, of not seeing eye to eye and failing to reach an agreement at the end. And that’s okay. (As someone who seems hard-wired to want to make everyone happy, this is a tough truth to confront. I know that seems really weird, but it’s true.)
It was a powerful revelation for a Saturday morning — one that’s especially crucial to keep in mind on Monday, when the printer’s jammed, there are a dozen fires to put out, and a simple comment can turn a colleague into a temporary nemesis.