Editor’s note: Today's article is the fourth in a series about "fine line" areas of our lives. Areas where we struggle to discern truth from sin. Areas we prefer not to deal with so that we can continue living on the edge, where the "fine line" is. Click here to read about Happiness vs Joy, Judging vs. Accountability, and Loneliness vs. Alone-ness.

Part 4: A Fine Line: Gossiping vs. Venting

Lord, here I am again ...in yet another church that doesn't seem to care that I am single. Sure, they take my tithes, ask me to help watch the zillion kids in childcare, but they mostly ignore me. I just hate it. I hate being forgotten. I hate that my pastor never addresses singleness from the pulpit. I am not even sure if he knows who I am, much less that I am single. And our deacons, are you sure they are even breathing? What about the committees of this church? It seems like you can't change a light bulb without a committee to decide when to change it. And another thing....

You know, this single sounds a lot like I use to sound when I was much younger. But it also sounds like a lot of people I know that are married, too. Bottom line, we all go to churches where there are things we do not like. Maybe it's the pastors last sermon, how they voted to elect a elder, how they spend the missions money, or how they involved you. But maybe it's more than just your church. Maybe you also have some complaints about your job. Maybe your boss drives you nuts. He or she keeps you overtime without any concern that you might have a life. Or maybe it's a neighbor who constantly plays loud music or never cuts the grass. Or maybe it's a friend who constantly dates the wrong girl/guy and never seems to get it.

So how do most people handle their complaints? They tell others. You know the old saying, if you love something like a restaurant or pair of shoes you might tell 2 or 3 (well unless you are on Pinterest) but if you are unhappy, you tell an army. The problem with telling an army is what may be a simple complaint or a time of venting becomes gossip. And this gossip can not only spread, it can cause pain to others, even broken relationships. It can also cause damage to a person's reputation, church or workplace.

I know this because I have experienced first-hand the consequences of having a person vent to me over the years about this person's church. I was told about every person that was there, what they said in Sunday school, and how they reacted to various things. I wa also told anything the pastor said or did, if it was wrong in the eyes of my friend. From time to time I would point out that these complaints sounded like gossip. I was corrected, and told that my friend was just "venting", that my friend needed to tell me this stuff to help deal with it. The only problem is I would visit this church in question from time to time. As a result of years of hearing only negatives, I began to draw opinions about the various people there. People that I used to like.

So what is the difference between gossip and venting? What is the fine line?

VENTING IS:

We all have times when we need to vent. We simply need to share about things that are frustrating us, be it church, school, family or friends. Venting allows us to hear our own voice, hear the problem, and even work it out. Venting allows us to process the stress. People who vent may or may not be looking for a solution. Sometimes they know God has placed them in a specific situation: amongst those aggravating people at work, on a committee at church, next door that a particular neighbor. They know that God has placed them there and is using them to reach those people. When we hear someone vent, the frustration we hear is usually just a release of stress about the situation. Everyone listening knows there will be some kind of victory in the end. You can even set up your venting to say: I love my pastor but sometimes he frustrates me when he ...or I love my friend but when she does this is hurts me.