Refining Our Rants - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Everyday Living
October 15, 2018

Refining Our Rants

I don’t think I’m saying anything revolutionary when I say that people like to rant. Our instinct is to “go off” at people who have offended us, and we like to lash out at those who have wronged us. At the most basic level, however, when we rant, we are attempting to argue and make our case for our perspective and for the ideas on which its based.

If you search online for the definition of the word rant, you will find “to speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way.” In one respect, it can certainly be a virtue to have passion and fervently press for our particular cause; however, if left uncontrolled or “wild,” we fail. Our ramblings of raw emotion will lack substance and depth and may be filled with ad hominem attacks and other fallacious tactics of argument.

A further examination of this word only increases its negative connotation. The transitive definition of “rant” on Merriam-Webster is “to utter in a bombastic declamatory fashion.” Bombastic—in other words, loudly, but without meaning.

Ranting is certainly not positive and definitely not in line with the teaching and example of Jesus.

But what if we are arguing for a noble cause, even Christianity? What if there is a positive idea we want people to understand and accept? Of what if we are taking a stand against an awful injustice? Is a rant justified then?

In this case, perhaps our feelings are justified in the sense that we have legitimate reason to be passionate or angry and convey that emotion. But if we are attempting to argue for our ideas and our point of view, then spewing off paragraphs of rants is ineffective, and it will only alienate and further the divide between us and the people we want to influence. And not only influence, but love, as Christ has commanded us.

If we argue the ends justify the means, then a rant is certainly not justified because it doesn’t help us in getting to the goal or “end” that we want. Ranting repels people; it doesn’t win them. It forces people to choose sides, which is a reason some people do rant – they want to promote disharmony, division and alienation.

In the age of social media, this problem is exacerbated as we are constantly able to rant to the masses. Individual social media accounts are often echo-chambers, so the alienation aspect of ranting might not seem as severe because we are speaking or writing to an audience that mostly agrees with us. But still, this is failure because it encourages the raw, unbridled emotion and ranting in others who will likely follow suit with their own rant, or will “share” what we had to say with their followers, friends or subscribers.

And remember, it is an audience that mostly agrees with us—not completely. So there will still be some people who disagree, see our rant, and are alienated by the immature, rash and impulsive nature of our so-called argument.

The solution? Refining our rants.

This doesn’t mean we avoid arguing, debating or disagreeing. When we refine our rants, we still passionately argue for our ideas, and perhaps we are causing disagreements or arguments—in fact, we likely will. That is not inherently a bad thing. On the contrary, it is necessary to debate ideas in order to make decisions and have progress. Fighting with and alienating potential allies, however, is completely unproductive and only inhibits us from achieving our own goal—persuading others and increasing agreement.

Refining our rants means taking our opinions and raw emotion and backing them up with facts. It means taking an honest look at our ideas to find the best way to communicate them to other people. It means speaking or writing effectively and precisely, not impulsively and thoughtlessly. It also means listening to others and feeling and expressing good will towards them. And it takes time. It likely isn’t as fun as that quick jab you want to take at the people who disagree with you, and it is certainly not as easy, but it is so much more effective.

We must speak. We must present our ideas and opinions, and sometimes we must passionately argue and debate. We even have to tell hard truths at times, as Jesus did. But we also must make sure we do it in a refined and self-controlled manner; not with wild and bombastic rants, which will never convince anyone of anything other than our lack of good will toward them. We can refine our rants by starting with the example of Jesus Christ who used words in love and in self-control to change the world and save mankind.

Learn about argumentation and rhetoric from a Christian perspective in the Geneva College Communication Studies program. Contact Admissions at 800.847.8255 or admissions@geneva.edu.

- Andrew Domencic ‘19