Take a deep breath and imagine this moment. You’ve told your child, probably 73 times, when to be home, what not to touch, where to put dirty underwear, how to do math, and why they can’t spend the night at Jimmy’s house. Then it happens. They mess up again. And then it happens again. You mess up again. You start yelling at your 6-year-old, your 16-year-old, maybe even your 16-month-old. Then, like any good parent would, you ask, “How do I stop yelling at my kid?” Maybe it’s not your kid. Maybe it’s your wife, husband, mom, dad, siblings, students, friends, anybody. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter who it is, your reason for doing it is probably the same, and there’s hope.
You’re ready to stop yelling because as soon as your last loud, ugly word leaves your lips, you see pain-filled eyes looking back at you. You don’t want to yell at your kids, or whoever, anymore because you love them. But, it’s like once you start yelling at your kids, if feels like your mouth takes you somewhere you never wanted to go. Believe me I know, because I go there too.
Okay, breathe again. None of that just happened. But it probably does, right? Why do we say things we regret? How do we get ahead of this—and stop it—for next time? The author of James in the Bible, who is probably Jesus’ brother, spent almost an entire chapter, James 3, explaining why my big fat mouth gets me in trouble. Here’s what it comes down to: your mouth is a rudder.
So, get control of my mouth?
My mouth is a rudder? Okay, so you probably don’t travel by boat as often as James might’ve. A rudder is the piece on a boat that gets lowered into the water to help steer a boat. In very simple terms, if a captain wants to turn, he turns a wheel that triggers a lever to move a rudder, which turns the boat. Now imagine a giant ship. The captain might move his hand an inch, to move a rudder a few feet, to change the destination of a ship by hundreds of miles. Think about how your words can change the direction of your day, your life, or your kids’ lives.
Here’s what’s powerful about this picture. If your words are a rudder, then where’s the captain? Jesus made it plain. He basically said your mouth is just how your heart speaks. Your words don’t take you somewhere you never wanted to go; they amplify something your heart wants. Your heart is the captain. I can stop yelling at my kids, but I’ve got to start with my heart.
How can I start with my heart to stop yelling with my mouth?
When your heart goes the right way, your mouth will too. So find out what your heart wants. Why does it go the wrong way? Why don’t I stop yelling at my kids? Does my heart want control? Does my heart want to be better than others? Does my heart want things to be fast or easy? Is my heart afraid of the worst, or is my heart expecting the best? Knowing what your heart wants is the beginning of controlling your mouth, because your mouth will do what your heart wants.
But who will change your heart? You might be the captain of your ship, but the Holy Spirit is the real Master and Commander on your boat just waiting below deck for you to call on Him so He can help calm the stormy waters.
How does the Holy Spirit actually help me stop yelling?
- Read the “love chapter” in the Bible and pick one or two areas you really struggle with. Maybe it’s patience or not keeping a record of wrongs. If you can’t pick one, ask someone you trust to pick one for you. But don’t yell at them for it. Too soon?
- Then, confess to God and people you trust about the ways you come short in these specific areas.
- Next, brace yourself and ask God to give you opportunities to grow in these one or two areas.
- Those opportunities will come. When they do, don’t run. Obey the still, small voice that might sound something like, “Do you really want to yell at _____ right now?” If you mess up, try again.
- Realize there’s not really an easy five-step plan for this. Obedience will be difficult. You won’t be able to do it on your own. You’ll need to ask the Holy Spirit for power. But guess what? He’s the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
Why will this work?
Most of the time, when we yell at someone, it’s because we feel like we’re out of control. Which is true. Ironically, the reason we want so badly to be in control is because we’re afraid of where we, our kids, or our loved ones will end up going if we’re not in control. But remember, yelling takes us where we don’t want to go, right? Basically, we get stuck in a cycle of fear and control. Here’s the good news. There is no room in love for fear because fear feeds on control, but love requires trust. In other words, as you begin to add more 1 Corinthians 13 love to the mix, you’ll need to trust God for His help, in turn breaking the fear cycle and taking you and your family where you really want to go.
There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. …
1 John 4:18 MSG