The gospel and yelling

29 Feb

If you believe the gospel, it should impact your tone of voice in parenting. In Ephesians 4, Paul puts it like this, “Put off…clamor.” And the word clamor basically means yelling.

Obviously God doesn’t have a problem with volume. The world is a pretty loud place and I am sure He is not wearing earmuffs. He tells us throughout the Psalms that we are to shout for joy. There are times when it is totally appropriate to be loud, when it would be wrong not to.

The yelling he is talking about putting off is more than just speaking up, it is the kind of speech that is motivated by anger. It is not shouting encouragement at your son’s basketball game, it’s screaming at him on the ride home for not playing hard enough.

Now, to put off yelling like that, it helps to understand why people yell and especially, why yelling like that isn’t appropriate for someone who believes the gospel.

One reason people yell is habit. This is a superficial reason of course and it doesn’t quite get to the heart of it, but at the same time, there’s no question that some people feel much more comfortable with yelling because they grew up in families where yelling at others was perfectly normal. This is part of why Paul says we have to put it off. Even though we are believers, some of us may have developed a habitual pattern of yelling at our children, this pattern may have come from our days as unbelievers living in an unbelieving culture, but now, that we are believers, we need to step up and apply the gospel even to our tone of speech.

Another reason people yell is to punish or abuse. Instead of using their fists, some use their mouths. Their words become weapons which they use to humiliate others. They are angry, their anger produces extra energy, instead of using that energy to deal with the problem in a constructive way, that energy erupts and they use it to destroy the person in front of them. Their children become their verbal punching bags.

Probably the ultimate reason people yell at others is because they don’t trust God. There are two truths about God in particular that you deny when you are screaming at your children.

It may be that the person yelling doesn’t trust God’s control over the situation they find themselves in. Think about it. Why do you yell? Your emotions are worked up. You don’t usually randomly scream. Why are your emotions worked up? Often it is because you are afraid the situation is getting out of control, and so you yell because you want to try to bring the situation back under your control. But is the situation really out of control? Of course not. God is in absolute control and when you are confident of God’s control, you may speak sternly as I imagine Jesus did to the storm on the Sea of Galilee but you won’t be freaking out like the disciples were on the boat.

Or it may be that the person yelling doesn’t trust that God is for them in the situation they find themselves in. What is yelling? It is often a means of manipulating the other person to give us what we want. We have an agenda, the other person is making it difficult for us to accomplish our agenda, and we take matters into our own hands or better, our own voice and we use our voice to try to force the other person to do what we desire. What should we do instead? We should trust that God knows what is best for us, that God is absolutely committed to accomplishing our good, and that in the moment we find ourselves in, He is actually doing just that. When we believe that God is all out committed to our real good, it frees us up from trying to force the situation or person into doing what we think is best for us, and allows us to be focused on exactly what we should be focused on, glorifying God by seeking the best for our children. How crazy would I be if I thought I could actually pursue my own good better than the Almighty Creator of the Universe? How crazy would I be if I thought I actually knew better what was good for me than Him? And if He has promised that He is for me, I don’t need to worry about using my words for myself, I can commit myself instead to using my words and even my tone of voice for Him.

The fact that we are believers should impact the way we parent all the way down to the tone of voice we use with our children when they are not doing what they should. It doesn’t mean that we stop taking sin seriously or that we don’t ever speak sternly or strongly, but believing that God is in control and that God is for us because of the work of Jesus Christ, should keep us from speaking to your children from a place of fear, shame or manipulation. It should motivate us to start working on putting off old habits, like that of clamor.

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