What Is Happening In Your Heart When You Yell?

Last week, I shared how yelling is connected to my stress level, and many of you identified & shared your own struggles. Today I want to dig deeper.

A common theme, for me and from you in the comments, was that we tell ourselves lies about the yelling that we do. We lie to minimize the significance of what we’re doing and to diminish the amount of guilt we feel.

I think we also lie because of the aim of our hearts. If we were honest about the aim of our hearts in the moment that we yell, we could not continue being so self-righteous and indignant. We could not keep being mad *at THEM*– we would have to be mad *at us.*


Peering below the surface, when we yell, what is really happening inside our hearts? What is it that we are grasping for? What do we want?

(And here’s the thing. I’m going to be honest because I really want to grow here. I am desperate for the grace of God- for His gracious forgiveness, but also for the grace to walk in victory in this area. I don’t have time or inclination to pretty things up for you. I don’t want to live on a pedestal, so I’m going to share the honest truth about my sinful heart. This won’t be some “accountability group” where all we do is navel-gaze and talk about our sin (again and again and again) and never about the grace God gives us to change. I don’t want to roll in the mud or delight in evil, but I will be truthful here, and (hopefully along the way) help others who want to grow in this area, too.)

So. When I yell, this is what I see in my heart:

  • I want CONTROL. Control of the situation. Control of “their” actions (whoever the “they” is). Control of the way the house looks. Control of the person doing or saying things that hurt or frustrate me. Control of the things that haven’t been done to my liking. Control of the situation that is out of my hands. Control of the chaotic house. Control of the noise. Control.
  • I want TO LOOK GOOD. I want the house to look good. I want my image protected. I want my parenting to look good. I want my kitchen counter to look good (this is never the case; real life friends will verify). I want other people to get the things done that I think need to be done, regardless of what else they might want or need to do. Because, ultimately, I want things to look good, according to my definition of good.
  • I want EASE. I want the dishes already done so I don’t have to do them. I want the mess cleaned up by someone else. I want them to stop fighting so I can get back to the person or thing that has my attention. Ultimately, I want it to be easy, and to not have to put in the hard work that would be necessary if I was to actually deal with the situation the way I know it should be dealt with.
  • I want TO BE RIGHT. I want everyone around me to know just how wrong “x” is, and how right I am in my assessment of it. I want the other party to admit error or defeat. Whether it is a dirty dining room floor (“…that should already be clean; am I the only one who notices these things?”, etc.), an argument between siblings, an argument with my husband, or stewing over a “wrong” opinion, in my heart I see that I want to be proven incontrovertibly RIGHT.
  • I want it NOW. I want these things to be done immediately. In fact, if I’m honest, I don’t just want it now; “it should already have been done.” The mess shouldn’t have happened. At the very least, it should already be cleaned up so *I* don’t have to do it. I want the child who is grumping and fighting with a sibling to stop, now. I want the kitchen to already be cleaned. I want the stressful thing that interrupted me to stop. it. right. now!

Perhaps some of the things I listed resonated with you?

Perhaps you see other motivations in the depths of your own heart?

The “I wants” of our hearts reveal our idols- the things we bow down to and are willing to give up everything for. Ultimately, what is coming out of my mouth is revealing what is going on inside my heart.

What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” ~Matthew 15:18

With yelling, it is not my volume that is the problem. It is my HEART. When I yell, the words and volume simply give external indication of the wickedness inside me. (TWEET THAT.) Inside, I am self-focused and control-grabbing and error-finding and lazy and tired and critical and furious and finger-pointing and exhausted.


You might be sitting there thinking, “OK. But how does this effect me in my everyday life, when the kids are arguing, when the three-year-old just volcanoed the milk jug all over the kitchen, when the dog pooped on the carpet for the third time this WEEK, when I’m hurting and wounded inside and then that “one more thing” happens that drives me over the cliff?”

Sister, listen to me:

It is not your willpower that will ultimately save the day. But in HIM we have strength, and self-control. By His grace and by His Spirit at work in us, we can be freed from the enslaving grip of sin. Even the Apostle Paul– a man who had been blinded and visibly confronted by the risen Christ– struggled with this conundrum:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… so now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. …Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ~Romans 7:15-25

The good news is that I am not alone in my sin. It is a problem common to man. And through Christ, God has grace upon grace to lavish upon me. Grace to forgive, and grace to enable me to stop.

So let me share some encouraging things:

  • “You, You only, know the hearts of the children of mankind.” ~2 Chronicles 6:30
  • “The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.” ~2 Chronicles 16:9
  • “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” ~Ezekiel 36:26
  • “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression.” ~Numbers 14:18

He KNOWS us. He is watching, waiting to give STRONG SUPPORT to us when we desire blamelessness before Him. He wants to remove the wicked, stubborn heart and give us a soft, malleable, tender heart. Unlike us and our yelling selves, He is slow to anger. Though we are sinful, He LOVES abundantly and forgives!

We have hope in Him! His grace gives me such GREAT hope. It’s the only way I can get out of this quagmire. I can’t do it in my own strength. I can’t muster up enough holiness, even if I worked my whole life on it. I could grit my teeth, but there would be no joy. I would live under the constant strain of wondering if I was doing enough, being enough, performing enough.

Instead, I can cast myself on God and operate in His economy of grace.

Talking about maturity in Christ, Paul writes:

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. ~Colossians 1:29

Check out the pronouns in this verse:

  • *I* toil
  • with HIS energy
  • that HE powerfully works
  • within ME

This is God’s economy. I throw myself on grace… no longer relying on ME and MY willpower. Then– check it out– “I toil.”

What? After grace comes work?

Yes. But I struggle with all HIS energy. He’s the one supplying it- not me. And, at the same time that I’m toiling, HE is powerfully working His energy, IN ME. 

Casting myself on Him doesn’t mean I give up and wait for Him to do it all.

His eyes range to and fro over the whole earth. I’m toiling. His Spirit is at work within me. I’m yielding to the Spirit. His supernatural energy supplies what my human willpower cannot do. In this economy of grace, He works His  holiness in me, day by day, hour by hour, as I submit myself to Him and trust in HIM to change my heart.

Heart_YellingI don’t want to just have a mountaintop camp-like experience. Like Isaiah, I want live in the awareness of God’s holiness and purity and my own need for Him. I want His energy flowing through me, changing me from the inside out.

  • What do you see in your heart, as motivations for why you yell?
  • What is God doing in your heart, in this area of yelling?
  • Will you join me this week, trusting Christ to sanctify and change this part of our hearts, from the inside out? Toiling, with His energy at work in us?

Let’s do it!

Image courtesy of smokedsalmon/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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7 Responses

  1. Laura says:

    So how do I let Him help me BEFORE the yelling comes spewing out?! 😉

    • Jess Connell says:

      First, did you read last week’s post? —> http://jessconnell.com/stress-yelling-and-sin/ If not, go back and read that one because I think it explains the thinking that sets up this one.

      Because what I am finding about myself is that I have to address my heart and motives FIRST. It is tempting to want to just *STOP* *THE* *YELLING*. And so we focus on the behavior… just gritting our teeth and WILLING ourselves to STOP! IT! NOW!!! So then we are (essentially, more or less) yelling at and shaming ourselves into stopping yelling and shaming. See the irony?

      And I have tried that method before. And ultimately, still failed to stop yelling in anger.

      Instead I am noticing and addressing those sinful *heart* issues– seeing my motives and goals and desires in the full light (not letting them hide in corners). By thinking rightly about, and feeling with increasing intensity, the sinfulness of yelling in anger at my kids, by praying and making it my uppermost concern (i.e., placing reminders throughout my house), by confessing my sin to them wholeheartedly and repenting, it is changing my heart. By that I mean, I still have those same uprisings of my heart- I still *WANT* to yell, but because I have spent time thinking about those triggers and what is in my heart, it makes me NOTICE what I’m really wanting & seeking when I am tempted to yell. Does that make sense?

      That’s where I’m at right now, and why I’m writing and sharing with others, because I’m noticing something different happening in my HEART because I’m not simply focusing on my behavior. God is changing my heart, and it affects my behavior, rather than me trying to strong-arm my behavior into changing and expecting it to eventually reach in and (through the strength of my will and the magnitude of my shame) somehow change my heart.


      • Laura says:

        Yes, this does make a lot of sense! I really want to start seeing my yelling for what it is. I really appreciate this series and the fresh perspective.

  2. Christy says:

    I really appreciate these posts about yelling. I’m going to put some of these verses on cards around the house to remind me of God’s help and strength. This post also reminded me of a Revive Our Hearts broadcast last year with Paul David Tripp on anger. I found it so helpful. You can listen to it at ReviveOurHearts.com. Just search for Paul Tripp; there are three broadcasts. Another excellent resource!

    • Christy says:

      Another good verse I just remembered – “The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.” Ecc. 9:17

  1. November 10, 2014

    […] talked about yelling before here.  I’ve made it no secret that yelling has been a struggle for me as a mom… but I have also increasingly found self-control and “success” in […]

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