I want to try something: QUIT YELLING!!!! Somehow, even in text, yelling is off-putting. Nobody likes to get yelled at, yet, it’s the means by which we often deploy each of the other weapons in this series (hurtful comments, bringing up unrelated past events, etc.). This installment of our examination of the rules for successfully communicating during conflict in relationships will explore why yelling is so poisonous.
Have you ever wondered why drill sergeants yell? Although I readily acknowledge that I’ve never been in the military, the reason is likely because the soldiers they’re training have no need for understanding what they’re doing. They simply need to obey. In fact, many of the tasks performed by recruits in basic training have no meaning other than to solidify the soldiers’ willingness to comply without question. The drill sergeants’ yelling indicates to them that negotiation or even an explanation are not options and can even elicit a physiological response that sabotages the soldiers’ ability to reason for themselves (i.e., being awoken abruptly by yelling).
As you may remember from the previous installments in this series, each broken rule indicates to our loved one that we’re not interested a) in their needs being met in that moment or b) even interested in the idea of having a relationship with them. Yelling is similar in that, even if there is nothing sinful about the words said with a raised voice or even if we are responding to being yelled at ourselves, the underlying message of our harsh words to our loved one is clear…that we will have it our way. Just as soldiers respond to their drill sergeant’s hollering with basic obedience, this is also the response we ultimately hope to get from our loved one. This begs the question, however: how does this build up and give grace to those who hear our words as Ephesians 4:29 commands? Of course, it doesn’t. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” So the brick we throw at them gets added to the wall they will want to build between us.
It would be foolishness to think that yelling is only problematic for the loved one hearing it or the relationship, though. It’s also toxic for the one doing the yelling. The harsh sound, loud volume, abrasive feeling in our throat, and amount of air it takes to yell all edge us closer and closer to becoming momentarily brain-damaged. When our breath becomes rapid, we introduce pain to our throat and ears, and our heart rate increases our brain responds by preparing for survival (to run or fight), not to make decisions that actively promote relationships. Again, even if you don’t begin by using sinful words, when you start yelling it won’t be long at all until your “tongue is…set on fire by hell” (James 3:6) and your “…anger causes much transgression” (Proverbs 29:22).
Ultimately, it’s our anger we must control as this is where the need to yell is born, and the Bible has much to say about angry Christians. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” (Romans 12:19) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31) “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9) In the next part of this series, we’ll discuss strategies for making sure that our anger does not cause us to sin against our loved one.