when sorry isn’t enough…

Oct 22, 2013

One of my favorite people in our home these days is my littlest guy, Knox. Oh, he is such a joy and his smile lights up a room.

The other day he & I snuggled in his plush rocking chair. As he reached for his soft blankie and then yanked his hand back, his tiny little elbow knocked me in the chin. Of course it didn’t hurt, but involuntarily I let out a little “uh” sound. Upon hearing sweet Knox took out his paci, looked at me and said, “Sorry”.Oh. my. lanta. Did I hug him big. Precious.

Saying “sorry” is officially his new trick.

Of course, he doesn’t fully grasp the concept of asking for forgiveness. And I’m pretty sure he associates getting hurt with saying sorry.

Exhibit A) in the backyard he pushed the swing away from him, but (given the 2nd law of thermodynamics) the swing made a return flight and hit him (gently) in the face to which he responded, “Sorry”.

Exhibit B) in the bathtub he pushed his big brother’s head into the side of the tub and said “Sorry”…but then proceeded to push his brother’s head into the tub a second (“sorry”) and third (“sorry”) time.

In the last example, even if he was sorry for hitting his brother’s head against the tub, the behavior didn’t stop.

This is where I get personal…believe me this isn’t a topic that brings warm fuzzies. This post won’t go viral, but its necessary to discuss if we aim for God-centered mothering. You ready?

In studying John the Baptist as he prepared the Israelites for Jesus’ ministry I was reminded of an important distinction. My Bible Study Fellowship study notes asked me to define the words: “confession” and “repentance”. Despite a lifetime in church and great Christian education, I struggled in that moment to describe the words differently. Don’t they both mean you are sorry?

Apparently not…

Confession is admitting a sin has been committed (saying ‘sorry’). Repentance means turning away from the sin towards God.

Repentance doesn’t mean ‘try harder.’ It is a turn in the opposite direction, so your whole life turns toward God as its central goal.

One Sunday morning the sermon focused on “no shame in admitting sin”. My boys modeled unashamed ownership. Without pause Quade wrote down his biggest struggle on the small slip of red paper. Then he asked if we could join the others in line and nail the paper to a cross. Given his quick conviction, I stood in line holding a blank piece of paper, knowing what I needed to write but resisting.

Once I scribbled the word, “yelling”, I heard Price behind me asking, “What did you write, Quade? What did you write, Mommy?”

Right there in the church aisle I confessed the sin to my boys.

Of course, they already knew. Because after every “flip out” moment, I try to apologize and ask for their forgiveness…confessing my sin.

But here is the kicker…do I just keep saying ‘sorry’ without any attempts to stop this pattern?

In studying Matthew and the concept of repentance I was convicted continually confessing isn’t enough. In order to honor God and live a life focused towards Him, I have to turn away from my habit of yelling and trust Him in those moments I’m tempted to “lose it”.

The author of “Orange Rhino” (site written by a fellow 4 boy mom, helping moms to stop yelling) made this point in another way by saying, we find the ability to control ourselves when we’re out in public. Not wanting to look like a “bad mom” motivates self-control. Why can’t I apply that same control when I am in front of our children? The most important audience.

Shouldn’t I care more about what my children think than strangers at a grocery store? These boys are my primary ministry right now and I can do 3 million things right…pumpkin patches, healthy meals, Bible stories, bedtime prayers, back scratches…and sabotage the good with my unharnessed anger.

(to be clear I’m not saying we can every be perfect mothers, but if I am saved by grace and my sins have been paid for, they no longer rule over me. I have a choice to walk away from sin and toward God. Yes, sin will always be my adversary to life God has for me. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can will be victorious in our daily battles.) 

Like most of my posts on this blog, this in my personal conviction on yelling. But we all have a “thing” and I have to tell you, we are all called to repentance…

Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…’ (Acts 2:38)

Repentance isn’t something to make us feel bad or to give us more work. It’s the gospel…seeking a better way…God’s way. Turning towards Him. There is the initial repentance and turning towards God and then there is the daily decision. Because (even though this was written to Jews before Christ’s death on the cross, it’s still true today)…

‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:15)

 “Sorry” to hit you between the eyes with this one on a Tuesday, but believe me, the hard stuff gets us to the good stuff.

Can I be praying for you in this area? Feel free to comment below or email me.



  1. Christy

    …and I thought it was just me with a yelling problem. This post hits close to home. Would love prayers and tips/ strategies for when in “the moment”

    • Ashley

      Christy, the ‘Orange Rhino’ link in the post is a whole site devoted to tips/tricks/strategies/sharing ideas/etc. for finding other ways of not yelling or losing our cool at our kids. They also have a FB page you can join. 🙂

    • Heather MacFadyen

      girl…you are totally not alone. definitely check out the orange rhino site. She gives some great tips on being proactive and ways to really “attack” the problem. Also lots of accountability and emotional support. We are going to turn away…we can do this with God’s strength alone.

  2. jenniferkindle

    Hey. Although this post “may not go viral,” it has completely infected my heart. Thank you for these words. The timing is God’s affirmation for me this early morning. I keep teaching my kiddos not to react to their sibling but to respond to God and yesterday when 2/4 of my children decided to be less than desired, I reacted to them in full force!!! Late last night my 9 year old brought me a LONG letter of telling me how much he loved me, asking if I could forgive him but his last sentence is what grabbed me. He said, “will you please forgive me, because I need forgiven!!” God immediately whispered, “it’s you that needs forgiving…let me forgive you.”
    So…just thank you for this post. They are my most important audience, thanks for the reminder.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Thank you Jennifer for your words of encouragement and camaraderie…although I don’t wish this struggle on anyone, good to know I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing your story. Love your heart friend!

  3. Ashley

    Thank you for this post! Of all the times I’ve said ‘sorry’ or the kids have said ‘sorry’ I can honestly say that the whole idea/concept of repentance (turning from sin) doesn’t come up nearly as much as it should in our household.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      right? my own conviction has definitely trickled down to training my boys. If we see a consistent problem, lots of “I’m sorry”s for the same offense…perhaps we need to work towards turning away from that behavior in a more targeted way. bless you and have a great day!

  4. Emily

    Oooh. So good. I make sarcastic comments and that’s definitely my sorry I make with my mouth and not my heart. Thanks for this.

  5. Jacki Rucksdashel

    This is so good! I think I have a tendancy in my parenting and my own belief system to encourage “trying harder.” It is just so natural for me, but it’s in vain. This was a great reminder that only He can change those areas of sin in our lives, and what incredible power we have for those of us who love Him and believe in Him.

  6. Julie Reynolds

    Loved this post Heather! I was a yeller also when my children were littles. It took a whole lot of prayer and lots of Jesus to finally break this cycle for me. Praying for you as you do this mother thing – you make it look easy!

  7. Joy

    Good stuff, so true! I struggle with losing it far too often. Praying for all you lovely ladies!! Pray for me too please.

  8. Missy Barrett

    Thanks for this, even though you did hit me right between the eyes!! 🙂 Our kids…our most important audience!!

  9. cassie

    I actually grew up with a mom who yelled and hit, and then she would say she was sorry…and the next day she would do it all over again, blaming me for pushing her to do it, and the apologizing for the behavior. I went through it with my dad as well. In middle school , my dad went too far and left a fist size bruise on my leg, my mom left with us, but then returned the next day. My dad never hit me again. Yelled, got in my face intimidated me yes, but never hit. My mom though the pattern continued, until I moved out and in with my boyfriend at 21( She punched me, for not obeying her (I was studying for a big exam, while she wanted me to clean my room, I told her I would once I was done studying and that wasn’t good enough, she threatened to throw my belongings out, I tried to block her from my room by going into my room and leaning up against the door, I opened the door for a second, and she punched me. I felt I was choosing the lesser of two evils). It’s difficult to accept grace, when it was never shown to you by the ones who should teach you about it. It’s even harder to try to teach grace to your children, when you know little about it yourself. I have taken to moving my child to his room, and than removing myself from his room when either of our emotions get to big for us. I do not like yelling, I do not like spanking, neither is effective, and can have lasting damage to our children, including their relationship with God. Thank you for sharing your struggles with us, and giving me hope that I am making the right choice for my family.

  10. Vimbayi

    Thank-you so much; this challenged me to repent in all areas of my life & stop giving excuses for bad behaviour 😀

  11. kasmith03

    Ugh – I hate that I can relate to so many things here. Hate that I am a yeller….that I explode at my kids too quickly, that they just don’t want their mama to be angry. I pray about it and nothing changes. I will check out the site you mentioned and will be praying for both of us. I know in my heart it isn’t honoring God and I want the words that I write in my own space to match the reflection of my heart! Thank you for being brave and sharing this struggle!! Kristin

  12. Stephanie Rische

    Such powerful words. You’re a wise mama!


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