I have confession to make. I have sworn less than ten times in my life, audibly. However, if you could check inside my head you’d hear many bad words. In fact, sometimes I don’t say anything at all because the only word that seems appropriate is inappropriate (stubbed my toe hard today and the nail came off. That was such a moment). There are so many times when I want to swear but I chose not to.
Here’s the thing. In the world of bad things saying a word that has been put on the list of bad words literally centuries ago falls pretty low on my list. Its kind of like wearing an orange shirt. I think it is ugly and unpleasant but it’s just a shirt. Ok maybe it’s a little worse than an orange shirt as there is no cultural stigma about orange. I’m just saying that using a word doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.
That said, I still chose not to. Why?
Because my goal in life is to be righteous. It is not good enough for me to be ‘not that bad’. . I want to be obedient and God has asked us to watch our language. In fact, it was important enough to God that He put it as #3 in the 10 commandments. ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ is #6! That’s interesting!
‘Why would our language be important to God?’ I asked myself many times and I’m not entirely sure why, but our language is how we interact with God. It is our gateway to inspiration and all other good things. If this basic form of communication is sullied than how can He get through? It’s certainly going to be more difficult that’s for sure.
Also, a unbridled tongue shows a lack of self control on the most beginning level. How are we to control such stronger urges as lust, anger, envy and bitterness if we cannot control our words? Such basic self-control is the fundamental step in becoming a full disciple of Christ.
So am I offended when other people use bad language? Yes and no. As I said, I don’t think it is that big of a deal. Certainly I would rather hear a filler swear word than something that is truly demeaning or degrading of a class of people, race, sex, or any other person. You can definitely be much more offensive without cussing than with.
In addition, actions really do speak louder than words. If you are a kind, charitable person who has an unruly tongue I will forget your words quickly enough. If you are unkind and cruel what words you use will not matter to me in the least. This goes for actual people and those I meet through literature, film or other fictional medium.
However, if I had my druthers I would prefer people didn’t speak that way and that movies, books etc were cleaner. I know it’s not a big deal but I don’t feel like it usually does much for the characters and creates a barrier for my enjoyment of the character (or getting to know a person).
Most of the time I wish no barrier was there and I could just dive in. Occasionally it does seem to fit a situation or personality but most of the time I think it is superfluous.
It can also be disrespectful when you use a culturally identified offensive word. If I go to another country the swear words may be entirely different and if I use those words it shows a disrespect for their culture and feelings. This is probably by accident but in general I respect people enough to try and use uplifting words where possible. I also didn’t grow up in a house where such language was used ever.
A good example is the movie Ruby Sparks. It is a sweet story about a man with writer’s block who’s character, Ruby, comes alive in his apartment one morning. I would love to recommend this film to my friends but sadly I cannot because most of them are more picky about language than myself. The language in the film does nothing for character development or the story. It’s just there and that is a downer.
I don’t really understand why a writer (screenwriter, novelist etc) would chose to ostracize a portion of your audience by including such language. What does it give you in the end? Again, some films and books I can understand the need for that type of language but a light fluffy romantic fantasy it feels so out of place.
Sometimes I feel like the whole hipster movement is tied to profanity. That a movie like Ruby Sparks to be independent and chic has to include that kind of language otherwise it isn’t edgy enough for such crowds. Do you guys see that happening?
Anyway, swearing or being profane may not be the biggest sin in the world but my goal is to avoid big and small sins where possible. I want to speak in a way that allows me to feel God’s spirit and direction in my life. I need it and if using a different word will help me get it than sign me up! 🙂
Plus, I want other people to know that I am a follower of Christ. I was a missionary 10 years ago, and I am still one today. It is going to be much harder to share the benefits of the gospel or for people to even know of my faith if I am using words that are universally regarded as cuss words.
At the least it creates an unnecessary barrier for a friendship and since there are other words to easily use I do so or keep my mouth shut. .But again, that is just my choice and I’m not really that offended by those who choose differently.
I may not choose it for entertainment but I love people regardless of how they talk.In the end it is just about obedience. I’d love to hear your feedback on this- why do you think God cares about the way we speak? Does it matter?
What’s your opinion on swear words? In pop culture? Media, relationships etc? What do you think about censorship of said words? I go back and forth on that one but mostly against.
Also, if I use a substitute swear word like ‘Son of a gun’ instead of ‘son of a….’ is that any better? I don’t know. I have used substitute swears before but I try to avoid those where possible too.Would love your thoughts on this one but no cussing allowed in the comments!
8 thoughts on “Why I Dont Cuss”
Portrayal of contemporary realism by basing all dialogue on profanity and obscenity is heavy-handed, and panders to the lowest common denominator. Excess expletives quickly lose their emphasis value: It doesn’t take long before the four-letter words begin to blur, like overlapping graffiti on a ghetto wall.
I think one reason for the proliferation of potty-mouthed prose is because usage gurus turned against adverbs and adjectives, saying that they must be slashed from manuscripts; otherwise the writing would be labeled maudlin, old-fashioned, “purple prose.” But by excising the enrichment of those parts of speech, nothing was left but the language of the gutter: “turning the air blue” with “colorful” speech, in the original sense of the sayings.
I tried to use such expressions judiciously in “Irish Firebrands.” It was a matter of character development: the important, named characters with speaking roles each used different approaches to cursing or swearing during times of stress. One used only G-rated euphemisms; two occasionally profaned the name of Deity; one exhibited immaturity by acting out that included bad language and worse behavior; and one swore an oath in the last chapter. The rest of them, named or unnamed, didn’t cuss at all.
All good points. Thank you for sharing your experience in writing and I think you are probably right about the editors. Using the profane language does feel like a cheap way to make literature or media ‘edgy’ without altering plot, story or characters. I always appreciate it when I can read a book or see a movie that doesn’t have that kind of language. I probably ignore more than I should but I always prefer it isn’t there.
It does seem like a small matter, a few words, so I think it’s an interesting question to ask why it seems so important to God. I don’t know all the answers but I enjoy the discussion.
The most entertaining oaths and curses I ever read are those which issued from the mouth of General Jean Dessalines (in French and English) in “Lydia Bailey,” a historical novel by Kenneth Roberts. I have no idea what Dessalines was really like, but Roberts certainly portrayed him colorfully. Here’s a sample of the General’s vitriolic verbiage:
You horned animals
Pick up your feet, you insects
You one-legged dogs!
Sons of goats, fathers of pigs, brothers of cats!
You animals without milk!
You species of mules!
Son of a female goat by a little gray monkey
Mer de merde
Fimié pice! Flea manure!
Kakamacaque! Monkey manure!
Who told you all this kakacochon
That fimié sec, that mer’ de mouton
The smallest piece of fimié sec on a donkey’s backside
Fifteen dried pieces of manure on a monkey’s backside!
(There are twenty more, and they’re very creative, but they’re also profane.)
Thanks for keeping it clean. Interesting topic to think about. Language is always interesting
As far as your own speaking what do you think about these types of words- no big deal or important to omit them?
I was not raised in that kind of verbal environment, and I can recall hearing my father use a euphemism only once: “Aw, rats!” (He was fixing the washing machine, at the time.) I also remember when he and my mother visited me at college, and a youth standing in front of us in the queue to the chow hall was using every four-letter word known to man. My father confronted him: “Do you MIND? My wife and daughter are here!”
It was the same in my house. I have never heard my Mother swear ever. My father only a couple times. My parents are the type that get quiet when they are upset not vocal.
I’ve gotten the feeling that its an easy habit to get into if you let it slip. I can just tell when I’m tempted that if I allowed myself to do it I’d do it a lot. We all have our bad habits so I get when people do swear. Like I said in the world of bad choices it’s pretty minor but I’m glad I don’t.