I started my senior year of college last week. (Whoa!) I walked into my first class ready to watch movies and learn about script analysis. My professor anxiously waited for us to take our seats and began his typical “Welcome to my wonderful class” speech at exactly 1:00pm. He was eager. After singing a cheesy rendition of “Call Me Maybe” he mentioned that we would not be assigned much homework. The student sitting next to me sarcastically shouted, “dammit.” The class erupted in laughter. Everyone but me applauded while we waited for our instructor’s remarks. Immediately after, it began. He said, “Oh, and by the way, I curse a lot. If anyone ever feels offended please pull me aside and talk to me, but you should know that I can’t get through a class without cursing.” You can’t get through a class? I thought. You didn’t care to start until one of your students felt the need to.
This was but one of the many recent situations that has prompted me to explore the phenomenon of profanity. Similar to most people, I was prohibited from cursing as a child. Although I sometimes heard my parents and other adults exchanging the forbidden phrases, I knew that my life would end early if I dared experimenting.
As a “grown” woman who is now capable of analyzing my past phases of rebellion, I decided to do a little research on the origin of the words that made me seem so cool and defiant in secondary school. As expected, I found that most modern curse words stem from old, regular words, sometimes from other languages, whose meanings have evolved for various reasons with time. While some may argue that the origins of curse words are absolutely essential in determining the accepted or shunned use of them, I beg to differ.
At this point I don’t think it matters if the words started off “bad” or not. The fact that radio and television networks, professional organizations, and even comedy shows are censoring language gives serious weight to words such as s***, f***, and b****. When we hear a job interviewer, teacher, or other authoritative figure curse for the first time, we are immediately caught off guard. Whether or not we approve, it surprises us. Why?
Similar to visible tattoos, there is an inherent stigma attached to the use of profanity. I am not going to speak for everyone in the world, but I know that when I hear a choice word slip from someone’s mouth I automatically assume that they are 1. not a Christian and 2. “out there.” Clearly, this is not the case and no, I do not believe that “real Christians” don’t curse, but I’ll get to that later. I use words to make assumptions about people. Since I cannot read hearts or minds, the words that come out of people’s mouths are all that I can use to understand their character, along with actions, of course.
Let’s be real, it is fun to curse. Have you ever felt that your joke or crazy story would sound much better with a few exaggerations and expletives? You are not alone. At a first glance, cursing is attractive. It earns you laughs that are not always deserved and has its way of making you feel accepted and relatable. The words we choose to use, however, are more than words, and I believe that the unawareness of this gravity is why so many people fall under the curse of cursing. The power of LIFE and DEATH is in the tongue. The earth did not magically appear because God thought it would be a good idea. He spoke earth into existence. Words are a huge deal!
One of my theme scriptures of this year is Ephesians 4:29 which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Yup, you guessed right. It’s Bible time. I, along with some of my friends, have accepted the challenge to hold EVERY word we speak to the standard of this scripture. I am constantly asking myself if what I am about to say is beneficial and uplifting. Furthermore, there are countless references in the Bible of the importance of words. Words are even described as a direct link to the heart. Matthew 12: 34 asks, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Propaganda said something in a poem that I will never forget: Sarcasm is the only time we tell the truth. (Forgive me if I misquoted.) We don’t always mean what we say, but there is no deceiving yourself once you finally say what you mean.
I could go in on the Word all day, but I will leave you with this:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. -James 3: 9-12
In our struggle with cursing, be it through our personal efforts to stop or in our support of others, let us remember to always approach our brothers and sisters with love. If you are fortunate enough to be free from this stronghold, be sure to never publicly shame. Let this be your ground rule in approaching friends and family who entertain foul language. And lastly, because of its public nature, it is easy to judge Christians who curse. However, we ALL fall short of the glory of God. Cursing is easier to catch, not easier to control.
If you are unsure about how to address difficult issues with the people you love, feel free to contact me and I will work with you to develop a delicate and effective plan. In the recent past, God has led me to speak to multiple issues, including cursing, that were holding my friends back from their destiny . I am pleased to say that when I finally got over my fears of confrontation and let God use me, He was able to do GREAT works in the lives of those around me.
Be blessed and PLEASE continue this dialog.