Deep Thoughts on Swearing
I remember quite a few years ago when Gospel singer Sandi Patty was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was trying to get her to admit swearing, but she wouldn’t. Finally, he asked, “What would you say if you hit your thumb with a hammer?” She replied, “I’d probably yell my husband’s name very loudly!”
I’ve been around a lot of swearing in my day. There was no swearing around home (okay, there were a few instances with my dad and big brother), but I never heard much until I started school. In particular, riding the bus gave me quite an education in the fine art of cussing. I don’t know how Bus 19 compared to other school buses, but as an impressionable little elementary kid I learned a lot of new words while riding to and from Lincoln School. Once at school, the playground was another source of fertile ground for four-letter words kids couldn’t say around adults.
Although I started to hear a lot of naughty words, I didn’t swear. I had been taught that it was bad, and I didn’t want to be bad. Sadly, I have to admit that as I grew up I was known to utter some of those words, though never publicly.
I’ve spent time around some people who make swearing an art. They use cusswords like Shakespeare used the English language. Okay, that’s a really bad comparison…I once worked with a guy on a golf course who found it very difficult to complete a sentence without vulgarity. I once tried keeping a tally of how many times he swore per minute, but as is usually the case with something like that, he suddenly toned it down, as if he subconsciously knew I was counting.
So why do people swear?
In adolescence it’s a sign of “maturity,” just like trying cigarettes and alcohol. It also seems to form lifelong, unhealthy habits, just like smoking and drinking. So do adults regret their swearing addictions like most do with nicotine and alcohol addictions?
Is it anger? Are these people just so mad and frustrated with the world that they have no choice but to cuss to show their disdain for the status quo?
Maybe it’s a sheer lack of creativity. Some people use the “F-word” like Smurfs use the word “Smurf”: “That sure is smurfy!” It also reminds me of the “Backyardigans” episode where they go to Mars and learn that “Almost everything is ‘Boinga!’” Some people I know could sing, “Almost everything is the F-Bomb!”
Do you ever wonder if chronic swear-ers cuss when they’re all alone? Or do they only do it when there’s an audience?
It’s one thing when guys swear, but I really don’t understand why females swear. There are plenty of un-ladylike things to do, such as belching, but swearing may top them all. Why would a girl or woman want to be as ugly and unrefined as a guy? Don’t they realize they’re taking a huge step backwards?
Ultimately, it’s my observation that swearing is almost entirely a symptom of insecurity.
Anytime you’re around a bunch of boys (grown or un-), you’ll see a pathetic amount of posing. Guys will practically beat their chests and grunt in their attempts to avoid any sign of weakness. Bragging and know-it-all behavior are a huge part of this, but swearing is one of the most popular ways to appear manly. It requires no thought or skill—just drop a few F-bombs and you’re one of the guys. What a deal!
It’s really kind of pathetic and even sad. Does swearing make people feel better about themselves?
Some Christians I know will intentionally swear from time to time. The impression I get is that they’re trying to show their “street cred,” as if to say, “Just ‘cause I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I’m some little ninny!” I think it’s the opposite. It takes a lot more strength and maturity not to use those kinds of words than it does to use them.
I’ve become much more sensitive to swearing since having kids. Throughout my adulthood I used slang words that were basically second-tier cuss words. I peppered my speech with words like crap, sucks, and so forth. When the kids came along, I started to notice this. I told them to use their mouths for good, but I realized that, even though I wasn’t technically swearing, the intent of my heart was the same. There’s really no difference between furiously saying, “This frickin’ car won’t start!” and using the “real” F-word.
In telling my kids not to swear, I’ve also felt compelled to tell them why they shouldn’t use those words. Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 8:21), and it’s true that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34). I remember a rock guitarist I admire saying he doesn’t like swearing because it sounds like death to him. That really struck me.
Our words are powerful, and I tell my kids as much. I encourage them to use their words to speak life, not death. I never realized just how ingrained some of those words can become, and it’s been a challenge to clean up even my “second-tier” cuss words.
Well, it’s time to go. I’ve got a lot of <bleep> to do today!
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