I’m a Christian who cusses a little. Not a lot, or even every day, but every now and then bad words pop out before I even realize I’m going to say them. You know the ones. Those 4 letter words like shit, damn, hell and yes, the f-bomb too.
Remember when they’d get us popped in the mouth before the word scarcely left our lips? I used to feel so bad every time one slipped out, but now I seem much more casual about the occurrence. I guess I’ve reached a point where those bad words just don’t bother me that much anymore.
I imagine my point of view will worry some. Many of you cringed as you read the first paragraph, wondering where in the world I’m going with this line of thinking. In all honesty, I am too. This is a path I’ve not gone down before. But I seem to be doing that a lot these days, as I peel back the layers of what we – meaning me and you – have so neatly wrapped up as our Christian lives.
I guess I’m in a season of making the main thing the main thing, and for me that no longer includes beating myself or anyone else up about using bad words.
Are they crass? Perhaps…maybe even unladylike too. Our culture has so vilified their use that any reference to them automatically sets up a perception in the minds of others that you are low-class, and have no self-control. My Mom used to say those words were also a sign of a limited vocabulary. Mayhap that’s true as well. After all, the English language offers us any number of ways to get our point across. Which makes me wonder, why were these particular words chosen as our bad words?
Over the last few weeks I’ve been so disheartened by the culture of hate that is permeating the fabric of our country. The vitriolic rhetoric bandied about regarding anyone who is different, or in some way deemed deficient, has in my opinion reached an all time high. What used to be said in secret is now shared freely in public, perceived as fact, and repeated by those who refuse to seek out truth for themselves. These have become my bad words.
…Words that hurt others, in hopes of making ourselves appear better.
…Words that are judgmental, perpetuating lies and prejudice.
…Words that are discouraging, minimizing our potential and possibilities.
…Words that are selfish, completely overlooking the need to serve others.
…Words that are rooted in hate, for God, ourselves and each other.
These are the bad words I am bothered by. They may not contain a single cuss word, but they lack the most important of 4-letter words: love. Whether spoken to ourselves or each other, they are infinitely more damaging than the words we were taught as children should never be said.
Call me crazy, but maybe it’s time we redefined “bad words” to mean words that perpetuate hate. Can you imagine what it would be like if when someone made a disparaging comment about someone else you said, Oooooo, you said bad words. Or if instead of saying please don’t cuss around me, we’d stop people and ask – hey, would you mind not being so negative? I’m uncomfortable when people use those bad words.
How would the world change if we really addressed the mess dropping from our lips? If we stopped focusing on trivial things like 4-letter words, and instead placed our attention on doing no harm? I can’t help but believe if more of us policed that kind of chatter – from ourselves and each other – our communities would be a much more pleasant place to live.
So what am I saying? Should we embrace a culture of cussing? Probably not. Just because I’m not vilifying it doesn’t mean I recommend it. First and foremost, despite my liberated views those words still offend other people. For that reason alone we should all try to curb their use. Second, it’s just not a good look. In my personal branding class one of the tips I share is to eliminate profanity from your social media. It’s a red flag for recruiters and may very well be the reason you don’t get a job in the future.
Now I’m sure many of my Christian friends are probably wondering why I didn’t address what it says in the Bible – to avoid “foul or abusive language.” Well of course I’m all for that too, but what really is foul or abusive language? I believe we get a clue of the true intent of the passage based on what it says next: “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Sounds like if we’re really going to do it God’s way we’ll need to expand our definition of “bad words,” so that we stop the hate and negativity spewing from our mouths, and instead edify, uplift and inspire.
So often in life we focus on the inane and unimportant, while the critical issues of our time go unaddressed. But here’s the thing – if we don’t lead the way, who will? Let’s be game changers, by committing to eliminate “bad words” from our conversation, and instead affirm each other with our speech, attitudes and actions.
Together we can create more peaceful and loving communities. Are you up for the challenge?
Hugs and Love ♥