I use swear words while driving.
It feels slightly cathartic writing that…like it’s a true confession.
I actually use swear words more than just while I’m driving. My parents had a philosophy that words were just words…you just needed to know when it was socially acceptable to use particular words. They taught my brother and I to expand our vocabulary and to become selective in which words we chose to use. Words matter. And the meaning behind each word matters. It’s not enough to say “kind” when you really mean “considerate” or “gracious.” My parents taught me that the meaning behind each word is important and that the use of a particular word should be deliberate. They taught us that there was a need for cuss words, but that we should be selective when we used them. It’s a thought that I’ve carried my whole life.
And until this last week, I didn’t think much of it. You see, this last week my 7 year old gave me a vocabulary lesson.
I was driving and he was in the back seat. For whatever reason, I chose to use a particular word…and it’s one I chose specifically for it’s meaning. My son said, “Mama, you shouldn’t use that word…it’s a bad word.”
So I seized the opportunity. I thought to myself, “I have this wonderful teaching moment…I have a chance to be as amazing as my own parents!”
I replied to my son, “Buddy, there aren’t any bad words…there are just words that we associate with having bad meanings. When I use that word, does it hurt you?”
Very cautiously, very slowly, very guardedly, my little guy replied, “No….but I’m pretty sure it hurts God.”
Gut Punch to the Mama. Seriously, kid?!?!?! I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. What in the Sam-Hill am I supposed to say to that?!?!?! (See, I’m still struggling with swear word replacements!).
“You know what Buddy, you’re right. That probably does hurt God. I’ll do my best to stop saying those words.”
I have never subscribed to the thought that the Bible specifically bans the use of curse words. However, there are plenty of scriptures that discourage the use of profanity.
“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.” ~Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” ~2 Timothy 2:16 (NIV)
What I have always subscribed to is the thought that our mouths either build up or tear down. This is true for the Christian and for the non-Christian. Essentially, the words we choose can help or harm others.
This makes perfect sense when you consider how words impact your own day. As an example, imagine yourself stopping before work to get a coffee. Someone in line tells you that they love your hair. For nearly everyone, a compliment like that would automatically make you smile. It lifts you up. Yet if someone in the same line says something snarky or tells you to watch where you are going, you are automatically put on the defensive. You may react negatively or you may internalize the words. Either way, you aren’t smiling. You aren’t lifted up.
When considering building or tearing, I want to be a Godly woman who builds others up. Even in a moment of frustration, my use of curse words does not build anyone up. In fact, it caused my child to pause enough that he felt compelled to correct my behavior.
While I don’t believe that using profanity is the worst thing a human can do, I can agree that it is not glorifying to God. As a result of my parents encouraging an ever-growing vocabulary, I have a stockpile of other words I could choose to use when frustrated or angry. In order to become a “builder” of others, I want to glorify God with my word choices.
Like I told my little guy, I’m going to do my best to stop choosing those words.
“My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.” ~Psalm 35:28 (NIV)