A Really %*#@ Great Bl*g Post

July 9, 2010

I’m going to make an admission.  At home, I’m sometimes a little bit of a potty mouth. 

I remember my first day in public middle school.  My delicate virgin ears were burning by second hour, having heard words I never knew existed.

Now, it just doesn’t bother me like it used to.  I don’t swear loudly in public or in front of elders or children and I don’t care for people who do.  But swearing in movies or with friends just doesn’t get me all hot and bothered like it does some people. 

The other day, I was reading a blog about taking God’s name in vain.  The post’s point was we’ve lost what should be a huge offense it should be to misuse God’s name.  It was a good post, though I wasn’t quite sure I agreed with everything, but that got me thinking about what I think about swearing in general.

We practically can’t help but cuss

Even if you’re a complete teetotaller when it comes to swear words, chances are you have a few choice exclamations you use.  Guess what?  If you fall down the stairs and repeatedly shout “sugar bricks!” people still know you’re swearing.  When they dub over cuss words in movies, we all know what they’re saying.  Any ten year old watching a TV movie knows they aren’t really saying “French toast” or “melon farmer.” 

I always had a laugh as a teacher at this kid in my class who would get mad, and he’d want to swear, but he’d bleep himself.  He’d literally say “bleep.”  Sometimes there’d be a whole string of bleeps to let us know he was really bleeping mad.  Sometimes he’d write a cuss word.  One time he typed “butt” into Google.  

But if you aren’t ten years old and you write swear words, but censor yourself, you’re just lame.  If you want to swear, then stop using swear words like a preteen girl.  It’s not like taking the v*wels out of w*rds st*ps people from kn*wing what y*u’re saying.  No one reads “d*mn” and says, “Gee, I don’t know what that means, but thank you for not sullying my pristine Christian mind with your dirty words.”  Same with the whole “h-dash-dash-dash” thing.  You’re not fooling anyone.  Even if I typed a bunch of random symbols, I’d still look like a %*#@ loudmouth.  See?

But then there’s the people for whom substitute swear words are offensive.  “We all know that ‘freaking’ is just another ‘F’ word, so it’s still a bad word.”  Come on.  If we replaced ‘freaking’ with another word, you’d still know it was a substitute for the substitute.  Plus, someone who gets offended that easily risks looking like a cotton-headed ninnymuggins.  Words are only obscene if we say they are.  I can write the word “bloody” with no dashes and not blink, though it’s worse than the ‘F’ word to Brits.

What bugs me the most is when I’m having a perfectly good time with a new acquaintance, and then he finds out I’m a pastor, so he starts cleaning up his language, or even apologizes, like I’m going to tattle on him to God like a third grader telling the teacher.

If that’s what God meant, He wasted a commandment

Okay, about taking God’s name in vain.  I still try not to do this too much, but I will admit that I have petitioned God numerous times to curse bad drivers, missing keys, screws and nails, pizza boxes that won’t fit in the fridge, pickle jars, drawers that are too full to close, slow moving people, stop lights, snow, cabinet doors, and dog poop, to name a few things.  Traffic and inanimate objects are the bane of my existence.  I think it’s funny that on TV, anyone can say “God” and “d*mn” (see, it’s still stupid looking), but when they’re stuck together, it has to be bleeped. 

It’s not like I’m telling you that you should start talking up a blue streak, but for the love of Larry, if God spent a whole commandment to tell us not to say “Oh my God,” that’s a waste.  If you’re only going to hand out ten basic rules, are you really going to spend 10% of your rule-making on when and when not to say you’re name?  I don’t think God would do that. 

And if I just lost you, you’ll see where I’m going next…

Christians take God’s name in vain the most

When people say “Oh my God,” they don’t even think about it.  Sure, it’s rude.  But what does it really mean to take God’s name in vain?  I think God gets way more P.O.ed (cuss word ititials are dumb too) from Christians who sincerely take his name in vain.  How do we do it?  By showing up to church and praising him while we curse our neighbors.  By sincerely asking God to do things that He has said he won’t do.  By creating a false idol and calling it “God.”  By worshipping God so He’ll give us more stuff.  By calling ourselves “Christians,” which has the name of God in it, and not acting like we follow Christ.  And God’s up there saying, “Holy shrimpcakes, you’ve got to be kidding.”

When it comes to cussing, maybe it’s not the words that come out of a man’s mouth that’s wrong, but the cause of it in his heart.  If I can get so mad at the ATM that I let out a string of curse words at it, something is wrong with my emotions, and my mouth is just a symptom. 

But instead of doing the hard thing by not asking God for stupid crap that’s bad for us, or getting our emotions under control, we do the easy thing and tell some new Christian that now that he’s a Christian he’ll need to stop swearing and “talk nice” so he doesn’t offend the delicate sensibilities of other Christians.  We get riled up about non-Christians using the word “God.”  But when you realize that Christians are the biggest abusers of God’s name, you know that we should really shut the smurf up because we don’t have any place being offended.

Great graham crackers.

What’s your policy on naughty words?  Are they just words?  Are they never to be spoken?  Or should we be looking at a bigger problem than what comes out of our mouths?

66 responses to A Really %*#@ Great Bl*g Post

  1. this is a muddaeffin good post to think about, because for the most part, what you said is true for most people (not all, but a definite good majority).

    i run/host a sports night at our church gym every week where 90% are non-Christians and thus typically have a more colourful language than people like me and will curse. i always try to remind them its a family place and i will warn them if they continue to bleep this, bleep me, bleep’s sake that…..but when i’m by myself….i say the same things…..

    so in the end, i’m just a big fat hypocrite. and i honestly sometimes cannot fathom God’s loving grace and mercy upon me. sigh.

  2. I thought Jon was the only one with ‘Serious ….day’ posts!

    Good points. It is the attitude of the heart that comes out of the mouth. And we can all be so goody-goody with what we say or do, but what we really are is shown when we are under pressure.

    Ever hit your toe on the end of the bed in the middle of the night? Yes, I know that’s what toes are for (thank you Mark Lowry).

    I will admit to occasionally swearing (what the bloody hell were you thinking/doing is usually as bad as I get), but the main two ‘swear’ words (frustration/pain/pressure) tend to be ‘crumbs’ and ‘far out’.

    Words are just words, though there are some that make me cringe, mainly because they are so over-used (like every second sentence in conversations) that they really lose their meaning and shock value and, to me, just aren’t necessary.

    I would rather be a flawed Christian who occasionally swears ‘real’ swear words, that a ‘white-washed sepulchre’ looking good on the outside, but full of worms on the inside.

  3. Love this post.
    I’ve had a similar conversation with my three teen sons and then I wondered why, because all kinds of language flew in our house :) But things balanced out again, after a few days, the “naughtiness” was gone, so it wasn’t as much fun anymore. In the process, we had some good conversation about the heart mattering more than their mouth and that saying or not saying certain words really didn’t matter.

  4. Why don’t all your friends put you out of your misery mr stupid! matt! gag gag gag! Your a bloody dead man walking. Get out of your narrow little world you live in and find a Real Church! You bloody headcase!

    • Amy, I don’t usually censor or delete comments, but even if your comment wasn’t a parade of offensiveness, it still didn’t seem to make sense. Maybe that was your point, I don’t know. But I honestly coudn’t figure out what you were trying to say. Feel free to try again.

      • You need to rethink your comment deleting policy…garbage like Amy’s spewing doesn’t belong on such a well-written, insightful post like this.

        Just my 2 cents.

  5. Lmao at shut the smurf up. Might use that or not. lol
    I agree that the heart is the place to start however i absolutely loathe [stronger word than hate] the f word.Please dont use it in a conversation with me, i think its just rude. On of my very good friends was talking to me and going on n on about an ‘f-ing’ world cup team. So i said would you please stop and he goes thats how i talk, you either like it or you dont. But i pointed out that he would speak like that in front of his business partners or kids so that cant be ‘how he talks’. He shut up after that 😀

    As to the comments above…she needs to shut the smurf up, in christian love of course…weeehoooo

  6. I don’t cuss any more with one exception, I do not even replace words for cussing, it is something I realized when I was 19 that I didn’t use those words in front of pastors or teachers or many other people and it didn’t slow down my intent in conversation, so I stopped. The only time I use profanity is in jokes, because there are some jokes that are too funny and lose something if you clean it up. A lot of times it points to how ignorant the individual in the joke’s story is.
    Also I didn’t quit cussing because it was frowned on by anyone, I realized I thought of people as less intelligent if they resorted to cussing and couldn’t communicate their frustration and/or pain without it. So I decided I need to set the example for how I think the world would be best off. This may all sound very arrogant, something I am accused of commonly, by people who don’t know me. In actuality I am speaking the exact thoughts that run through my mind, without censoring them to make people feel better. Am I arrogant, most likely, but then again am I speaking my true thoughts, yes I am. Am I doing it to hurt or wound anyone, no I am not. Will the truth of my thoughts some times hurt others, most assuredly, because I am not perfect and neither is the language I rely on to communicate.
    Since I quit using profanity it has been a real struggle to get over thinking less of others because they resort to it, but God has placed one individual in my life who cusses without worrying about the consequences except in social situations where it would be frowned on by all. Not sure why that stops them but it does. I am almost always frustrated by this individual, and have wondered when they don’t seem to get my level of frustration in certain situations, that maybe if I let a blue-streak fly they might get it.
    I do not think I will go back to incorporating profanity in to my vocabulary on a common or semi-common basis, but I am working on not expecting the world to act like my perception of how a Christian should be, and as a result am working through the fact that not all Christians are at the same maturity level as the rest. I mean there are things I struggle with that I am sure everyone else would tell me to just grow up and get over it too. It is part of working through our faith as God sees it to fit us, and how we will be put in position to impact His plan.
    I feel like I have rambled all over the place, hopefully my thoughts have made sense, and has caused me to grow more, even if it has no impact on anyone else.

  7. Hi. My name is Shawn. I’m a pastor and I swear. I don’t swear out loud or when anyone is around (except my wife from time to time), but I do swear. I use the bad words, too. But what is worse? Those who use naughty words or those who gossip and stab others in the back? Those who swear from time to time or those who curse their neighbors or fellow Christians? “I may gossip about anyone and everyone, but at least I don’t say, ‘OMG!'” What a self-righteous load of bull snot! We get so legalistic with things like this and fail to see the ugly sin in our lives. At least I don’t swear! Yeah, but you lust after every teenage girl in the youth group, you lecherous perv! I don’t say, “OMG!” But you verbally and emotionally abuse your children! Great thoughts, Matt. Especially about how Christians take God’s name in vain the most. Brilliant!

  8. This is a great post. I don’t swear in conversation. I grew up being taught it was wrong. However, I grew up and came to the same realizations that you covered in this post–words are only worth the value we place in them.

    However, that being said, I still don’t do it usually. It’s more out of habit than not. I am not offended by conversational swearing with the exception of using the f word as an adjective, noun, verb, and adverb in every. single. sentence. That just indicates a lack of creativity! Seriously…it’s overuse these days kills me.

    I laughed when you talked about tv censoring. I find it funny that anyone can say “ass” on tv but when it is followed by “hole” the “hole” gets bleeped. It cracks me up everytime. Mainly I think because I always thought the “ass” was the “bad” part of the word. (sorry for the invasion of quotation marks, but rereading the paragraph, I think they are all appropriate).

  9. I think we all have an internal gauge by which we judge other’s intelligence automatically. For me, cursing causes an instant deduction in the person’s perceived I.Q.

  10. Having grown up in a home where we were forbidden to use dirty words like “butt” or “fart”…my cursing vocubulary includes sayings like Holy Shishkabobs and What that what?!?! [courtesy of my life coach, Liz Lemon]. As bizarre as it sounds, I feel like a fake if I try to say the actual words!!! I think them all day long, but they sound so dumb coming out of my mouth…like I’m a nerdy mom trying to be cool [and I am…a nerdy mom]. Do I believe God doesn’t know I think them? Absoflinginglutely He knows! But I don’t believe He’s going to dang me to heck for it.

    Your posts are always great food for thought and I love this one, Matt!

    • I love you for recognizing that you’re just not a natural swearer!! It’s so awkward when people who don’t normally throw around cuss words do it to “fit in”. So much cooler to be who you are!! Your comment is super funny!!

  11. Thanks for the shout-out (“cotton-headed ninnymuggins”) but I’ve gradually embraced recovery. With three 30-somethings, I have no choice because wouldn’t God prefer I have relationships than to chastise my fellow man/woman/child for saying the words I hate? (I still despise the “f” word, though). I’m not going to say OMGoogle any more.

    So who’s Larry?

    Great post, Matt.

    • You’re not saying OMGoogle anymore? What about skanklicious and “what the french toast”? It’s like I don’t even know you anymore Candy…

  12. Seems to me that there are two classes of swear words—those dealing with anatomy or bodily functions, and those invoking God’s name or authority.

    The former words are mostly crass. If you think about what you’re actually saying, it all becomes rather ridiculous. I mostly avoid using them because I believe they are degrading—they make me look bad, and they may offend others. Besides, if you use all your swear words in everyday conversation, what can you say when you actually do stub your toe?

    The second list is another matter entirely. While invoking God’s name is much more common (and generally considered less offensive), doing so causes us to look at God as a mundane object rather than the Lord of Glory, King of Kings, and Holy God. Perhaps the reason the commandment seems “wasted” is because we’ve lost our fear of Him. Using His name in vain is disrespectful. Imagine someone using your name (or your son’s or daughter’s) as a swear word. God says don’t do it; we really have no excuse for ignoring His mandate.

    Your comments about our heart attitude are right on, but perhaps we should do (or not do) both?

    • Well said. I teach CCD, and that example of how we want our own name used is exactly what I use. “How would you like it if every time someone stubbed their toe, they screamed “OH MY LARRY! THAT WAS DUMB!”
      I like his point that our attitude and heart is important, but agree with you that both should be taken to heart.

  13. I swear. Kind of a lot.

    BUT. Never around kids, never around strangers, never in a professional situation, or when it might offend others. (with the exception of my blog, where the ball is in your court to read or not)

    Language is cultural. What offends one person may delight another. What turns one person away from my attempts to engage in friendship may entice another. In france, using foul language is like a form of art, and is to be expected from the hostess of the most elegant dinner party. In Costa Rica, it’s common language, almost like there are no “bad” words. Ask a four year old what he thinks of the National Soccer team and he might tell you “they’re bitches!”. Nobody cares. It’s just no that big of a deal.

    When we choose our words, every one of us is doing so out of deference to people, not God. We decide what is “good” and what is “bad” based on what we were raised to believe, taught by our pastors, how our friends speak, and what the MPA rating system tell us is PG, or whatever.

    I say, if you’re not comfortable with certain words, don’t use them. But don’t assume that means no one should use them. You’re not really asking the people around you to be more respectful to God, who isn’t bound by language or culture, but to you, and your VERY specific ideas of appropriateness.

    Sooooo anyway, great post, Matt!! I effing loved it. :)

  14. Great post. My Jewish friends’ understanding of this commandment relates to their understanding of themselves as being a people in covenant relationship with God. They have “taken the name of God”. THerefore, any behaviour of theirs that causes others (Gentiles) to think less of God, or to revile God, is breaking this commandment. Comes close to what you are saying – it’s not about the words as such. It’s about the consistency of life and witness.

  15. haha… I loved this! I discussed this not too long ago on my blog. I like to call the freakins and shoots gateway words.

    (see here for an explanation http://testingstuf.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/gateway-words/ )

    On a more serious note, I tend to agree with your view on taking God’s name in vain. Though I think we need to work on keeping his name holy, I think I agree that me saying omg is not really what that commandment was geared towards.

    Great post!

  16. Inasmuch as I believe that swearing in general is an indication of an empty mind, I try to employ more intelligent phraseology.
    (I used to tell the kids sent to the office for “cussing” that I know those words; I just don’t use them because they make me look stupid.)
    I believe your central point is spot-on. Your paragraph following “Christian take God’s name in vain the Most” is well-stated, completely accurate, and probably makes most of us squirm.

  17. Yes, yes, yes! Profanity is not taking God’s name in vain. We can certainly argue about whether or not it’s part of that whole Philippians 4:8 thing, but it’s definitely not taking God’s name in vain. I get a lot more upset when I see someone invoking God to push their pet project (well, unless I do it — then it’s perfectly legit, right?) than I do with someone dropping an f-bomb.

  18. I agree, for the most part, with this post. But the tail end of Colossians 3:8 seems to support self-censorship:

    “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.”

    It doesn’t matter if people think I’m substituting effin’ for f*in’. When I say, “Friggin’ A,” I mean, “friggin’ a.” I may have the same frustrated quality behind it as the person who just right out cusses, but the fact is, I’m not cussing, regardless of another person’s assumption.

    The whole point is, even if I do get frustrated, I still attempt to honor this verse of putting aside filthy language. Sure, the definition of what “filthy language” is differs from region to region, culture to culture, and even person to person. Some may think it’s an actual word, others the emotion behind a word.

    Then again, the same verse in the NASB says, “put them all aside…abusive speech from your mouth.” And we could all probably agree that calling a big pile of dog poop a big pile of shit is no different, and no more abusive to the dog or the definition of excrement.

    I guess the real question is, what’s a better witness? A Christian who attempts to set themselves apart and refrain from what is universally understood to be “vulgar speech”, or someone who just says, “Screw it, I’ll cuss anyway.”

    We’re not all perfect, but it’s also not wrong for a person to try to keep their language kosher…even if they stub their toe.

  19. For me, it all came down to two things:

    1) Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Rather than look for loopholes, I decided that it’s better to stick to God’s command, and so I just don’t do it. Period. Why do I want to look for a way around offending God on this one? It’s pretty clear, so there you go.

    2) When it comes to swearing, I’m the first to admit I’m guilty of participating now and then. If anyone cares to know, it’s particularly when I’m by myself. It tends to be a brief session of venting to myself, and then moving on. However, regardless of whether it’s ultimately permissible or not, I recognize that it offends others, (Christian or not) and is therefore a selfish form of behavior if I choose to do it. I’ve chosen not to publicly cuss for the sake of others. Consequently, I have experienced others apologizing to me for when they do. I don’t even know quite why they do it, but they do. To me, I think by having made this decision not to swear in public or around others in general, it has opened a door to having the respect of others. And I’ll just continue to see what God does with that. :)

  20. Hah hah, I just jokingly came up with Christian expletive to use when we find ourselves judging people, particularly when we do the same things: ‘Plankity Plank Plank!!’

    All joking aside, this is my favorite post of yours yet! Very insightful.

  21. Okay, couple (or more) of things. First loved the post and the Elf reference made my day. I’ve always thought it sort of stupid that some words are ‘bad’ and others aren’t, but I agree with the point that others make in the comments that it does make you appear less intelligent when every other word is a known swear word.

    As far as self-censorship, I think that not swearing in the chance that you might cause someone to stumble (who thinks it’s bad) applies too and context is important as well.

    Oh and some people probably take the vowels out to censor (i.e., d*mn) but a lot of times in comment sections, it’s a way to get around bad word blockers (not that this is an important point, mind you).

    Love your point, Matt.

  22. Yep, that’s some good squishy right there.

    A few years ago while on building sites with my brother, we substituted “ordinary” for other choice words. So it became “Where’s the ordinary hammer??”, “You have got to be ordinarily kidding!!” and “Will you move your ordinary self out of there??!!” Soon, “ordinary” became the swear word. We really had to watch our mouths.

    I learnt long ago that a five year old saying “darn” while full of rage, is far more serious that someone that puts profane words between syllables of other words. Some people swear so much that it’s just an “um” to them; it’s virtually meaningless to those people and they don’t think of it as swearing any more than we do when we say “um”.

    It’s about the heart attitude behind the words no matter what the words are.

    Look out Christians… when we insert “Gosh Darn”, “Jimminy Cricket”, “Jeepers” and “Gor ‘blimey” we’re just putting in slang for the words that we are so against. You can figure out what the original phrases of these expressions are if you take a few seconds…. eg. Gor ‘blimey is cockney slang for “God blind me” and so on.

    Using more colourful words may be safer than the poor substitutes.

  23. You are definitely onto something there Matt. I heard sermon on the same kind of thing a while ago by this guy Shane Willard.
    It is so true. We carry the Name of God as Christians, and yet we take His Name in vain at every turn, especially when we cut some guy off while driving, and then he gets a look at the Jesus fish sticker on the back of the car!

  24. Try growing up in the church and developing Tourette Syndrome as an adult. (18 is the tail-end of when you’re “allowed” to be diagnosed with the disease.) The TS started off with spontaneous head movements, which wasn’t too bad, but then came the random yelling. People may have thought I was demon-possessed, but at least I wasn’t cursing! The proclivity for cursing came later. With a lot of willpower, I was able to hold it in, but sometimes the words would cycle through my head. Beep. Beep. Beep. When the biological meets the spiritual, things get messy, but I just pray that God’s strength would be evident in my weakness.

    As for the actual discussion at hand: I don’t feel that cursing is the most terrible sin that someone can commit, but we /are/ told to tame our tongues and only speak what will build others up, etc. I interpret, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come from your mouth,” as “Don’t curse, even if words are just “words” and society decides what is unwholesome.” Of course, there is also unwholesome talk (determined by the truth of Scripture and not by society) that does not involve cursing.

    As far as using God’s name in vain, I agree with you that saying “Oh my God” is not the only way to use His name in vain. In fact, there are far more worse ways. Is there anything we do “in God’s name” that’s really just for ourselves? It’s just that it’s easier to call someone out on saying “Oh my God” than for us to look at our own hearts.

  25. Oh, bleep-bleep-and-bleep! j/k

    This is so true. I say freaking and crap. I was told by someone that I shouldn’t use the word crap around the older folks. Crap isn’t a cussword, is it? I don’t cuss but I do say holy crap (with a little h; not a big h). I only use holy crap when I’m really mad. Although, I have used d*** in the privacy of my home and then right away asked God’s forgiveness…only to do it again a month later.

    I actually don’t care for cussing, but I won’t say anything about it if someone does cuss. It is rare that people will cuss around me. They might once, but then they stop. I don’t have to say a word. I think a person is more intelligent sounding if they don’t cuss.

    I do actually say something when its blogging cuss words. I just don’t understand why people insist on using the blankety-blank words they use in blogs. A twitter person once answered that query with, “It’s because they lack the creativity to find other words to say what they need to say.”

    Great blog and good points!

  26. I do my best not to take God’s name in vain, either by cursing or by the missuse of His name in heart or words. That’s not to say I always succeed. As far as basic profanity, can’t do it. I did yell he “F” word across the play ground in 4th grade at a boy made me mad. I was convicted all the way home on the bus, couldn’t take it. That was it. Never again. Then my older brother (6 years older) didn’t think girls should swear, so he made me stand in front of the mirror and say a variety of choice words so I could see how awful it is for a girl to swear. It worked. They won’t come out of my mouth. I do say “crap” a lot though.

    I have two adult sons who over use the “f” word, as so many of this generation does. When did it become an adjective? Really? “f”in this and “f”in that… get a thesaurus!

  27. I would be upset at your use of “cotton-headed ninnymuggins” if I didn’t like elf so darn, stinken, much.

    I didn’t grow up in a church going family so I have heard my share of cuss words. 98% of the time these cuss words were caused by an angry person.

    Now I struggle not to use these words when I am angry. That is all they are for me, anger words.

    I have the same idea as you when it comes to using God’s name in vain. Bugs the tar out of me when somebody says we can’t say “Oh my God.” But they are fine with letting people suffer in the world.

    I think Eugene Peterson (who has used the word damn before) has a great quote that might fit in with using God’s name in vain:

    “A Community that believes but does not love or marginalizes love, regardless of its belief system or doctrinal orthodoxy or ‘vision statement,’ soon, very soon, becomes a ‘synagogue of Satan.”

    (My paraphrase coming up)So in other words if we clean up our language but neglect to love then we could be compared to Satan. Pretty harsh words.

    Didn’t the Pharisees put a heavy yoke on the people? More rule keeping and morals. I think we have to be careful not to be like the Pharisees with our language rules.

    Next time I write a comment this long it will be a post on my site in response to your post :-)

  28. So, basically, you are saying “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”?

    Christians have nothing to do with the ways of the world. Call me a weirdo, but I still believe it’s true.

  29. I’ve not taken the time to read all the comments, so maybe repeating something here. But I do think that our choice of words used is most interesting. Have you ever wondered why we don’t say, “Oh, for Mohammed’s sake” or “for Buddha’s sake” ? Why does all profanity centre around Christ…using His name plus, hell, bloody, damn etc. It seems to me that even apart from anything else, it degrades our Saviour — bespeaks of a total lack of reverence for Him. But I think there is more behind it — I think that the enemy of our souls (if we allow him) uses our mouths to degrade Him before others. You would NEVER hear a Muslim degrading Allah — they reverence their God so much — doesn’t say much for us, does it? Who is our God to us, anyway? We wouldn’t use our child’s name as a swear word, but we will use our Saviour’s?

    And why do the words we use to swear with come from the basest of human nature: shit, crap, fuck…and they are the same words used the world over. Who are these words degrading? The one who was made in the image of God. When I see a beautiful, intelligent young lady, I am impressed — until, often, she opens her mouth. What comes out of her mouth reveals her nature, degrades her, lowers her in my estimation…but as believers in Jesus Christ using those words it lowers us in the sight of those who don’t yet know Him. Are we so base that we have to used ‘toilet’ words — we who have been made in the beautiful image of our holy God? We are His representatives here, so that others might see His nature in us – but what are we projecting?

    I did read some of the comments, and they grieved me. Our God deserves our reverence, and He has designed us as temples of His Holy Spirit. I believe our language grieves Him, too.

  30. Matt, coming late to the party, but this was an awesome post! I subsitute “flip” or “freakin” all the time, but I know what’s in my heart when I say it. I self-censor though for the sake of my kids. I don’t want them to learn cuss words from me (though they have). Funny, I only “cuss” like this at home. That’s where the most frustration is.

    Anyway, enough about me. A kid in our teen ministry recently put WTF in a Facebook comment. Another brother came down hard on him. I mean, really hard to the extent of a dozen or so comments in debate. Me, I was LMAO (yes, I said A) because the argument was so rediculous. Good point, but lost in the argument.

    And as for taking the Lord’s name in vain, I wholeheartedly agree with your last point. We do much in the name of God and Jesus that brings them shame.

  31. As always, a good post.

    I used to work construction – there were some guys that cold fit the “f word” in between syllable. There was one guy that said it so much, it was like working at a chicken farm.

    I sort of limit myself to this. If I can’t say it from the pulpit, or in front of my 6-year-old – then it is probably up for publication.

    I do get a little tried of the stupid uses of swearing in movies. But creative swearing, that’s another story. Like when Rain Man says K-Mart sucks. He could have used anything in the arsenal, and it wold have been great! If you can’t remember a good cuss in a movie, than it it wasn’t needed.

  32. Not to write a comment with absolutely no substance, but I almost choked on my graham cracker when I read “Great graham crackers.” It was a surreal moment.

  33. I think Peter was probably a cussing man because he was originally from Bethsaida on the northern shore of the sea of Galilee…a known rough hood in the day. He kept things pulled together around Jesus (although Malchus probably got an ear full in the garden…the one left on that is), but you just know when Peter became the first Bishop of Antioch…superlatives were flying.

    “Stupid @#$*&@$ Gentiles! You’re not Jews people and you *#$*ing never will be!”

    Yeah…Peter was a curser.

  34. “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him,
    but MOTIVES are weighed by the LORD.” prov 16:2 (NIV)

    maybe God just wants us to speak in love (and love in-)to each other.

    great post!

  35. I picked up swearing at Bible school.

    I didn’t swear at my public high school because it made more of an effect if you didn’t. But at a Christian University, if you really want to express your frustration, dropping a verbal bomb does so very well.

    I’m not proud of it, but as you point out: This is much more a symptom of my heart not being right than about the words.

    Like all things: It’s about motivation/heart as it relates to the context. Sadly, most times people say rude/inappropriate things it’s because our hearts aren’t in the right place.

    Washing our mouths out with soap and cleaning up our dialog is only surface issues. The real issue is much deeper.


  36. I used to work at a company that posted Weekly Memos focusing on improving some minutia of our work with the thought improving a few tiny things each week would improve the whole company.

    Whistling while Rome burned.

    That is how people are with swearing and other silly things upon which to focus. Sometimes one gets so focused on the this and that of an interaction they forget to remember the whole of the interaction & what’s going on underneath the veneers.

  37. One of my substitutes is: fudge and crackers.

  38. @anjiHeartChrist August 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I don’t swear. I don’t even “fake” swear. I think that as Christians we have to look different from the world. We are God’s “representatives,” if you will and, as such, are supposed to be held to a higher standard.

    Many people who claim to be Christians really aren’t following Christ or even attempting to–they just say they’re Christian because their Grandma is one, because they live in America, and because they’re not Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, etc. We REAL Christians need to set a better example and be the change in the world that we want to see.

    We are supposed to be imitating Christ. When we are born again, our desires are supposed to change. We will never be perfect but we cannot compare ourselves to others in our pursuit to be Christ-like in order to justify our short-comings. Saying “What’s worse, what I do or what my brother does?” is no good. Is one sin greater than another? All sin is bad. Swearing is sin, in my mind. Sin creeps in slowly. When we are fine with one “small” thing, everything starts seeming “small.” Next thing we know, we’re cussing-porn-watching-drunk-getting-high-affair-having-gossiping-prideful-backstabbing-money-loving-not-so-Christian Christians.

  39. ha ha Dude, this post is killing me. I just now ran across it on your blog, so I’m a bit late to the conversation. I grew up in a very “sensible, Christian” home. Once I said I needed to take a duke (crap) and my mom freaked out. “Watch your mouth young man.” ha ha Still funny to me. Anyway, Christians pick and choose the words they think are bad. It’s funny to me. We couldn’t say “shoot” because it was too close to “sh*t” (see what I did there ^_^). But we had pre-approved cuss words. My family says, “Oh good night” or “Oh my goodness” and even “Oh brotherhood.” No, I’m not making that last one up. I now say real words like gosh and dang. Pretty sure I’m headed straight to hell. ha ha I’m with you. The junk God is worried about flows out of the heart. So it’s a matter of why we say the words we do or in what context. Granted, I still stay away from “Oh my God,” but most of the others are fair game. Most of them. =)

  40. Alright man, it’s been a while since I have been able to read your blog, so I’m catching back up. Excellent blog post! I’m a sailor, and yes, sometimes I sound like one. It’s something I’ve worked on and struggled with for a long time. Well done!

  41. I can see why you put this as your best post. Insightful, and real. I think some people forget that even when using non-colorful language, God sees the true color in their hearts anyway. You may be able to filter your words, but can one filter the heart? Not to God.
    Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..Sunglasses Salvation

  42. I like when people say “Bite your tongue!” The biggest moments that cause my lips to fly usually involve pain and/or surprise. I’m the grin and bear it guy becaue if I bite down on my tongue at that point I will definitely sever it and I don’t think God is pulling for me to self-mutilate. Maybe next time I’ll try sugarsnapmonkeytrap or something.

  43. Awesome post.

    Here’s my thoughts on the matter – Oh Bugger! http://bit.ly/9qFt0W
    Rocco recently posted..The Summit- Faith Beyond Everest’s Death Zone

  44. I enjoyed this post a lot and I have always worked from a position that would tend to agree with your comment:
    ‘When it comes to cussing, maybe it’s not the words that come out of a man’s mouth that’s wrong, but the cause of it in his heart. If I can get so mad at the ATM that I let out a string of curse words at it, something is wrong with my emotions, and my mouth is just a symptom.’

    But I do have a little niggle about this – if my language, and other symptoms, are a sign of the state of my heart then what am I doing to fix this? Am I giving Jesus free reign in my heart or keeping a little spot for myself so I can still partake in the symptoms I find more enjoyable?

    I also worry that this kind of thinking can sort of accuse Jesus of not doing his job properly – I’m swearing because YOU haven’t sorted my heart out yet! (like Adam in the garden – YOU put this women here with me and look what SHE’S done!) Although I recognise the stupidity of this statement when said out loud, perhaps thats how my life can be interpreted?

    To summarise in some sort of way your post is almost exactly what I would have written but the whole time I would have been worried that I was just covering for my love of swearing! If we can no swear in one arena of our lives why can’t we do it in others? I’ve been working on my heart with Jesus help recently and my swearing has decreased but I have still had to play an active role in not swearing – the choice and opportunity are still there but they are somehow less attractive than they use to be.

    Finally (honest) in regards to our ability to not swear in church or in front of some people when we swear the rest of the time I would say that this is indicative of our double standard of living, the old cliche of being a uber Christian around other Christians and letting it slide the rest of the time. I pose this question to the young people are work with – to live as one person all the time, to find the true person we are at this point in time, do we need to act worse in church and act better in the world? Is that how we live ‘one’ life?

    Thanks for the post, sorry for discovering it late, and sorry for intending to write a sentence and then writing the equivalent of a blog! I got going and couldn’t stop!!
    Nick recently posted..No Room

  45. In my opinion, anyone who needs to swear all the time should go read a book.

  46. Matt — Thanks for this post.
    I do cultural training, sometimes for M’s (“M” is a cousin to cussing code words that we use so government officials won’t know that they are actually m*ss**n*aries because as we know government officials don’t have the resources to crack such a complex system). One of my favorite illustrations is to hold up my middle finger while we discuss what’s in our core. People who come from where I come from wriggle in their seats and ultimately beg me to please put it down (although they get the point). People from other places know in their heads what the meaning is but don’t feel it. My bird flipping record is four minutes. Appreciate your insight!

  47. This is really good. My husband and I have had too many conversations about bad words, but moreso lately because of our 12 year old son. I don’t have a problem with the words used, and I agree that it is more about knowing when to use them. You can have hate in your heart and call someone a jerk. It’s all silliness, really, this business of giving words power they don’t truly have. I’m liking your blog. Glad to have found it :)
    lori recently posted..M is for Madelyn

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