Cussing… what’s the big deal?
Everybody does it, right?
Ever had this conversation with your kids?
No matter how much we shelter or protect them, sooner or later, they will hear some bad words.
Cussing is almost everywhere, from t.v. and movies, to public places that you used to be able to count on being family friendly.
And kids may not understand why they shouldn’t do it, when “everyone else does.”
Maybe you’ve even had this conversation with yourself. Is cussing really a big deal?
Truth is, even though I was raised in a home with a zero-tolerance policy for bad language, it’s been a struggle for me.
Especially that one little four-letter favorite of mine. The one that starts with an S and ends with a T. The one that is so easy to insert into so many statements in so many contexts.
And really, maybe that word isn’t such a huge deal. But it’s one that I’m trying my best not to use these days.
We Are Set Apart
1 Peter 2:9 says: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
As Christians, we are set apart.
And while the “S-Word”, or any of those others may not be the worst thing we ever say, other people are watching.
I don’t want a bad habit to hurt my witness.
If people who are watching my life constantly hear me saying bad words, they might draw the wrong conclusions.
And when I think of being part of “a chosen people”, cussing like a sailor seems out of place.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be aware of what is acceptable in polite society and what is not, and adhere to those standards.
1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love is not rude. We need to consciously evaluate our speech to determine whether it’s rude. Cussing is rude. (We also need to be aware of anything we say that might be considered rude, cussing or not.)
Do I slip up sometimes? I’ll admit that I do. But it’s easier to keep that from happening when I make a conscious effort not to.
Most mornings I pray “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
While someone watching my life might not understand Grace, I have experienced it for myself.
And though I know that forgiveness and Grace are there for me when I do slip up, His love gives me a desire to please Him even more!
Out Of The Heart The Mouth Speaks
Back to 1 Corinthians 13:5, it also says that love is not irritable or resentful. Probably 95% of the times I have ever said a bad word, it was out of irritability, and at least half of those times involved someone I love.
Luke 6:45 says: “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
I sure don’t want to think my heart is a sewer!
And then there’s Ephesians 5:4: “Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks.”
If I am cussing, I sound angry or discontent instead of thankful.
Sometimes cussing happens out of anger or frustration. Other times, it’s with joking.
Either way, it’s not something I want to do. Not anymore.
Cheapening The Holy
Even more serious than when we say crude things, is when we cheapen the holy.
When my kids were younger, I explained to them that if they weren’t talking to God or about God, they should never say His Name.
Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11 warn against using misusing the name of the Lord, plainly stating that anyone who misuses His name will not go unpunished.
Using damn, hell, Jesus, Lord or God as throw-away expressions is scary stuff.
When this happens, the greatness or importance of these words or names is belittled, and we are treading on dangerous ground.
Keeping It Pure
There are some questions we can ask ourselves to keep our conversations pure.
- Would you say it to your sainted grandmother? Or is it considered crude or inappropriate in polite society?
- Does it reflect a spirit of graciousness and thanksgiving? Or irritability and anger?
- Does is cheapen the holy? Or does it honor God.
In our society, where “anything goes”, there are some things that shouldn’t. Determining these boundaries for ourselves and drawing them for our kids isn’t always easy.
But it can be done with intentionality and purpose.
So have those hard conversations with your kids. Let them know your expectations for speech.
Explain why we have these expectations. “Just because” doesn’t satisfy this generation.
And above all, be the example they need.
What if you mess up, and let a cuss word fly? Let them know you feel bad about it; that you know you shouldn’t have said it.
This can be the perfect opportunity to talk about grace and forgiveness in spite of human weakness and imperfection.