So the other day, I was driving down the road. I was getting angrier and angrier as I did so because people were driving like people often drive…pretty much like idiots. They were stopping and going. They were turning without turn signals. Some where driving straight with their turn signals on. They were switching lanes dangerously close to the cars behind them. They weren’t pulling to the side of the road to let emergency vehicles pass. And to top it all off, I think I hit just about every single red light along the road. Point is, I practically had steam coming out of my ears.
And I cussed.
Shocked face, I know! Kent Holloway? Cussing? Yeah, it surprised me too. And it wasn’t even a substitute word like crap or heck or gosh darnit! It was the real McCoy. And it was a bad one. The ‘F’ one. And I’m laying it out here for all the world to see as a confession. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:12A. It was not one of my proudest moments, I can tell you that.
I can see some of you now. Rolling your eyes. Shaking your head with a little smile on your face. Not quite sure what the big deal is about cuss words. They’re just words, after all. They only mean what you intend them to mean. They’re not that bad. Hardly a sin, in fact (and that’s only if you believe in sin). But the fact is, it matters to me.
See, I’ve never been much of a cusser. Sure, when I was a kid, I experimented. Called my older sister a few choice words from time to time. Played with a few words with my friends while we were out having our adventures. But I never felt comfortable using them. And it’s not just because of my Christian faith either. Even if I wasn’t Christian, I wouldn’t feel comfortable using them. They just don’t roll off my tongue the way they seem to do with others. I feel like I’m desecrating the language with their use. And if it makes you feel any better, I don’t like using non-words like “ain’t” (except for the sake of humor) either.
It’s not really a big secret, but I’m kind of a dinosaur. If there is an opposite word for the colloquial term ‘woke’, and if it was in the dictionary, my picture would be plastered with it. I’m as far removed from being a progressive as the north is from the west. I’m old fashioned. Through and through. And I’m rather proud of that. While I don’t feel that women are the weaker sex (quite the contrary actually), I will always insist on holding the door open for one, tipping my hat to one, and calling her ma’am, no matter what her age. And I certainly would never use vulgar language in the company of one…if I can help it, that is. To me, cussing just seems impolite. Uncouth. Vulgar.
Now that isn’t to say that if YOU use such words, I think any less of you. Absolutely not. That’s not what I’m saying at all. YOU DO YOU. That’s my philosophy. I’m not going to berate you or sneer at you or even attempt to ‘correct’ you if you use such language around me (if I did that, I wouldn’t have any friends at all at my office or any law enforcement agency I work with! Ha!). I’m just saying that I’m personally uncomfortable using such language myself.
Which brings me to the question: If it’s not in my nature to cuss, then how did such a foul word slip from my mouth the other day while in the car? How can such an unnatural act become so natural in a split second?
And therein lies the entire point of this blog post. See, we’re bombarded with thousands, maybe millions, of images, words, ideas, emotions, and concepts every day through the people we come in contact with, the books we read, the movies we watch, and the hours and hours of time spent on social media. As I scroll down my Facebook wall at any given time, I catch sight of dozens of memes with F-word sentence enhancers thrown in willy-nilly on any given day. Comments on status updates invariably are rife with such words.
TV and movies have always pushed the envelope with such language. But in recent years, it’s shoved its way through into cartoons and animated features. DC Comics live-action movies might be crap, but their animated fare–since the creation of Batman: The Animated Series–have always been amazing. But so has their use of foul language. I don’t think there’s any other animated franchise, in an attempt to appeal to a more adult market, that so freely uses such words.
In the real world, as I walk my dog through my neighborhood, such words are peppered between other words quite liberally as one neighbor discusses the work he’s doing on his car engine. Kids riding their bicycles are hurling F-word laced insults at each other in good fun. Everywhere you go, these words are just used so casually and freely in our every day lives. It’s become commonplace.
It wasn’t always so. Just a couple of decades earlier, the thought of using such words so freely in society would have seemed anathema to people. Sure, if people used them in the privacy of their own home, no one would say anything. But say such words in public, and I know a parent or two back when I was a kid who would have chewed the cusser out for saying such things within earshot of their children.
Many of you (maybe most) are wondering, what’s the big deal? Who cares? Cuss words don’t hurt anyone. To which, I respond, “Maybe they don’t. Or maybe they do. At any given moment, we simply don’t know who will be affected by the words we choose to use.” Words are extremely powerful. They have the power to encourage, build up, support, and provide comfort. And they have the power to knock down, hurt, cut, and destroy. For the most part (not always…sometimes they can be used for humor and even intimacy, but I’m not really talking about that here), cuss words are used for the latter. They are mostly spoken out of anger (like me in my car the other day). They are designed to be verbal punches in the air. A way to unleash the pressure building up inside of us. It’s a lash out, and whoever is in the radius of the verbal thrashing can be affected.
But our words should be used to build each other up. Encourage. We should strive to bolster our friends and family. We should use words to express forgiveness and acceptance of our enemies. Our words–our beautiful, poetic ability to speak and write words still amazes me–are expressions of who we are as an individual. How would you rather be known? As someone who’s hostile and angry, and whose language–whether hostility or anger is part of your personality or not, such words invoke those kind of feelings–lashes out at anyone they deem unworthy of affection? Or would you rather be an oasis? A person people gravitate toward because they know your words are like a healing salve? “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Psalms 12:18.
Point is, we’re bombarded with horrible graphic images and language every minute of every day. Would it kill us, every once in a while, to guard our hearts and minds? To strive to remain internally pure? And most importantly, to live a life of encouragement, smiles, and kind words to better the lives of the people around us? Personally, I think that’s an goal worthy of pursuing.