WHAT THE #%@#$! IS WRONG WITH CUSSING?
READ: Matthew 12: 35-37
“Set a guard over my mouth O’Lord; keep a watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3
Our local newspaper carries a bi-weekly feature on “Ask the Clergy”. A variety of ethical and religious issues are raised in this column but the one, which really caught my attention focused on a reader’s question: “Is it a sin to cuss?” Three clergymen from different faiths responded to the query. Amazingly, the strongest statements that emerged from these spiritual “leaders” were: “ ...cussing seems to be fairly minor in the overall scheme of things” and “There are things a lot worse than a cuss word here and there.” They did exercise considerable care to differentiate between the terms cussing, cursing and swearing but such theological distinctions without their application to everyday life were unconvincing. This seemingly religious acceptance or at least their lack of condemnation of cussing may help explain why we have or are becoming a nation of “potty mouths”!
It is no secret that cussing is on the rise. Everyone --- kids on up --- seem addicted to the use of four letter words. It bristles from music lyrics, TV, radio and movies and often from one’s own family and friends. Our sound waves seem polluted by foul language.
But what about the original question directed at the clergymen? “Is it a sin to cuss?” While it is true that the actual phrase, “Thou Shalt Not Cuss.” is not found in the Bible, however, Scripture certainly does not give us liberty to cuss at will. Even though the exact forbiddance cannot be found, I certainly do NOT think that cussing is acceptable despite its increasing use even in polite society and its lack of condemnation by some clergy. It really all comes down to the Godly control of our language or conversation so that our words reflect the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within each believer!
My answer to the question, “Is it a sin to cuss?” is: yes, cussing is definitely sinful!! The Bible makes it abundantly clear! Ephesians 4:29 cautions us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful building up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” 1 Peter 3:10 declares, “For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.” James concisely summarizes the whole issue, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praising and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” These verses make it clear that we should only allow good and positive things come out of our mouths – things that will encourage other people. Hopefully, most people would agree that cussing does not do either!
One researcher studying the topic of profane language among high school students reports that when interviewing groups of young people they were asked if they routinely cussed. Not too surprisingly almost everyone – both girls and boys - raised their hands. Their response to the next question might be illuminating for us as parents and grandparents. When asked if their parents use profanity, over three quarters of the kids nodded in affirmation. The percentage is only somewhat less – about 45 % -- when they were quizzed on whether their grandparents cussed. Is it possible that our children learn from us that cussing is acceptable and not sinful?
The intensity of my anti-cussing position primarily emanates from impact of Christians cussing has on non-believers. Can you really imagine Jesus using that kind of language? And if I, as His representative in and to this world, use a variety of cuss words, what impression do they get of what being a Christian really involves? Shouldn’t my speech make me different from the non-believer?
With a background in the military and as a railroad worker, I learned my fair share of cuss words and used them with regularity. My epiphany came with the birth of our first child. The reality of being an example to my child made me look at myself and decide in light of what He entrusted to us, I needed to make significant changes in my life beginning with my off-color speech. Further, I recognized that I could not do it by myself. However, Christians are never asked to be do-it-selfers. Through the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit my language usage completely changed and more closely reflected that which He desired of me as a Christian parent.
My system of rooting out cuss words might not be appropriate for everyone. However, for those sincerely desiring to change there is a web site* with numerous suggestions and even a book is available, Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cussing. However, as each of us knows bad habits are easier to adopt than to erase. A couple of self-helps are: Imagine that your Grandmother or children are listening; Tell your friends that you’re trying to quit cussing; or Establish a penalty jar wherein you put in a set amount of money for any cuss words you utter. Although some or a combination of techniques might work, I believe the prime motivator must be the recognition that as members of His family, we have a duty to honor Him both in word and deed.