5 years ago

On Cursing & Vulgarity

Welp, prepare yourself, Jack, I’m back.  Back and posting something other than 7 Quick Takes (in which I take great enjoyment in participating).

[So, hopefully some feathers will be ruffled, but none shall be plucked… right?  I simply wish to address a certain subject.  Please, don’t feel targeted.  I have received a handful of messages over the last few years from individuals who feel personally wronged by some of my past writings.  That is not my goal! My goal is to open a dialogue, not start a battle.  I am on your side!  I promise. On to it then!]

img source: NPR.org: Muny’sGirl/Flickr / Creative Commons

*&%$#@!!!!!  <this.  These kinds of words.

Foul language, to me, is not merely defined by a select handful of shocking words. It is those words, in combination with a whole way of thinking, a train of thoughts, which are outwardly expressed without care, which do not inject love and peace into society.  Rather, this foul language brings negativity, filth and base thinking amongst each other, and does nothing to elevate the profound and crucial worth of the human being and our earth we inhabit.  It is possible to speak foully without using a curse word at all.  …but less likely.

In a very quick snap of realization (oh could I but realize other things as quickly), I came to be revolted by vulgar, crass language from women and men.  The assumptions I’d made previously about using curse words I now know are incorrect.  However, before I continue:

Let’s just get the hoity-toity thoughts out of the way:  One might believe that I must be prudish, or that I probably think myself above others who choose to curse.  I’ve actually heard this before: “I just can’t trust people who don’t cuss!” …because they must not be real, and are probably fake, self righteous & snotty…


I view cursing/swearing/vulgarity as ugliness by choice.  Yes, there is ugliness in the world, and that is a reality.  But we don’t have to choose to use verbal ugliness in order to make it real.

When given the opportunity to either give beauty to the world, or ugliness, which do you choose to give?
Without spinning off topic, I align beauty with goodness; with God’s goodness.  By way of verbal, physical, mental, spiritual, compassionate, authentic expression; externally, but mostly internally, when considering human relationships.

If wanting to give beauty to the world and to people around me is considered to be hoity-toity, then I confess I am.  However, I don’t see it that way. I invite you to look at language through my eyes:


  •  Swearing is funny when used sparingly.
    I can agree to an extent here. A swear word, standing by itself, isn’t wholly bad. The problem with this argument is the definition of the word “sparingly”.  I tend to view swearing as a kind of a verbal gateway drug. I started allowing a few of the lighter swear words into my usual language, but I noticed the way I spoke started to shift.  Then, I noticed the way I thought took a turn for the more insensitive, the more base, and the more ignorantly simplistic.
  • Swearing is liberating.
    The fact about this is that it isn’t.  It’s actually shackling. Yeah, we live in a free country and are entitled to speak our mind, but it doesn’t follow that we should blabber the most shocking, obnoxious word that we can think while it takes greater effort to think of rephrasing.  That doesn’t make us free.  What is liberating is expanding my vocabulary, my literacy, so that I can more completely express myself.
  • Swearing is how I express myself.
    That’s fine. Freedom of self-expression, right?  But consider this: “Smoking is how I relax.”  That’s fine too, no? It may damage my health, but I have the freedom to do that, right? …until smoking starts affecting people who are more health conscious (that’s called second-hand smoke).  So ummm… am I saying that if I choose to cuss, I’m pushing second-hand cussing onto others?
    Well, kind of. I’m injecting foul language into someone’s mind, and it cannot be unheard or unread.  I can write whatever I want to write on this page in order to express myself. But as a reader, I tend not to revisit authors who cavalierly sling vulgar language around.  I don’t want it in my head.  I also obnoxiously swerve away from smoking pedestrians when out in public.  I don’t want their choice in my lungs.
  • It’s in music, and everyone does it anyway.
    It is. I mean, do I really have to address this? Do I really have to say, “just because everyone is jumping off a bridge doesn’t mean we should do it too…”?  Are we really still of the mental logic of a 12 year old?  (No offense, 12 year olds, I know a few who are better than that.) A while back I stopped listening to the music with language about the same time I stopped using the same language. So, no.  Not “everyone cusses anyway.” I for one, don’t. When I hear that language, it repulses me more than a nest of maggots feeding on the entrails of roadkill.  And no, I don’t even think those words unless someone else puts them there.  And that doesn’t make me untrustworthy. I tend not to trust people who, proclaim that they are wanting to be better, but do not show it in the way they express themselves; by the choices they make and the way they speak.


  • I’m hanging onto my twenties with one hand still (oy, I’ll be 29 in Nov.), yet I have some hindsight about the cool kids club.
    When I was 18, it seemed like the cool, confident kids cussed. I’m 10 years older and now, I see the 18 year old kids in the cool club and when they cuss, it speaks volumes of their insecurity, of their ignorance. I listen to them swear and it serves as a large shield to cover up who they are, in all their uncertainty of the world and how they should fit in, and what they think they want to be.  Instead, I hear an outcry for help.  I hear a desire to have deeper personal relationships with others, but they’re doing it wrong.
  • After a year or so of allowing swear words into my normal speech,
    things that I would have never dreamed to say years previous rolled out of my mouth before I even had a chance to think about how they would make others feel.  I thought with angry, barking swear words all the time.  My thoughts had been transformed to bark out:  “I DON’T CARE!” as I slammed the door of compassion in anyone’s face who might’ve felt offended by my word choice. Not that I was constantly insulting people, but one day it occurred to me, through my mother’s nudging, that perhaps it made others uncomfortable to hear suggestive words/language. The notion that my personal choice didn’t affect anyone started to fizzle out as I noticed a recoil reaction from people who I admired and respected.
  • This shield of cursing weighs us down, hampering our ability to have deeper relationships with others.
    I say this particularly when in an argument or debate with someone.  I have heard countless people, when confronted with a question which causes them to suddenly feel accountable for their own actions, feel uncomfortable, or angry, respond with a two-word offensive expletive, or similar.
    These words do nothing in helping us to understand each other.
    This choice exposes the speaker of his ignorance and lack of consideration.
    They are ugliness.
    They hurt the person on the receiving end.
    They shut out intelligence and common sense.
    They shut down the conversation.
    Worse still, they hurt the person who says it.
    The person who chooses to use this two-word expletive (or anything similar) from the inside of himself out, when given the chance to explain himself, strips his own integrity by:
    1. denying the other person the ability to understand him deeper
    2. refusing to think an inch deeper about his own actions
    3. boiling his thoughts down to mere insults, using them as defense mechanisms, which don’t work anyway, and effectively surrender himself without having to even admit it.
    4. exposing himself as someone who cannot think of anything more rational to say
  • Man or Woman, foul language detracts from our dignity as a human being.
    It sells us short of our ability to be so much more.  We are so much more than cheap talk. Knowing that regardless of my gender, I choose to speak in a way that adds wholesome conviction to society in lieu of parading-ly exercising my freedom or my hard fought equality to speak any other way, that empowers me.  It empowers me as a woman: equal in dignity, differently made, for an invaluable reason.  Just because a man is a man or the faulty logic of “boys will be boys”, does not follow that he should be expected or allowed to be vulgar in order to announce his masculinity. I consider a man who regularly swears and uses graphic, vulgar language to communicate as akin to a cave man or a Sasquatch, void of intellect, common sense, or reason.  Apologies to the cavemen and Sasquatch(es?) who don’t swear.

This isn’t an appeal to be puritanical and speak with words like “thy”, “thou” or “thine.” It is an appeal to question what we are allowing to reside within our own subconscious and what we project of ourself onto the minds of our loved ones.  We cannot stop others from injecting those words into our mind, but we can stop the continuation of that ugliness by choosing not to repeat it.  My favorite present-day philosopher, Peter Kreeft, says this:

“[…]That is why it is not important whether temptations come to me, but it is important whether I consent to them. “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Mt 15:11). This is true not only of the mouth or the body, but also the soul. What comes into my soul is not necessarily what I will, but what comes out of my soul is precisely what I will.”  –from The Importance of Free Choice

That’s why I don’t curse.

Someone asked me to address how we can interact with loved ones who are fluent in pot-mouthery. Hearts are changed by love and compassion (rarely do grown adults lay down and submit to being corrected, especially by a young spring chicken who cannot possibly be wiser), or perhaps by sharing this post on Facebook. *wink*

I read this post by Fr. Longenecker, which reveals what we are allowing to  happen spiritually to our interior when we use gratuitous language. He calls it Irrational Rage.  Have you ever had crossfire with someone who didn’t just disagree with you, but blew up in your face with every expletive in the most creative vulgarity possible?  If you haven’t, take a look at some of the comments left under certain blogs or news articles today.  It can come from the left or the right of moral and political spectrums.  Fr. Longenecker concludes of these people:

“The phenomenon we are seeing is something worse than anger and hatred. It is rage. Rage is irrational. You cannot argue with rage. Rage is cruel and violent for its own sake. Rage is anarchical and demonic in its absurdity and irrationality. When I say it is demonic, I am not exaggerating or being symbolical. The spirit of hatred has overtaken people, and I fear what we are seeing is only the beginning. Are the people so filled with rage demon possessed? I am not an authority on the subject, but I venture the diagnosis that if they are not literally demon possessed, then their personalities have been oppressed by evil to such an extent that they are out of their minds.”

And I’ll leave it at that.  Please comment with your thoughts.  …and leave the rage at the door.  Glory Be to God.


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