My son came home laughing. His friend’s mother swore while driving him home when another driver was rude, then apologized and said, “I don’t suppose that happens in your family.”
“No it happens sometimes,” he said, “but not that much because my mom’s such a bad driver that she’s used to people being mad at her so she can’t swear all the time.”
It’s true. I’m a terrible driver. And I also curse occasionally. Why? Other than the fact that I have little self-control over my tongue, it’s also because I believe that real feelings and circumstances need real words, and sometimes the best words to describe just how bad those circumstances can be are four-lettered. In fact, the problem I have with cursing regularly is that the words lose their power. My kids know I’m really mad when profanity comes out of my mouth, as opposed to when I’m just yelling like normal.
Ironically, my cursing increased the more committed I became to Jesus. Growing up in Hawaii, there was a lot of cursing at the grade school level—more than I overhear among the kids here in Boston. (There was also way more laughter—maybe freedom with potty language also results in freedom of joy?)
But I never joined my friends in the liberal use of four-letter words. Partly because I already sensed it wasn’t what I was supposed to do as a Jesus-follower-wannabe (I was never sure that God actually accepted me, so I spent my entire childhood not quite sure I could count myself one of His own), and partly because I knew Mama would kill me if she ever heard me.
As I grew in assurance that I truly did belong to Jesus, and that my behavior actually wasn’t what got me into His good graces, I became more and more free in my language. I even found myself sophomore year of college in the rain with my best friend who’d just had a horrible, no-good, very bad day, urging her to just say the words and let them out. She finally did, and there was something exhilarating about cursing, crying and laughing in the pouring rain all at the same time. It felt like a very real moment, a moment that Jesus entered into with us, cursing, crying and laughing alongside as well.
True, the apostle Paul admonishes:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 TNIV)
Yet I think the problem with cursing isn’t colorful language, but the condemnation and damage cursing someone out creates–the hurting of the relationship, the tearing down of someone’s character, the objectifying of the other. I get why Jesus said calling someone “Raca” (worthless) or “You fool!” is in danger of the fire of hell.
Maybe that’s why I get rageful when my kids call each other stupid or fat or some other really mean word, while I just get annoyed when they let out a colorful word.
Do I wish I were the peaceful personality that never raised her voice or made a harsh comment? Of course. My inability to be that sort of person has made me feel like a horrible mother/wife/sister/daughter for years.
But now that my kids seem to be turning out just mildly abnormal, I figure, oh well.
Or some other words like it.