Watch Your Mouth

Watch Your Mouth August 31, 2011

In the Church today, it’s apparently becoming narrow-minded to watch your mouth. I’ve seen Christians who look down on other Christians for thinking that language still matters. Some try to claim it’s all “a heart issue,” and the actual words aren’t as important as the spirit in which they are said.
I beg to differ.
I realize it can be taken to the other extreme. For example, I’ve known wonderful, godly people who think it’s a sin to say the word “darn.” My family once even had to sit through a skit on the subject by some very earnest teenage girls. In the opening scene, they sit down to eat lunch, and one exclaims, “Darn, I forgot my sandwich!” Another says in shock, “You shouldn’t say that word.” We had a running joke for some time afterwards that perhaps the profane word in question was “sandwich.”

Nevertheless, I do take our use of language seriously, because I think language is too beautiful to be turned into something ugly. Moreover, when it profanes something that’s been ordained by God as sacred, I believe it’s a form of blasphemy. That includes the relationship between a man and a woman.
This is something that I think a lot of Christians are losing a sense of. For example, there are Christian singers who stand out in their chosen secular genre in some ways because of their faith, but to an extent they still blend in when it comes to songs with suggestive content. This is true of artists like Josh Turner and Brad Paisley.
Another trend I’ve observed is that Christians in the Church are picking up suggestive turns of phrase without really stopping to think about it. For example, Christian guys will refer to their “smokin’ hot wives,” or Christian girls will titter over the latest “hottie” they saw on TV. Several years ago, I even heard a motivational speaker on Focus on Family recall the moment when she first saw her future husband in a group at church by saying, “And then four of the yummiest guys I had ever seen walked in.” The other girls in her audience were very appreciative, naturally. I wasn’t. I fully believed that she was a godly lady, but I wanted to do a facepalm.
It makes you want to ask some of these people, “Brother in Christ… sister in Christ… do you understand that sex is sacred?” And they might look at you and say, “Well, yeah, it means you’re supposed to be faithful to your spouse and stuff like that.” Okay, that’s a start. But sometimes I think Christians still don’t really understand what it means for sex to be sacred. Simply, it means that when you treat sex lightly, as a thing to be joked about or sung about in suggestive songs, you’re profaning God. I don’t even appreciate it when Christians take the f-bomb and replace it with some euphemism  (freakin’, flippin’, frickin’, etc.) What’s the idea—that we’re supposed to fall all over ourselves and be so very grateful that you didn’t actually say the f-bomb? How restrained. Yes, I realize everybody does it. That’s the problem. By the way, what’s wrong with “stinkin’?” Brad Stine manages to make do with it.
My point is, think before you imitate. Think before you toss off an expression. No, I’m not saying you should become obsessive and insufferable (“Did I just hear you say that tuba was cute? Watch your mouth”).  I’m just saying, be discerning. Be thoughtful. Guys, is it really necessary to tell the world that your wife is “hot”? Try telling the world that she’s beautiful. It sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? Girls, “yummy”? Come on. He’s not a cheeseburger you know. Be like my little sister, who likes Michael W. Smith because he’s “haaaaandsome.”

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  • JSR

    Good post. As Jesus put it, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. When people don’t control their mouths it calls into question their hearts.

  • I believe that many times what happens is a kind of osmotic process where people who may really be very good Christians in other ways simply borrow unthinkingly. When I said “nice Christian guys” I meant really, truly nice Christian guys. Just Christian guys who don’t think through what they say very clearly. And it becomes a kind of cycle where everybody around them is using the same expressions, and those are people they respect, so they do the same thing. Then other people in turn see them doing it and imitate,etc.

  • So to summarize, it may not call into question their hearts… just their brains/common sense. 🙂

  • JSR

    I totally believe in being charitable with people and allowing for growth as a Christian. My issue is with long term trends in the wrong direction. Or, long term issues that are never corrected. I believe in the Holy Ghost correcting people, but let’s be sure we’re not rebelling against the correction. Long term problems point towards a heart issue, as so eloquently pointed out by Christ.

  • JSR

    Oh, and I’m not saying everything you mentioned would point towards a heart issue. Somethings definitely are wisdom/maturity/growth issues.

  • I’ve never been prone to use that kind of language to begin with … but do my best to make sure none of it gets on enLighten – we attempt to be God-honoring at all times … and I ask the listeners to call us on it if we do something that isn’t.

  • Good for you.

  • I am right with you on this one. One of the big issues I see is people using euphemisms ( from – the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt).
    Just because you don’t use the “real” word (ie, f-bomb, etc) does that make it any less offensive? I had in the past thought it wasn’t big deal but as I have aged (41 now) it gets to me more and more.
    Years ago I bought one of those devices that will screen the closed captioning on a movie or TV for the “bad” words and replace it with a less offensive word. All it did was just fill in euphemisms. Out it went!
    Thanks for the posts and keep up up the good work!

  • I can’t believe you just said “sandwich” twice…come on!
    This is a toughie because really…ALL extra words “darn” and “stinking” included are sort of soft versions of the word they are replacing. It is mainly a heart issue since the girls in the skit were probably really seriously offended by that word. So, for them…they shouldn’t say it. For me…ehhh, I’m probably not going to stop.

  • I don’t think I would ever try to MAKE somebody who felt uncomfortable with a word say it themselves. They should follow their own conscience. It’s when people who are really obsessive try to force their standards on me that I start to get annoyed. Believe me, I am very conservative, as you can tell by this post, but it can get pretty trivial and ridiculous.
    As for which euphemisms are and aren’t okay… you know, it is somewhat subjective, but I do think there’s something a lot less innocent about saying “freakin’ ” than saying “darn.” And part of it depends on how bad the original word was, comparatively speaking. I mean, I don’t say “damn,” at least not usually, but I consider the f-bomb to be worse. So partly for that reason I consider it less acceptable to use a euphemism for the f-bomb.

  • Lydia McGrew

    Something not absolutely necessary but helpful in making an expression of annoyance innocent is if the expression of annoyance has a meaning in itself in the language that could, indeed, express annoyance. Take “rats!” for example. Well, people understandably don’t like rats. Rats are pests. Rats carry disease. It makes perfect sense that “rats,” in itself, not as a substitute for something else, should be an expression of annoyance. “Stinkin'” or “stinks” is similar, because a stink is an unpleasant smell. Again, I’m not saying this is absolutely necessary, but it certainly does provide a good answer to the claim that a given expression is just the same as some completely different word (that doesn’t even sound like it) that is offensive.

  • A lot of it is cultural. “Bad” words in Jesus’ day were different than what it would be now. “Bad” words 80 years ago would be different that what it would be now. Words that dealt with a Roman crucifixion were abhorred in Jesus’ time, yet we see it as beautiful. For many years British speaking people would utter, “bloody” and that was the equivalent to the American “f-bomb”. Certainly we wouldn’t think “bloody” to be bad. My argument is not that it’s okay to say bad words or words related to them, but when Jesus spoke about our language being a heart issue, it was cross-cultural. It doesn’t matter what context you live. It’s wrong. If you get frustrated and say “rats” in a foreign country where “rats” would be perceived as filthy language, then you have to go back to the heart that you said it in.
    And the goal for every Christian is not to knit-pick, but to live holy. If holiness requires a God-centered language, no matter where you live or what your frustration or how you joke, then you shouldn’t do it.
    But if you go too far, we’re all just guilty of legalism.

  • I may ask you to clarify. I THINK we agree, but I can’t quite tell. My own view is that when an expression has been firmly established in your culture as dirty, whatever that culture may be, then you shouldn’t be availing yourself of that dirty expression, or some variation thereof.

  • Well then we probably “almost” fully agree. There is my clarification.

  • JJ

    What about the ubiquitous OMG?
    Unless someone is praying, saying those 3 words together = taking God’s name in vain.

  • AmyH

    I completely agree. Also, I know a person that uses it, and I’m positive she means “Oh my goodness,” but anybody who didn’t know her standards wouldn’t read it that way. (Appearance of evil?) I don’t know if she might have learned it from someone else and hasn’t thought about what it generally means, but I was certainly shocked the first time she texted me that! Interesting ethical question for the day; I’ll leave it with you all. 😀

  • Lydia McGrew

    But “filthy” depends in part on what the word stands for. It’s an objective moral fact that rats are animals and that having sex is…having sex. So a phrase that refers to having sexual intercourse as an expression of anger, frustration, or just linguistic filler is, as an objective fact, doing something different to the mind of both the hearer and the speaker than a phrase that merely refers to pest animals. So, probably, I don’t agree with FNR.
    Now, I suppose one could live in a culture in which the origin of the term “rats” was such that it somehow referred to sexual intercourse and that people knew this! I’m not even going to “go there” to try to make up this scenario, but one could get creative and do so.
    Absent such a scenario, then, no, the term “filthy” means something different when it refers to the f-bomb than when it refers to other terms and phrases having no sexual connotations whatsoever. It’s just facile to say that the British term “bloody” is the “equivalent” of the f-bomg. Really? Truly? That term was offensive for that reason, because of that meaning? Actually, nobody even seems to be able to figure out where “bloody” came from or why it is considered so offensive. (At least, that’s my understanding.) It certainly is not understood up to the present time as having a sexual meaning. So it’s _not_ the “equivalent” of the f-bomb. All that that “equivalent” statement means is that it’s _considered bad language_ in the British Isles and bothers people a lot. Well, okay, and that’s completely legitimate to take into account.
    But in point of fact, “filthy” isn’t just a term we “stick” onto phrases. It isn’t the equivalent of “offensive” or “bad language.” Some bad language is coarse. Some is truly filthy. Whether or not something is truly filthy depends on the meaning of the word or phrase.

  • David Mac

    There seem to be two categories of terminology at work here:
    1. ‘Dirty’ words and their substitutes, “f###” and “freakin…” etc.
    2. ‘Irreverent’ words and their substitutes, “Oh God” and OMG etc.
    Both categories subdivide into Spoken Forms and Written Forms, the later of which is perhaps the most troublesome among Christian teens. Many, for example, who would not “take the name of the vain” will Text/Tweet “OMG” or “WTF” [as in What the Flip etc. Other flippant acronyms such as “TGIF” are still blasphemous in essence as they represent the breaking of the Commandment “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”.
    Here is the BIGGER issue, is it not? – and incidentally the nub of the difficulty with the “British” swear-vocabulary referred to:
    The older forms of British English carry close associations with the Scriptures and the nigh on 500 year traditions of English [middle to modern] Biblical history. Thus “Gosh” is an abbreviated version of “Gadzooks” or “Gazounds” which are corruptions of “God’s Wounds”.
    In that historical context it is not hard to see where “bloody” comes in. Even the ubiquitous “Hip Hooray” of party use is blasphemous in origin.
    In reality the scriptural injunction comes many of us – myself included – “Let your yeah be yeah and your nay, nay”. So much else of an emphatic nature is irreverant in essence. The vulgar competes with the blasphemous to downgrade or mother tongue to the gutter, and many young folk are caught unwittingly in the degeneration.

  • Well I’m not going to say that we should do away with “Hip Hip Hooray…” 😉
    Hey, that rhymed. I’m a genius.

  • AmyH

    I think you saved me the trouble of stating my piece, DM! I did have some other thoughts, and I might get around to writing them sooner or later, but you covered it pretty nicely.

  • David Mac

    YGG, If you knew the origin you just might! 🙂

  • Actually, I might not. All I was able to gather is that it’s speculated to have originated from a Latin phrase meaning “Jerusalem has fallen,” evolved, and was picked up by the Nazis in some form as a WWII rallying cry.
    We’re a long way away from the f-bomb. This is more like not using the word “gay” for its normal meaning because of how other people have chosen to use it.