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Cussing Is Neither Good or Bad

Cussing Is Neither Good or Bad July 15, 2021

I cohost a podcast called Heretic Happy Hour. The running gag is that we claim to be the only podcast with a hotline. We know this isn’t true. We just like to say it.

Over the course of the past month or so, we’ve received over 60 critical voicemails from one obsessed listener. I’m sure by the time I publish this entry, there will be closer to 70. This listener’s beef with us? It comes down to two main things: Sexuality and cussing. I’m not going to get into the sexuality part in this blog, but I am going to briefly talk about cussing.

During a few of the most recent voicemails, our pal Pal went on and on about how we are going to tell children it is not only okay to cuss but that they should cuss as much as possible. Why he said this I’m not sure.

But here’s the deal.

None of us tell our children to cuss. In fact – I’ll just speak for myself here and not the other 3 cohosts – but because I cuss openly and don’t make a big deal about it, my daughter doesn’t really use expletives. That’s right! By not making it a big deal, it doesn’t become a big deal.

If a cuss word slips out from time to time, then a cuss word slips out from time to time. Again, it’s not a big deal.

When it becomes a big deal is when people try to get their children NOT to cuss. In working tirelessly to get their children to use “pure speech,” as my friend Pal puts it, guess what tends to happen? They start cussing like pirates behind their parents’ backs. That was me. I was told I couldn’t cuss. So, what did I do? I made sure to cuss a f***ton when my parents weren’t around.

If we want to put this all in Christianese, what tends to happen when we tell our children they CAN’T cuss, is that our “law” becomes the stumbling block Paul warns about. That’s just how human psychology works. We often desire that which we can’t have. In the case of the child who can’t cuss, they want to cuss simply because we’ve made it so taboo.

Now, of course there are limits to this. There is nuance. Instead of telling my daughter “thou shalt not cuss,” I explain to her when, where, and how it is appropriate and inappropriate. I tell her that school officials don’t like cussing at school, so don’t become a distraction for them. I tell her that some parents don’t like cussing and don’t want their kids to hear it, so be respectful and try not to become a problem for them. And guess what!? My daughter hasn’t made it a problem.

Kids are smart, my friends. If you reason with them and put things in age-appropriate terms, they’ll likely get it. If you, however, exert your power over them and tell them what they can or can’t do, then chances are everything is going to backfire for you.

So, Pal (and all those who are 100% against cussing), please consider this. If you don’t want children to cuss, don’t make it so taboo. And please, stop treating words like magical incantations. Words, in and of themselves, aren’t dirty or clean. They aren’t good or evil. They are simply pointers. I can cuss and say the most loving thing in the world. When my best friend and I hang out, I cuss often. I tell him he’s a beautiful m*****f*****. He appreciates that. On the flipside, some of the most malicious and spiteful people I’ve ever met never cuss at all. But they sure will twist the proverbial knife in your back like Brutus did to Julius Caesar, smiling the whole time.

At least consider this.

Peace out. Until next time.


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About Matthew Distefano
Matthew is a best-selling author, blogger, podcaster, long-time social worker, and hip-hop artist. He is an outspoken advocate for nonviolence, happily married, with one daughter. Outside of writing, his interests include gardening, hiking, and European football. He lives in Northern California You can read more about the author here.
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