Last time I wrote I promised an upcoming blog on “cussing”. So, it’s been about a week and I hope it hasn’t leaked out of my head. But honestly, these thoughts have been on my mind for a few years, so recalling my thoughts on it shouldn’t be too difficult (though they might lack the organization they had the other day!). OK—sleeves up—here we go…
A few years ago I agreed to meet with a person who wanted to come to my house and talk to me because they had some “concerns”. They were a member of our church and I was the wife of the lead pastor. I did it because, at the time, I thought that’s what a “good” pastor’s wife should do. They came over and proceeded to share their concerns about the fact that they had heard from someone else that when asked how my day was going I told them that I “felt like shit”. They said something like I wasn’t being a godly example to others and some other words that I really didn’t hear through my shock.
Now that I am older and more, um, seasoned, I can think of many good responses to that conversation. But at the time, I tried to defend myself. I told them that I was certain that wasn’t even true because I have a problem with cussing. And by that I mean that I am incapable of doing it so that it sounds like a normal part of a sentence. It’s more like a defect, really. I could barely even bring myself to type profanity. Any cursing I do is a one word expletive reserved for occasions when I do things like back into my own car or ride terrifying roller coasters. To use it in casual conversation is not something I do. I am not saying I am above anyone, I just don’t do it. It doesn’t sound natural and isn’t a part of my language gift set. So I knew this wasn’t a true story. I don’t remember what the outcome was, other than they eventually left our church and that I still regret letting such a ridiculous conversation take place in my very own living room. Or I at least regret that I tried to convince her that it just wasn’t true rather than had a discussion like this. I don’t think I was capable yet. I still believed the lie that “bad” words=”bad” me.
Because as far as I can tell, words are words are words. I have seen a t-shirt that says “I love Jesus, but I cuss a little”. It’s possible. I have heard a lot of spiritual sounding talk come from people like the one above, but their hearts are clouded with judgment and self-righteousness. I have heard a lot of passionate talk on forgiveness from a person who now looks the other way when they see me—pretends I don’t exist. On the flip side, I have also heard language that some like to refer to as “colorful” come from people who serve and love and sacrifice for their friends and even strangers who are struggling—who genuinely try to turn their will and their lives over to God all day, every day.
Man looks on the outside, but God sees our hearts. It’s legalistic to think that saying “Dangit!!” is better than “Dammit!” if I do it with the same angst or rage in my heart.
I am kidding myself if I think that God is fooled when I clean up my language but not my spirit.
That’s what Jesus was referring to when he called the Pharisees in the Bible “white-washed tombs.” In other words, they looked squeaky clean on the outside, but on the inside they were full of death. They didn’t cuss or chew or go with girls who do. But God was not impressed. He saw the darkness of their hearts and condemned them.
Most of you are familiar with the 10 Commandments (one or two of them anyway). But the one that instructs us not to use the Lord’s name in vain is the only one that even comes close to addressing our potty-mouths. Yes, that means we should try to avoid screaming His name when we stub our toe. But it’s not because it offends him. “In vain” means to use it as an “empty” word. It means that we use His name without even considering that He is the most awesome, magnificent, all-powerful and loving and intimate Being in the universe. When we throw His name around willy-nilly (i.e. OhMygod!), we are certainly not embracing the fullness of His name.
When my son was little, he heard about hell in a Sunday School class. I guess he decided that it must not be a “bad” word since they use it in church. Not sure where he made the connection, but there was a period of time when he was about 4 that he would say things like, “What the hell just happened there?” to his grandparent or, “Ah, hell!” when he was frustrated. I was petrified that some Sunday he would yell out the door of his classroom at church, “Hey Mom! Where the hell have you been?” On the hierarchy we have created in the curse world, hell is about a mid-range curse word. But that’s the point, WE have created those words and their weightiness. There is not a word, in and of itself, that is worse than any other. It’s the intent and state of our hearts that makes it so.
*And if you go around telling people that Heather Carter endorses profanity, you might have missed my point. I’d be happy to meet with you in my living room to clarify…😉