Okay, I have a little confession to make: I have a potty mouth. I know you’re shocked, but it’s true. I’m no truck driver, but I’ve been known to let one slip here and there. My son recently confronted me on my use of the “S” word, to which I replied, “Mommy will stop using the “S” word when you boys stop leaving your Legos where I walk”. This little exchange got me to pondering the true meanings of our modern swear words and what makes them all that bad. Let’s see what Dictionary.com has to say:
The “S” word: Poop
noun, verb, interjection Vulgar
1. excrement; feces.
2. an act of defecating; evacuation.
The “A” word: A donkey
1. a long-eared, slow, patient, sure-footed domesticated mammal, Equus asinus, related to the horse, used chiefly as a beast of burden.
2. any wild species of the genus Equus, as the onager.
The “B” word: A female dog
1. a female dog: The b**** won first place in the sporting dogs category.
2. a female of canines generally.
The “D” word: Bad
verb (used with object)
1. to declare (something) to be bad, unfit, invalid, or illegal.
2. to condemn as a failure: to damn a play.
The “F” word: OK, this one really isn’t great and actually means what it’s used for.
No one really knows where this word came from or when it took on its current meaning.
Doing this research brought me back to a time when my friends and I thought we were really cool by looking them up in the dictionary and giggling. Being 10 was awesome.
I’ve spent most of my Christian years equating the use of these words to sin or verbal toxin. But obviously, there’s nothing bad about donkeys, female dogs, calling something bad, if it is, or poop. So what’s the real problem?
I have a theory.
Even though I don’t believe that the words themselves are all that bad, there’s still an argument as to why not to use them. That’s because these words are spoken mostly in negative speech, not when speaking about something positively (unless, of course, you play the banjo and make moonshine in your back yard). James 3:5-11 says this:
“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. “
My suspicion is that James is speaking less to our modern swear words, and more to this:
“Do all things without grumbling or complaining.” – Philippians 214
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
“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
When our attitudes, thoughts, and focus is on what is positive, pure, and helpful, our modern vulgarities will naturally have no place in our speech. That’s why the corrective focus shouldn’t be on the words themselves, but the heart from which they are spoken. Do you know any Christians with toilet-bowl attitudes and divisive language who tout their righteousness just because the Big-5 isn’t part of their vocab? (OK, another confession, I have TOTALLY been one of those people) I would now argue that slander, gossip, and negativity are worse than 4-letter words. I can say that because I’ve always been one of those glass-half-empty folks, and the Holy Spirit has been challenging me on what wholesome talk really is, and more importantly, where it comes from:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
“At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” Ephesians 5: 20
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” – Matthew 6:33
Surrendering our stinking thinking to the Lord and renewing our minds by the truth of His word will, on its own, eliminate undesirable speech. I have been challenged to be more optimistic, and to speak words of faith, encouragement, and love. And when I step on a Lego? Well, there’s grace for that.
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