On Dave Black’s website his wife Becky put up an article on the issue of Christians and cursing. Then Andy Bowden responded (mostly just adding on to Becky’s comments). You can seem them here:
Friday June 3rd 5:22 PM Andrew Bowden responds to Becky’s essay on cursing. Excellent insights, Andy. Thank you for sharing them with us.
If it is fine, I wanted to pitch into the conversation as well, not repeating what they said (I hope) but adding on, from the issue of cursing as profanity.
Generally speaking, I tend to see the primary problem of cursing as that of anger (either momentary anger or the indication of something deeper going on).
Generally speaking, (always problems when speaking of generalities – so I have my little weird thing I say “typically usually mainly in most cases though not always, typically usually mainly… this is often when I want to make an assertion that is not always true as though it is) when a person is cursing, or cussing… it is out of anger or angry frustration.
Cursing is the symptom while anger is the reason for the cursing, while some other thing(s) is/are the reason for the anger. The cursing/cussing person is an angry person or a person dealing with anger issues. Have I said angry enough? Well you get the picture then because cursing is like that, it gets repeated or is every other word and the more angry a person is the more often it occurs. Well, at least, I haven’t ever come across nice cursing/cussing, and I don’t know too many people who use profanity and aren’t angry people or aren’t dealing with some level of anger.
So, when confronting someone who is cursing or whose speech is laced with profanity, it is perfectly legitimate to ask them why they are so angry. That would be getting to the heart of the issue.
So, then the question might become, is it wrong to be angry? Well, no, not usually. It is part of being human, and there are all too often perfectly legitimate reasons for being angry. But even in our anger we are not to sin and are to maintain self-control, nor should we allow that anger to gain control over us or our hearts. It’s even okay to be angry at God – more of us probably need to get out to some lone field somewhere and have a cuss out session with God so we can get it out on the table and begin to resolve the problem…. (read more of the Psalms for examples of this) (don’t worry, God won’t be offended, he wants you to deal with it. It’s just that most of us don’t want to or we are too fearful we might offend God, though that can be pretty hard to do sometimes).
So, I see the cursing person as one who is battling an anger problem and has or is on the verge of losing self-control. Anger indicates to us something is in need of our dire attention.
What to do then? Well we need to accept the fact that we might be dealing with an anger problem and get help. We can usually try to overcome it on our own but often anger is a bigger problem than we are and we often need help from others to identify the root of what has caused the anger (i.e., unmet needs, unresolved grief, loss of a job or income or relationship, etc, loss of control over some thing, unfulfilled dreams or expectations, etc), so we can begin to confront that issue and begin to move forward and be free from anger.
That’s how I see it.
Your last sentence is wise. I especially resonated (hmm, does that word date me?!) with “often anger is a bigger problem”. I’ve had this at times. My father very much did. He was a “striker” (KJV word), violent toward Mom, us kids, and our dog. Yet he was a believer. He would repent after each episode. He would ask me for forgiveness. He prayed for victory. But he refused to get help, even when it was offered to him. My employer required me to get help. I was not a striker but turned so much anger inward to depression and paralyzing fear. Then I got in touch with my anger. Ouch! I continue getting help and it’s such a relief. Thanks for this post.
I curse and don’t think its a big deal, however I don’t curse around people who might be offended or in professional environments. I don’t consider it an anger issue although sometimes I do curse in moments of anger, pain or anxiety. I find it to be therapeutic in those cases. Honestly I wonder why Christians make such a big deal out of profanity. I know I used to. In terms of morality it gets way more emphasis than it should.
I’m really surprised at this stance. El Bryan says, “It gets way more emphasis than it should.” Really? Scripture places such emphasis on words: read the book of Proverbs and see how many times speech is the topic, or the book of James, or Jesus’ teaching. A person’s language is a huge theme in Scripture!
Even when one does not curse in anger, Jesus has said, “man will give an account for every careless word,” and Paul “let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth.” Jesus rasied the bar on so many issues: lust is adultery, hatred murder, etc. Are we really to think that he did not raise the bar on our language?
Finally, El Bryan finds cursing to be theraputic. I say (with sarcasm): “I find punching pillows to be theraputic,” but I stopped doing that when I was a boy. Just because something “works” does not make it right.
Words can have great importance and little importance. Just because it’s a curse word does not make it of great importance, and you can say plenty of things that are destructive and damaging without using curse words. We can’t have such a simplistic view of language. It’s very complex. Words on their own aren’t bad or good. Their context and the intentions behind them matter more than just the phonetic sound. Christians too easily slip into the mentality that some words are inherently good and some words are inherently evil and all sorts of ridiculous stuff stems from there.
Btw, if punching pillows helps you deal with anger then by all means. Whether you did it when you were a kid doesn’t seem to matter much. I used to play drums really hard to let off steam. That’s not much different.
El Bryon: since curse words, as you say, are merely empty phonemes that our culture has defined as dirty, then why in moments of anger, out of all the thousands of meaningless words you could choose to say, do you choose one of these empty cuss-phonemes that carry no significance? Moreover, why do you find that saying this empty cuss-phoneme is theraptuetic? Personally, I find that saying random words such as “computer” does little to ease my pain. What is it, then, about saying a term that our culture has loaded with bad connotations that brings you therapy?
In moments of pain or anxiety, Scripture has given us clear instructions, such as “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication…” That seems like a much better alternative than spewing out a curse word. After all, if all I do is spew out an empty phoneme, I really have done nothing about the problem and the issue is still there.
Also, next time you hit your thumb with a hammer, I challenge you to think about these words, written by wise Solomon: “A fool shows his annoyance at once” (Prov 12:16).
I say all types of words in moments of anger, anxiety, or pain, some curse words and some fake curse words and some funny words that have maybe a sound or two that is similar to a curse word. Do they solve my problems completely? Of course not. But they help a little in the immediate moment and other things help as well if they problem is bigger than being solved with a simple swear word.
Why is it that you find it such a big deal to say s*** if you stub your toe or lock your keys in the car? Why do you find it such a big deal that you not only want to refrain from it yourself but you want to convince other people it’s bad for them to do so too? Is this how you were raised or did you become like this later in life? Did you grow up having such a serious view of cursing or did you acquire it later on?
I just enjoy a good conversation about a wide variety of topics, so thanks for your thoughts.