I was having some girl-time with friends this weekend when one mom expressed her guilt over having said “fudge” while playing a video game with her son. He asked if it was a swear word and she sheepishly explained, “Well, no. It’s like ‘chocolate fudge’ you know.” But then he started to repeat “chocolate fudge” while playing the game, too. Oops. There was some disagreement over the situation but I couldn’t help but feel similarly convicted.
With the proliferation and acceptance of swear words in our society, I believe it is even more important that as Christians we stand our ground, especially with our kids (and admit when we are wrong, too!). We need to make every effort to allow Christ to be evident in all areas of life, including speech (which reveals the heart). Defining swear words has more to do with a society’s attitude toward the word than what the word actually means. Therefore, words like “fudge” and “frick” and “omigod” are acceptable. However, I believe there is a power unrealized when you swear or use these alternatives instead of getting to the heart of the issue.
I don’t disagree that people need an outlet for strong emotions. But that’s what it comes down to. Many studies suggest that the brain processes swearing in the lower regions, along with emotion and instinct, instead of in the “higher” brain regions in the cerebral cortex. Most swearing, I think, is an instinctive response to something painful and unexpected like hitting your thumb with a hammer. But where do we draw the line? Why “Ow, oh my goodness, that hurt!” is okay and a swear word or alternative isn’t, I am not sure, but there is a difference. Where is your heart? Are you relying on God and trusting Him in every situation? Or are you discouraged and defeated? Think about how you react to a child whose response is to cry (and, uh, not swear) when he’s been hurt. You say, “You’ll be okay. I know it hurt, but it will be better soon.” Sometimes I’ll pray aloud for God to comfort my daughter’s pain, especially when she bites her tongue, for example, while we are in the car where I can’t help her. That often helps quickly. I guess when you say “ow!” you really can be saying “Ow, that hurt. But it will get better. It could have been worse. It’s okay.” Whereas by swearing or using other words, you are saying “That was the most painful thing ever, I’ll never get through this. Why, God, why? Why did this happen to me?” Ok, a bit dramatic, but you get my point. It depends on the heart.
A lot of swearing also occurs when you are frustrated, like getting lost or thinking you deleted an important document on the computer accidentally—both of which I have done recently. This is a completely different situation because you have the opportunity now to exercise faith instead of letting it get to you. Because I have the tendency to get so angry I can’t see straight, I have had to learn to process the situation and my emotions about it. And then pray for God’s help to stay calm and take the steps necessary to get out of the situation. He wants to help, I need to let Him instead of throwing a tantrum!
Oh, and if your child ever swears (no matter how you define it!), remain calm and matter-of-fact. If you get upset, he may use the word again to try to get attention. And, obviously, if you use words you shouldn’t (or at least don’t want him repeating), talk with your child about it so that he can learn from it, too, instead of thinking you are hypocritical—hindering your ability to rebuke him later.
When people curse as a matter of everyday speech, it says a lot about them, but primarily I think it simply shows a lack of ability to form more creative ways to express themselves. Being able to discipline yourself is the very essence of maturity.
“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:6
“To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Proverbs 8:13
“For whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.” 1 Peter 3:9-11