I Swear Not to Cuss Anymore
Here’s the truth …
“I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak” (Matthew 12:36 NLT).
I watched a bit of the show, The Good Place, a while back. In it, the characters have died and have made it to the “Good Place,” so whenever they try to cuss, out come “softer” versions of the actual words they are trying to say. Words like “bench,” “shirt,” and “fork” get used in place of the sordid counterparts that we hear so often. It made me wonder, who was the person who first decided what a cuss word was and wasn't?
A quick search on the internet yielded that most of our cuss words today have Germanic origins. No offense to the Germans, but why did they get to decide? I mean, why can’t we make a declaration that “ugly,” “fat,” and “stupid” are cuss words now? Those seem far more damaging—to me, anyway.
Granted, cuss words can certainly be memorable. We still talk about a time when we were in Pittsburgh shopping in the Strip District and an outdoor vendor was cussing up a storm as we were passing through, oblivious about it entirely. A co-worker politely told her that she should pipe down because there could be kids nearby. Well, my daughter was, indeed, right there, but the worker said, “Ain’t no kids around here!” Clearly, she missed the obnoxious unicorn hoodie with a rainbow of pastels that my daughter was wearing! It prompted the question later: is it ever appropriate to cuss?
Of course, we shouldn’t cuss. We all know that. But if I drop a hammer on my foot or I step barefoot on a Lego, I can guarantee a cuss word will slip out of my mouth. I mean, words like “sugar” and “shucks” can be tried but probably won’t do the trick. So, this is one area where I would feel like a hypocrite if I said that I never cuss so you shouldn’t either if you are a Christian. A clear distinction should be made, though, between the vendor who obviously has a supply of cuss words at the ready and folks who slip up once in a while. I don’t want to cuss, even if I do sometimes, which is different than using cuss words as often as you blink your eyes. And it begs the question of whether God cares more about particular vowels and consonants than He does about the consequences of the words we say.
I simply want to focus more on how my words make others feel. That vendor had a “potty” mouth in the presence of my daughter, but there are girls at school who have made my daughter feel downright awful without uttering a single cuss word. I, too, have probably been on that list of saying something unkind to her in the heat of the moment, especially after the umpteenth milk spill or the clutter that she created in rooms around my house. The consequences of the words I choose to say need to be utmost in my mind when I let them leak out.
This bleeds over into words that we hear on a regular basis as well. If the actors in the television shows we watch use phrases replete with language we’d rather not say ourselves, then, at some point, we have to admit that what goes into our brains will naturally come out some time later. Jesus said, “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Matthew 12:34b NLT). If we fill our time listening to unhealthy language, then unhealthy language will come back out. It’s the inhale/exhale philosophy. Possibly that Strip District vendor spent a lot of time watching shows or listening to songs that made such language become second nature to her. If we know rap songs by heart with cuss words aplenty in them but we can’t quote a lick of Scripture, then we need to change what we’re inhaling.
Of course, Jesus challenges some of that thinking when He chose fishermen and tax collectors to be His friends. You’d have to think that He heard a few choice words while interacting with them. And it wasn’t to the ones who were rough around the edges but to the “pristine” Pharisees that Jesus directed the following words: “I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak” (Matthew 12:36 NLT). We all have words that need to be run through the rinse cycle, regardless of what we feed our brains.
Sometimes, it’s not particular words we speak but our rotten attitudes that produce unkind comments, or our fatigue that brings about cutting remarks. We may not be cussing, but if we are honest with ourselves, our negative words are far more damaging than ones with only four letters in them! Too many people have been told by their parents that they won't amount to anything or that they should never have been born. That's a real tragedy. It’s imperative that we practice choosing each word with utmost care.
And we shouldn’t swear to keep a promise that we can’t keep. If we’re honest, swearing to stop cussing is probably a fool’s errand. In addition, God’s Word expressly says: “you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all…. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37 NIV).
So let’s simply acknowledge that we should find better ways to express our anger, dissatisfaction, or pain than relying on expletives. More importantly, we should choose each word that we utter with the thought that we will be held accountable for it later. My husband always says that silence conveys way more than many words could anyway, cursing ones or otherwise.
… and that’s the truth as I know it!