By Justin Torossian
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” —Psalm 19:14
It was the third grade. The dream was brief, and strange enough to stay with me for years to come. I was on the school playground talking to a friend, and he interrupted me. “You don’t have to say that,” he said. “Say what?” I asked. “You don’t have to swear.” Confused, I replied, “I didn’t swear.” “Yes you did,” he shot back. But I couldn’t remember swearing once! Curse words weren’t even in my vocabulary. At this I awoke, and moved on with the day.
Swearing: When we’re young, “the cool kids do it.” We grow up hearing it in movies and music, or from family or friends. For these reasons, swear words can enter our vocabulary. Some of us develop a mental switch. Certain people in the room? Switch — off. Friends/siblings/no one around? Switch — on. So…is swearing just another healthy form of expression? Does it matter? Not surprisingly, the Bible speaks to the topic! “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place… ” Ephesians 5:4); “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:10; “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful.” (Ephesians 4:29, NLT) In the very next verse Paul warns us not to grieve (wound) the Holy Spirit, meaning that us swearing can hurt the heart of God.
For Real?: In addition to hurting God, swearing hurts the hearers and the swearer (Prov. 12:18). My high school English teacher told us, “Swearing stunts your mental growth.” I didn’t agree back then, but now I sure do. Constantly swearing means you use only a handful of words for many things, limiting your ability to communicate. For example, let’s say one boy upsets another and he says, “I’m _____ at him!” Instead of swearing, he could say, “I’m frustrated…annoyed, aggravated, irritated, furious at him.” Though related, each word has its own distinct meaning. The larger our vocabulary, the more accurately we can communicate our thoughts and feelings. Curse words prevent this growth that God intended.
But my English teacher had it easy…today slang is making its way into homework! In 2013 a London high school hit the news, forbidding students from using “Ain’t,” & “We woz,” and banning sentences starting with “actually” or ending with “yeah.” Why? Stoodintz woz havn a tuff time tellin tha diff btwn txt wordz, & correct English with which to write school papers and job resumés!
The Rest of the Story: It was the end of high school. Through time and poor choices I had strayed from God…and this was reflected by the foul language I used. Once in conversation, a friend cut me off mid-sentence — “You don’t have to say that.” Not understanding, I asked, “Say what?” He responded, “You don’t have to cuss.” “I di—”… Stopping, it hit me. I had just sworn without even realizing it! My childhood dream leapt to mind. Wow. Because of my poor choices, that dream’s terrible picture of what might become had actually come to pass. What a wake-up call! The change wasn’t overnight, but just then a radical transformation began. As I look back to that moment, I’m so grateful to God for His goodness and grace, and the incredible power He has to free us from any habit we seek His help with. Whether it’s with your words or something else…reach up your hand for His help today!
You may ask, “What about slang words, or replacing swear words with ones like “gosh,” or “darn”? Be sure to read next week where we’ll cover the topics of slang and minced oaths!
Justin Torossian is pastor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Exeter. He may be reached at email@example.com by calling 559-909-0965.
Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.