by Steve Klein
Today we have experts and scholars on every subject imaginable - from global warming to cotton farming. Timothy Jay is an expert on cursing. He's made quite a study of it, written two books about it, and talks about it often to his students at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts where he is a professor of psychology. Mr. Jay recently reported that swearing among adolescents and pre-teens in America is on the rise. He estimates that the average adolescent uses roughly 80 to 90 swear words a day.
Mr. Jay further observed that cussing is a behavior that is often learned in the home. "It starts as soon as they learn how to talk," he says. "At a young age, they're attentive to emotions. When you're swearing to be funny or when you're angry, that just draws them right to it." In a Gallup Youth Survey published in 2001, 46 percent of teens surveyed admitted to using profanity at least several times a week or daily, while 28 percent said they heard their parents cursing on a regular basis.
The experts also say that casual cuss words are often used as "fillers" when the speaker is having trouble expressing himself or herself. P.M. Forni, author of Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct observed that indeed "The profanities are the fillers. They take the place of a more sophisticated way of speaking." My daddy used to say that when a man cussed he was just showing his own ignorance.
What is the cure for this cussing epidemic? The Bible suggests a number of remedies. If you are having trouble in this area, or know someone who is, why not try or recommend the following?
- Keep your mouth shut. If you can't express yourself without saying a curse word, then just don't express yourself. "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back" (Proverbs 29:11). "Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles" (Proverbs 21:23).
- When you talk, talk less. The more words you speak, the more likely you are to say something you shouldn't -- using a curse word as "filler." "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise" (Proverbs 10:19).
- Think about how you want others to perceive you. It is a fact that the use of profanity makes a person seem less intelligent and more worldly. "Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive" (Proverbs 17:28).
- Think about the example you are setting for others. People learn the use of language by hearing others use it. Whether we're talking about the words that a child learns from parents or the words children learn from each other at school, we pattern our speech after the examples set by others. This implies that each of us also serves as a pattern for the speech of others. Paul told Titus to show himself to be "a pattern of good works" using "sound speech that cannot be condemned" (Titus 2:8).
- Stay away from people and situations that make you angry and tempt you to lose control. "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul" (Proverbs 22:24-25).
- Follow the example of Christ. Jesus didn't curse. Not because He didn't have the opportunity to curse or because people never provoked Him. He had plenty of opportunity and provocation. But He "committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return" (I Peter 2:22-23). In this, He left an example for us.
Can the plague of profanity in our culture be reversed? Perhaps. For that to happen, each individual Christian must determine to set the example! "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29).