If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, it’s no secret that I love to swear. The irony is that I grew up in a very legalistic, fundamental home, complete with “Swear-Free TV” (a box that would turn on closed captioning and use a replacement word for the curse word anytime an actor swore). “Ass” was “toe”, “sex” was “hugs”, “hell” and “damn” were just omitted, and I honestly can’t remember what “fuck” was. If we are being real, the “Swear-Free TV” didn’t do what we paid good money for it to do – cause we knew and said every word it replaced in our heads. Oops.
And that’s just it…right? You may not say the cuss words out loud, but you say them quite frequently in your heads. And why is?
Some of you may not know this, but I am an English major. I literally studied words in college and then taught high school English after that. I love words, spoken and written. Words enable us to communicate. And communication allows us to express ourselves. Authentic expression requires access to the entire English vernacular. Here’s what I mean…
When my brother committed suicide two years ago, I swore like a sailor for about three weeks straight. I wasn’t trying to be cool. I wasn’t trying to make a point. I wasn’t trying to get attention. I was trying to express myself and at that point, I really didn’t care what people thought of me. I experienced a pain I legit didn’t have words for. When people asked how I was, I honestly didn’t know how to communicate my ache. So, I swore and the swearing released my anger, fear, sadness, angst, brokenness, and pain in a way no other words could. Swearing allowed me to accentuate the few words I could actually put together. And those closest to me gave me the freedom of expression because they knew it revealed the deepest and most vulnerable spaces in my heart.
I realize for some of you this seems absurd. But I couldn’t answer the question, “How are you really doing?” with “Golly gosh, thanks for asking. This is the darndest pain I’ve ever felt and gee willerkers I am so angry and flipping sad.” How inauthentic does that sound? No. The only way I could describe how I felt was to say, “This is the fuckiest fuck I have ever experienced.” I wasn’t trying to make a point. I wasn’t trying to shock and awe. I wasn’t trying to be cool or hip. I was trying to express myself when words were literally failing me.
Cuss words (I live in the South) are simply just that – they are words. And words morph and change over the centuries. What was once considered “inappropriate language” is now common vernacular (insert “screwed”, “butthole”, “freakin”, “gosh”, “gees”, “crap” etc). I agree that there is a time and place for using “swear words”, but we have to remember that they are just words. Our reaction and interaction to them give them meaning.
I don’t cuss constantly. I am aware of my surroundings. I’m careful not to needlessly offend. But I also appreciate the injection of a timely word or words. When I read the verse “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift” (Ephesians 4:29), I take that at face value. I do not want to say things that are foul or dirty (this is not referring to cuss words – mind you) and I want to be helpful – using my words as gifts. I want to love people well – with my words, actions, and thoughts. Sometimes, an appropriately placed swear word is a gift because it allows someone to express their pain, anger, frustration in a healthy way – through words and not through actions. Swear words give us the opportunity to peak behind the curtain of someone’s heart and to see how they are processing. They can also be funny – and humor is a gift! Can swear words be a distraction? Oh one hundred percent. So can poor use of grammar. But if I know that my swearing will be offensive to someone I am face-to-face with, I don’t do it. I want this person to feel safe and seen by me. So I refrain. When it comes to my social media, I realize that people don’t have to follow me. I am strategic with the audience I am attempting to reach. That’s why I’m not censored. Not because I don’t care about the people who don’t like my cussing, but because I know that they can easily unfollow me (as many have) and follow people that are uplifting to them. Most of my followers aren’t being seen and heard by many other people – and they are my target audience.
Listen, I realize so many of you will poke holes in my blog today. And I’m fine with that. I didn’t write this as a way to talk you into or out of swearing. I am not defending myself. I am simply answering a question I get asked a lot, “How can you love Jesus and swear?” I guess the answer is pretty easy for me to answer: Jesus was a wordsmith. He was the most talented teacher, speaker there ever was. He understands the importance of words. And He knows words are simply words. And so I know I have the grace and freedom to express myself – and I’m going to live in that freedom…both to swear for those who need to hear it, and not to swear for those who don’t.
Love and peace.