As I waited in line with my son to be fitted with a harness for rock climbing, we heard everything the two teen employees said to each other: “Yeah, I said, ‘What the f—?’ I mean, that b—-!” My son looked at me with big eyes and the two other kids in line stood staring, ears open.
I seriously considered complaining to the manager but resolved simply never to return. Instead, I decided to use the experience as a lesson at bedtime. I couldn’t protect my son from ever hearing swear words, but I could educate him about the weight our words carry. I knew he might ask, “Why is swearing bad?”. So I armed myself with these 4 truths about using curse words.
1. The words you choose influence what others think of you.
Instantly, curse words can make a bad impression that is difficult to reverse. Luke 6:45 says, “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” So if hateful, dirty words are flowing out of your mouth, people are going to think that is what is in your heart.
My initial thoughts about the teens at the rock climbing place were: These people are rude. They’re selfish and don’t care about the younger kids around them.
Now were these things true? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, these were my first thoughts. I want my kids to understand that this is what others may think of them if they throw around curse words at a place like work or school.
2. The words you choose influence the opportunities you receive.
Using curse words frequently can stifle your potential. If an employer is offended by your overuse of vulgar language, he or she may be less likely to offer you a promotion, thinking that a person in leadership needs more integrity.
Similarly, if you are cursing at school, you likely will not show enough integrity to be nominated for student of the month, or class president, or captain of the basketball team. Administrators honor students who show good character, and using nasty language tends to show a lack of respect for people, places, and things.
3. The words you use influence your relationships.
If in the heat of the moment, you call your best friend a string of curse words, it’s awfully difficult to retract those words later (and your friend may find it even more difficult to forgive and reconcile with you). Those words will ring in their ears for a long time. Do you really want to treat your friends and loved ones like dirt, just because you’re angry for a moment?
In our house, we often say, “Build others up.” It comes from Ephesians 4:29, which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” So we remind each other—If what is coming out of your mouth isn’t helpful, it isn’t worth saying.
4. The words you use communicate your intelligence.
Why is swearing bad? Because when you default to using curse words, you are giving up your opportunity to communicate clearly and thoughtfully. People use curse words to share extreme dislike or surprise. They think it packs more of a punch. But in reality, it communicates less. Curse words are less descriptive, and, therefore, less intelligent.
For example, someone who says, “What the f—?!” could mean any of the following:
- “I am really confused by the grade I got on this exam. I studied so hard for it!” or
- “I can’t believe I got an A on this exam! I’m so relieved.” or
- “I skipped number 4 on this exam and forgot to come back to it! I’m so disappointed.”
By choosing more specific words, you can communicate so much more. Using “garbage words” instead of thoughtful words throws away the beauty and usefulness of language.
How do you talk to your kids about curse words?