Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What are your thoughts on profanity?

So Stephen and I have tackled this question and discussed this topic a few times. FYI in our home we follow the commandment not to take the Lord's name in vain, we are teaching Madeline and James that if they speak of God/Jesus/Christ it is only in worship, prayer or when speaking of Him - not to be used in expressions or sayings. We also do not use profanity in our home, to be honest it's occurred but we are teaching the kids there are "naughty words" that should not be said because they can come across disrespectful, intolerant, bad, dirty, blasphemy, rude, vulgar, obscene, and foul. I just want to make clear, in my lifetime I have been guilty of taking the Lord's name in vain and using profanity, so I don't want this post to come across in an arrogant, I'm holier than thou tone. But I think it's a topic worth bringing up and discussing with the way of the world today and how people conduct themselves.

So Stephen and I agree that profanity is real and that it can lead to negativity, and sometimes lead to ungodliness (which can be very serious and dangerous). Which words are considered profanity is where Stephen and I differ a little on opinion. Obviously curse or swear words deemed by society fall under the category for me. But Stephen makes a good point that a person can say "gosh darn it!" and in their heart still mean and feel the same as if they were to use God's name and damn instead. I have to agree with Stephen - it is about the heart. I believe it's important then we all reflect when choosing the words we use to examine what is on our hearts when we use them - is what I am expressing good and acceptable to God, is what I am expressing good for building up and giving grace to those who hear me?

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4

When I saw this poster, I thought I know many who probably feel this way. Stephen and I also differ a little in what we find humorous, he could laugh at a comedian who might use profanity where I may not find it funny but distasteful, intolerant or feeble. But it's our differences/oppositeness that brought us together and I think help balance each other out - he's taught me to loosen up a bit and relax where hopefully I've helped him to see that you don't have to be negative to be funny. 

So let's examine the quote in the poster more, "Profanity makes talking fun!". Here are some counter quotes and you tell me which you agree with more:

When a man uses profanity to support an argument, it indicates that either the man or the argument is weak - probably both

Profanity is the attempt of a lazy and feeble mind to express itself forcefully

So would you rather be considered weak, lazy, feeble yet funny - or find another alternative that leaves out profanity yet you still come across fun? Now I know and have many family and friends who may swear or cuss - and by writing all of this I'm not trying to say they are all lazy and weak in mind. Actually most of them are very highly intelligent persons who I admire in so many ways and feel they have so much to offer to the world. Do I feel that they may come across lazy and weak in mind when they use profanity? Sometimes. And it's because of all the reasons in this blog post I am discussing. 

Lastly I wanted to share this quote that I pinned to one of my virtual pinboards. I thought this proverb is so true and relates to using profanity. Some people may use it with just their friends, but never in front of young kids, their parents or grandparents. Others may use it in the workplace, but not at home around their family. There's obviously a reason they choose to use it sometimes and not other times. Why? Well there is a reason why swearing in a workplace or at an educational facility can be an act of misconduct and grounds for dismissal, it can offend someone. So peeps that like to use profanity, is it more important that others just except that is how you choose to express yourself, it's who you are and if they don't like it...who cares? Or is it more important to try not to offend others just like you wouldn't want others to be offensive towards you? Profanity never inspires someone to do their best. Your words should be chosen carefully and should be those that motivate and comfort others. 


Mickie and Matt said...

AMEN AMEN AMEN!!! I too and very VERY strict about the language used around here and around me. Matt is a little more relaxed about some words that I don't appreciate but taking the Lord name in vein NEVER happens around here however. I agree with everything you said. I think if you can't think of anything better to say then don't say anything at all.

My grandfather rather than cursing when upset would say things like "This is just fantastic, WOW, Oh My, this is spectacular... " I always loved that about him, never heard him ever say anything offensive. (My parents either)

Will said...

I have a somewhat unique viewpoint but agree with the stuff about the Lord's name. Usually when people use it in vein, it's done to mock or deride what He has done. As for the other words, I don't mind it as long as it's not done to degrade or antagonize someone. I don't personally use them but can appreciate that they CAN convey thoughts or feelings in a way that other words can't.

Spence Ohana said...

Oh Will now you're making me go through profanity words in my head to see if there are others words that could be used in place of to convey a thought or feeling. LOL I think most have replacement words. I understand where you are coming from though. But if they are said to convey a thought or feeling and are not done to mock or degrade BUT still offend someone who hears it...can you still appreciate it?

Elizabeth said...

This is a topic not often addressed, but I'm glad you did!! I've used curse words PLENTY of times in my life, but removing them from my vocabulary set me on the path of a HUGE transformation. I started thinking more positively, finding the silver-lining in more, and stopped complaining! One small change made a huge impact on my life!

Will said...

Yes, there are replacement words but they usually (for better or worse) do not have the same power as their actual words. In my opinion, that means that they do no mean the exactly the same thing and the pragmatic part of me says that the profane word "can" more accurately convey one's feelings. As far as offending others who hear it, one can try to accomodate one's language to fit an environment but we all know that what may not be vulgar to us may still offend others and it's impossible to have a mental list of what's acceptable according to everyone else. Just do one's best and don't judge others when profanity is heard. I had a hard time with some of the earlier quotes because they seem to be coming to a harsh judgment, practically insulting in fact.

Spence Ohana said...

Will do you think it's okay to judge others that use profanity in a degrading or antagonizing way?

So I was trying to think of when one would use profanity just to convey a really strong feeling. Like when someone is super happy about something they might say F___ ya! :) If someone said that in front of your children or grandparents would you be offended? Would you feel they were being lazy in mind by their choice of words? Couldn't they have easily used another choice of words to convey their feelings?

Another example is Stephen's boss will often cuss when talking with Stephen. He was swearing about something and they turned the corner and an employee (whom his boss knew to be a Christian) was standing there and took offense. He apologized right away. So you never really know who is listening. Yes you're right, what might not be vulgar to us may be vulgar to others - maybe then we should just use what society deems offensive (not said on TV, in schools, etc) as a rule of thumb and out of respect for all people not use the words?

Will said...

I love a good discussion. Yes, I'll say admit that I feel fairly confident when determining whether someone is trying to cut someone down or pick a fight. I just wouldn't go the next step in labeling them lazy or weak-minded though. That's a jump that I wouldn't be willing to make.

As for situation #1, it actually is something that can happen regularly in disc golf or other sports. I would say the individual is violating my personal opinion of containing the language to his/her own environment. I'd be sad that another phrase wasn't used. On that note, "H___ yeah" might be an example of a phrase that doesn't bat an eyebrow for most, but is cringe worthy for others.

#2 - Never appropriate in a work environment.

Such a difficult subject though because some words on TV nowadays were unheard of years ago (Words A & B for example) so I'm hesitant to use the TV world as a guide. Side note: one can be quite vulgar using everyday words. "Yep, that's what she said . . ."

Spence Ohana said...

This is a good discussion Will, thanks for engaging. I see what you mean about labeling one lazy and weak minded. I guess when I first read that quote I thought to myself "totally". And somehow people that use profanity already have that label. I don't know about you, but for me it makes them come across unintelligent (when I know they are in fact intelligent) - that's just the stigma given.

A friend posted on my link of FB of this saying, "there are much more intelligent ways to express yourself." I have to agree. Have you ever heard a scholarly bright person speak using exquisite vocabulary, etc. where just by how they are speaking (not even what they are talking about) catches your attention? I've heard a handful, and I've got to say 99.9% of their speech used no profanity.

Will said...

Those who I would deem unintelligent do use profanity quite often, but I'd say the profanity can be a symptom of their unintelligence. What I mean is that they lack the intelligence or social sense to adapt to different social climates.
Usually intelligent people eventually realize that using profanity is just not worth it, steer clear of it and learn to use other expressions.
You asked for people's opinions on profanity and I will definitely admit that I'm much more thick-skinned than most. Maybe that will change as my kids get older and are exposed to it.

GMRUNNER said...

Holy is His name. There is a difference between profanity and vulgarity.

Casual vulgarity makes one appear crude and rude and cheapens whatever shock or emphasis one intended.

That said, expressions such as "shit happens" convey a more direct and powerful expression than say "stuff happens. God is not a prude. I can easily imagine Jesus telling the rough and crude Apostles on their journeys, "I have to take a piss or go shit or take a dump" rather than, "I must relieve Myself or excuse Me while I pass excrement."

One time when a Technical College messed up my admission to the fall nursing program despite regular contact with the admissions department and meeting ALL their requirements because they didn't imagine I could meet the requirements in so short a time and told I could enter into the following year program, I got on the phone and with controlled anger said, "You're telling me that for MONTHS I have been busting my ASS to meet your admission requirements and I did and now I don't have an open position?"

The assistant dean paused and said he would look over my papers and get back to me. A few minutes later I got a call back saying I would be admitted to their fall nursing program.

That well stated "busting my ass" conveyed more force than, But "I've been working so hard!"

However, flinging "F this" and" F that" would have showed poor form and only made me look well vulgar!

So, I would agree with the 99.9% but there's that 0.1 % when one has really messed up when "Shit!" is THE only satisfying word! Or on occasion, a heartfelt, " God,I really F****D up. I'm sorry." and our Lord takes no offense because none is given.

Spence Ohana said...

Gmrunner, do you think saying " I busted my butt!" conveys the same meaning? The word ass is generally considered an obscenity and not acceptable for polite conversation. Although I think people use it in the phrase "I busted my ass" as one of the characteristics of a donkey/ass is stubbornness. So the phrase comes across, I busted through my stubbornness and accomplished this.

I'm curious why you imagine Jesus using terms as sh** and taking no offense to the word fu** in what you say a heartfelt expression. Do you think it would not be offensive if I was at church praying aloud in front of others and saying, "God, I really fu**ed up." Or if I confided in my priest and said "I really fu**ed up, will you pray for me?". So I disagree with you, I believe God would consider that crude talk.

GMRUNNER said...

Saying "I f****D up aloud in Church would be uncharitable since it could/would offends others in hearing vicinity. St Paul addresses this when he discusses not eating meat that has been offered to nonexistent idols if it causes scandal and harms the faith to a brother or sister of less spiritual maturity. A time and a place.

A priest? That depends on the priest and my relationship with him.

Crude talk?, sure. Offensive? Perhaps not.

Our Catholic faith through the Holy Spirit has an amazing capacity to adapt and to conform God's unchanging truth to varying peoples cultures generations and times.

Jesus moved easily between fisherman, tax collectors, Romans, Jews, Samaritans, prostitutes and educated teachers of the law. He sees us. He knows us. He looks beyond the sometimes rough and crude exteriors to the person's heart.

While God remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and, it is we who change as we become more like Him, God does "bend" to accept us as we are and WHO we are. We might find some of His saints to be a little "rough" in manner and speech but the Holy Spirit still radiates God's glory through them. A former street prostitute saint is not going to present herself as a royal court Queen saint. We are not cookie cutter saints.

Busted my butt? Hmmm... might have worked though some would regard that vulgar as well.

How did the historical Jesus say He was going to the bathroom? The answer determines to some degree His true self. The risk to all believers, I include you and myself as we have this discussion, and even the Apostles themselves who made that mistake from time to time as noted in Scripture is that we try to tell God who He is.

So, what if Jesus told you, "Sure, Spence, of course, I said, ' I have to piss!'

How do you adjust your understanding of His Person?

Or what if Jesus chuckles and says,"Well, I didn't know we had a "Gospel of George" in the New Testament! I would have said, 'I need to urinate' or 'to go to the bathroom' I would not have used crude terms."

What if He's not chuckling when He says this?...

How do I adjust? What if He is fine with both versions because we love Him with our whole mind, hearts and soul?

Are you Filipino? My wife Esther is from Davao City, Philippines.

Spence Ohana said...

Gmrunner, I'm glad you chimmed into this dialogue. I appreciate your thoughts and insights. I guess when I wrote this post I had it in my mind profanity aloud in front of others.

You stated, "He looks beyond the sometimes rough and crude exteriors to the person's heart." and I completely agree. But I also think once a person's heart reflects on and believes in Christ, it starts chipping away at our rough and crude exteriors including our choice in words and how we convey ourselves. Like Elizabeth commented on this post, a transformation.

Your pretend statements/questions of Jesus made me chuckle. :) I guess I would expect Jesus to speak in terms to the culture he grew up in and was around. And I think He would've not used terms that came across offensive or crude at that time and to those people. You're right, He could possibly be fine with people using both versions, but from the Scripture that speaks of holding our tongue from crude and vulgar talk I'm assuming He see's that maybe we say our heart is for Him but the fruits of our choices in words (aloud in front of others) show the opposite.

Nope not Filipino (my sister in-law is though). I'm Dutch Indonesian. :) My parents were both born in Indonesia and grew up in the Netherlands.

GMRUNNER said...

Dutch Indonesian? Not Filipino? Ahh, close enough. LOL

We are actually pretty much in agreement. I do agree with Elizabeth in the transformation of our crude natures the closer we come to God. The effect should be that use of vulgar words would become less and less and not more and more LOL as we approach God's Presence!

I think Paul however refers more to the casual routine coarse vulgar joking and conversation, the F this and the F that which corrodes the spirit. Sexual vulgarity risks poisoning our spirit as well if it causes or encourages violence and the objectification of men and woman. Some of it is plain evil when hateful. These are NOT the examples I'm defending.

My contention is simply I don't believe God is as much a Prude as some of His people make Him out to be. I can almost imagine Him telling some constipated uptight people, "Lighten up!"

Jesus was not offended by His disciples eating with unwashed hands. He let a former prostitute put oil on his feet and gasp! dry them with her hair. He spoke ALONE with the woman at the well.

All these examples offended some people. While tolerant and sensitive to peoples' feelings, Jesus showed God is God. We don't tell Him who He is and define what He can and can not do except as He reveals Himself through Scripture and the teachings of our Catholic Church.

Yes, I do think God especially in the Person of the Holy Spirit Who blows where He will accommodates to each nation and to each culture and to SOME extent to their slang and delights doing so.

Well, Spence, you generated a thoughtful God filled discussion! I sense the Holy Spirit in you. I will regularly check out your site and comment as the Spirit moves me. Hopefully, our discussion of Jesus' choice of bodily elimination phrases hasn't chased away half your readers! Some people would choose to so focus on the Divinity of Jesus so as not to think or to process a Jesus THAT human. True God/True Man. A mystery to ponder...

Holly@A Life-Size Catholic Blog said...

I'm so glad that you were featured on "Pay It Forward". This is a great post and a wonderful discussion in the comments! I am a new follower, and I plan on clicking around and seeing what else you've written about~ great blog!

We have been talking about the subject around my house lately.

I can't wait 'till my son gets home from a trip to discuss it with him him about it. He is always complaining about the swearing that goes on at school. He just recently told me about how kids think it's really fun to swear.

GMRUNNER said...


It's wonderful it disturbs your son.

Swearing gives the young the impression they are cool and adults. Much in music, and films promote such language.

Yet, people KNOW. How often when we hear someone brag about their possessions or accomplishments and we know they are insecure or when they mention one hundred times how they don't care about something, we know they care plenty.

So, while young people intend swear words to make them sound rich, big and deep, people sense they sound cheap, small and shallow. Constant swearing is an outward expression of the bankruptcy and depravity within their souls. It reflects poor upbringing and/or the choice of poor role models. If excessive, it acid burns the spirit.

Perhaps fun and cute when a 2 year old excessively swears, but, boy, it sure gets tired fast.