Profanity & Us

I remember different times in my childhood when I would hear certain words being used in a particular tone, and it was during those specific times that I knew that something “negative” was being said. Even if I didn’t know at the time what those words meant. You ever walk into a room full of people, but it is quiet. It is so quiet in the room that you say something along the lines of “I could just cut the tension in the air with a knife”? That type of feeling that even though you are not too sure what is going on, you just know that something has happened.

I know that some people are just raised in those kinds of environment. They are raised knowing what certain words or phrases mean. Not that this is particularly a good thing. There are times when it is beneficial to just be naïve to something that isn’t good. Profanity is one of those things. As an adult with young children, I have a hard time describing how I truly feel when I hear people use profanity. To me, it is like when someone takes their nails and scrape it across a chalkboard. Yet, many have tried to soften the blow of profanity by saying things such as “that man sure does cuss like a sailor” or “Pardon my French”. None of those things take away from the negative impact that profanity has on one’s ability to communicate.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Depending on your translation, the Greek word for “corrupt – KJV, NKJV, ASV, YLT”, “unwholesome – NASB”, is sapros G4550 and it simply means rotten. I am not very smart but I know one thing is for sure, when it comes to food, we NEVER question whether to throw out rotten food or not. We do so because it is no longer useful. As Christians, we should have a desire to impart grace to those who hear us. How can we do that if our communicate is rotten? While this article is predominantly about profanity, I believe it needs to be said that this also includes slanderous and contemptuous talk. Remember the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Most people teach that to their children and while they do teach the principle, it does no good if they do not practice that principle.

Colossians 3:8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.  

Part of what Paul is driving home is the idea of having “foul or filthy language”. There is much danger in not driving out these sins from our lives. While many tend to view these sins listed here as “little” sins, Paul is clearly challenging us to put off the old man in every aspect of our lives. He is telling us to “bridle our tongue” just as James did (James 1:26, James 3:1-9). The tragedy is that today there are so many people who have become so used to unclean speech that they themselves begin to take part in it without even realizing it!

Profanity is so invasive and there are all kinds of ways to describe it. To communicate how dangerous it really is, I would suggest that you view it similarly to a transmittable disease or even cancer. If left untreated, those things are deadly. It spreads throughout our minds just as cancer does in our bodies. When we regularly expose ourselves to this kind of behavior, it is no wonder that we begin to “cuss” mentality. While we may not say it out loud for the world to hear, the fact that we think it will only lead us to the next step, and that is verbalizing what we had been thinking all along.

Some may say “we can’t cut ourselves off from the world”. While this is true, we can certainly control how much of the world we take in. Think about the different forms of entertainment such as radio, television, or even concerts. I know that I have had to cut out listening to my local sports talk radio because they can’t seem to form a thought without using some kind of profanity in every other sentence. Television is full of garbage and that is putting it mildly. The last concert I went to, I did so reluctantly, and my suspicions were spot on. Most of the people out there were drunk or high, and anytime someone would talk over the PA system, it was full of profanity.

Proverbs 1:2-7 To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice, and integrity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise person will hear and increase in learning, And a person of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a saying, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

I agree, we can’t cut ourselves off from the world, but I have complete control over the kind of entertainment and information that I expose myself to. I do not have to listen to the radio; I can instead choose to listen to a sermon on a podcast. I do not have to watch television; I can read my Bible. I do not have to go to concerts; I can choose to spend time with my family or brethren. May we always strive to make good choices for ourselves and to remove profanity and its influence from our lives.

-Lee Elkins