When I think back to my childhood, I remember the primary reason that I did not want to use bad language. I am not sure of the origin(s) of this reasoning but to this day, it rings true in my mind.
The instruction I recall was that one does not use bad language because it makes you look stupid. The idea was that it showed a limited vocabulary and that people who can’t speak English well must use swear words to fill in the blanks. Since my youth, I have linked swearing with stupidity.
It has worked. I do find that many times people who curse a great deal a very stupid. In fictional movies and books that I read or watch, many times the authors pose the less than intelligent characters to swear more than others. Whereas many saw the fact that every other word out of Tony Soprano’s mouth was a curse word as a fact that he was a bad person, I saw it as a fact that he didn’t go to college. To this day, I link cursing to ignorance.
Now as a Christian man, I still feel the same way, but I wonder about the motive behind this. If I am not using bad language because I don’t want to seem stupid, is that actually bringing glory to God or to myself? In other words, was the motivation for not swearing an act of Christianity or an act of vanity? Would I rather not look stupid or do I want to be a Christian?
While there are several scriptures dealing with the words that Christians use, Ephesians 4:29 stands out to me. Here Paul writes:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
From this passage I find that not using bad language because of how it makes me look is not in line with Paul’s teaching. Rather, Paul reminds us that the words we use should be meant for others, not ourselves. In one way, our words are meant for our neighbor. Paul wants us to build up our neighbor with our words and through his use of the word “corrupting” he is telling us that words of poor quality can not accomplish that goal. That goal is the subject of the second individual that our words are meant for.
As Christians, our words are meant to bring glory to God. More specifically, Paul is reminding us that our words are meant to bring grace to our neighbor and through building up and edifying our neighbor as situations arise, we are bringing glory to God. As Christians, we should know that through grace and grace alone is God able to shed His holy influence upon people. It is through the grace extended to us upon Calvary that we are brought right in the sight of God. Paul exerts us to remember this in our speech and to bring glory to Him through showing others the grace we have been shown. While living and basking in that wondrous grace, what need does the Christian have for anything rotten or unwholesome to express their feeling?
As a Christian father my prayer is that I can teach my children to not use corrupt speech because of the grace they have been taught and hopefully shown by their mother and I. Would it do harm to teach them an extensive vocabulary and show them that the most popular and common words are curse words used by mostly simpletons? I think not. However I pray that I can teach my children and that God will continue to help me to choose my words wisely so that together we may bring glory to Him.