Four old, scratched chrome typewriter keys with black centers and white punctuation marks representing swearing. DepositPhoto

Vulgar language can hurt your relationship with God

By Jeff Borders

“Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” The Dowager Countess had it right. Yes, I just quoted Downton Abbey.

The other day I visited one of my favorite home improvement stores, or at least the one that seems to take the majority of my money. When I stepped out of my car I noticed that the car next to me had a few messages written in bright vinyl lettering. The signs were large and each had a prominent curse word, displayed proudly for the entire world to see. The large, sparkling font had its intended effect: it got my attention. Like being slapped on the side of the head with a Boeing 747, there was no missing it. I wasn’t offended by the use of foul language, though if I’m being perfectly honest, I found it in poor taste. As I walked away from the cars and into the store, I was left to ponder if we as a society have fully embraced vulgarity as a regular part of our everyday language, letting it replace wit and class.

So I say again, the Dowager Countess had it right.

In our divided socio-political landscape, one need look no further than our daily interactions to see that our language is filled with vulgarity, name calling, back-biting, gossip, half-truths and untruths. And despite our best efforts, we are all guilty of it. I don’t know anyone who has never regretted something they have said, or in my place written, as soon as it left their lips or the tip of their pen.

If we have any hope of healing the many divisions that we have built between us as a human family, then we need to guard our tongues. I know there are many who would interject and say there is nothing wrong with profanity and vulgarity, and that people shouldn’t try to censor other’s words or thoughts. I’m not suggesting that. Far from it. But just because you can do something, doesn’t always mean you should. That’s something my mom taught me and it has always proved to be some of the wisest advice given.

I believe everyone has the right to say whatever they want. Anyone familiar with my writing knows that I am a firm believer in the first amendment. Censoring of words should not come from an outside source like government. Censoring should really be internal, something we think about long before we say anything. Let’s put the proverbial filter back in place— for our own sakes.

The book of James, chapter 3, gives a clear warning about our speech:

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell… Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. (James 3:6,9 KJV)

The age-old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” is entirely inaccurate. Not only can our words drive a wedge between us and the person we are speaking to, but they have a far larger impact on the person speaking. Whether we recognize it at the time or not, our words, when hurled from hasty lips, define our character. If we choose to embrace vulgarity in all its forms, we debase our spirit and we pull ourselves further away from being the men and women who God intends us to be.

Winston Churchill once said, “We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.”

In the end, we will continue to make mistakes. It is a part of being human. But I would suggest that each of us take an inventory of our own language and ask ourselves, do the words I speak draw me closer to others, break down barriers, and bring me closer to God? Or do they create contention and drive me away from His presence?

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