Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why Is Swearing So Bad Anyway?

      Lately, I have been surprised to find myself finding humor in swear words and becoming more tempted to think and use them. Now that I’m an adult, it has been exponentially easier to be exposed to poor language through conversation, novels, and media of every kind.
  
   Unfortunately, it was surprisingly simple to lose sight of why filtering my language was necessary in the first place. In a short space of time, expressing exactly what I thought and felt in any situation seemed appealing, even if it was with coarse language. The idea of expressing yourself honestly isn't inherently wrong; however, I recognize that using swear words in order to do so was contradictory to what I was taught from my youth. After some reflection, my mind and heart became more open to examining both the "why" and “why nots” of swearing; overall, it was a humbling, repentant, and inspiring experience.
  
       Retrospectively I’ve come to realize a few things. First, being encouraged to refrain from swearing is in no way equivalent to having my mouth taped shut. We are free to say exactly how we think and feel without using overly strong diction that will hurt, embarrass, offend, or upset someone else. Filtering our choice of vocabulary is as much of a choice as not filtering our vocabulary; the difference is that it takes a lot more self-control, respect, and love for others and God to prevail in that endeavor.

     Secondly, by not reverting to the carnal, common, natural harsh words used by most men and women today, we will be able to have cleaner and more virtuous thoughts. In Doctrine and Covenants 121:45 it says, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly. Then shall they confidence wax strong in the presence of god.” Isn’t it worth a little more self-control in phraseology to be able to comfortably stand before God? The alternative thought makes me shrink. Why would we let any destructive habit, be it swearing, or something else, potentially incapacitate our ability to live with God again someday? Again, this idea is about more than a swearing habit itself. It’s about our mindsets. It’s about thinking clean. Acting clean. Being clean.

     President Hinckley put it this way, “A filthy mind expresses itself in filthy and profane language. A clean mind expresses itself in language that is positive and uplifting and in deeds that bring happiness into the heart.” (Be Ye Clean, 1996)

     That statement may branch out into other questions- is swearing always used in negative contexts? Is foul language always used in short bursts of uncontrollable rage, revenge, spite, or envy? Honestly, the answer is no. That’s not always the case. Sometimes inappropriate terms are used in joking for laughs. But isn’t laughter good? Doesn’t it make us happy? Doesn’t laughter always equal happiness? Truthfully, no. I have found that the kind of comedy that needs cussing to make it funny isn’t very uplifting humor. More often than not, it is vicious, sarcastic, or demeaning. I believe that we would all feel better about ourselves and our peers if we refrained from using foul humor just for the sake of laughs.
     President Hinckley again elaborated in his talk from twenty years ago, “Be clean in language.
 There is so much of filthy, sleazy talk these days. I spoke to the young women about it. 
I speak to you also. It tells others that your vocabulary is so extremely limited that you cannot
express yourself without reaching down into the gutter for words. Dirty talk is unbecoming
any man who holds the priesthood, be he young or old."

     That comment feels no less painful than a time-wizened doctor ripping a band-aid off! It stings, but only because it’s true; despite all of the advancements and progression in the world today, there is still a lot of filth and sleaze. But why would we want to contribute to that? I believe that we can each express how we truly feel in a smart and polite manner without reverting to swearing. Rude, crude, and lewd language is unbecoming to any child of God, not just priesthood holders. Because Heavenly Father created us, He loves us, and He wants us to be our best selves. We absolutely cannot be our best selves when we are reaching into the gutter for words.

     In the words of President David O. Mckay while quoting E.D. Boardman,
“Sow a thought, reap an act,
Sow an act, reap a habit,
Sow a habit, reap a character,
Sow a character, reap an eternal destiny.” (Conference Report, April 1962, 7.) His idea can be applied to the vocabulary that we choose to use every day. If we sow better words into our daily language, we will be able to have better thoughts, better actions, better habits, better character, and ultimately better destinies. In the long run, something as simple as not swearing can make a significant difference in our lives. By not swearing, we can better ourselves in countless ways.

     “And finally, pick up a commandment you are still struggling with and give it an honest chance to bless your life” (“Purify Our Minds and Spirits,” Ensign, November 1980, 38–39). After delving into the topic of swearing, I have come to understand the impact and ramification of my words. I hope that my research, study, and prayer can help others to understand the impact of not only their mindsets, but the way they think and speak.

      Despite all of this exploration, I can’t help but think that sometimes swearing at someone may be kinder than other choice words we consciously incorporate into our daily verbiage! Each of us should try harder to be a little kinder with the words we use.


     In closing, I mentioned before that as a kid I was frequently offended, even judgmental of others who swore. I realize now that stance was just as wrong if not worse than almost getting into that habit myself. In a beautiful primary song sung frequently by my niece when she was a toddler, “Jesus said love everyone. Treat them kindly too. When your heart is filled with love, others will love you.” Jesus loves me, and he love you too. He loves all of us. We can feel his love and be more like him as we choose to love others as he did in all that we do and say.

   In my life, my opinion of swearing has reached both ends of the spectrum. From being really offended as a kid when people would utter even the mildest obscenity to my current state of thinking that such obscenities displayed an openness of thought, mind, and humor (despite trying to refrain from swearing myself.)