February 4, 2011 by Stacy McDonald

Cursing: I’m So Angry I Could…

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The following post was written by my husband, Pastor James McDonald, and posted on our church website...

My wife and I settled down recently to watch a movie that had been recommended by a Christian conservative review service. The children were tucked away in bed; so, we settled down with some popcorn, all ready to enjoy some alone time. It was supposed to be a lighthearted comedy with a pretty solid Christian worldview.

Sadly, about a third of the way through, we were compelled to turn it off. No, there was no rampant violence, no flagrant nudity (though there was a seduction scene that we skipped). The soundtrack was beautiful and the storyline engaging. Why then did we decide to switch it off?

It was the language—the unnecessary and frequent use of crass words. Conflicting with the Christian “salvation theme” of the move, the name of the Lord was used in a profane manner time and again. Repeated vulgarities were bantered about as common idioms. In the end, regardless of the worldview, I just didn’t want to subject myself, or my wife, to the almost incessant barrage of curse words.

Afterward, as I paused to reflect the reason I turned off the movie, I was disturbed that it had been recommended in the first place. I wondered, were we the only ones to see the challenges here? How in the world could it have been recommended for viewing without making a point to flag the challenging dialog? Was it really simply a problem with me?

I don’t think so. In my spirit, I recoiled as the name of Jesus was used as a kind of crutch, just a filler word. It seemed the playwright struggled for adjectives, and so inserted deprecatory phrases to fill the void. And why shouldn’t he? Isn’t this the common tongue of hip America? It seems that everyone is using such words. Vulgar acronyms fill Twitter and Facebook posts. Even preachers seem to be using more “common speech” these days. I recently read where a pastor referred to his congregation’s giving pattern by saying, “They suck at tithing.”

Why is it that vulgarity and profanity are so common place today? How can it be that Christians seem to easily overlook curse words in movies as long as the storyline is solid? What is with the young people, the Christian young people, who populate text messages with three letter acronyms that degrade the Lord’s name to an expression of surprise? Don’t we know what OM_ or WT_ stands for? I suppose the answer is that we don’t see this as sin anymore.

And, so the question is, what does the Bible say on this topic? Does the Bible give us any guidelines to follow when it comes to cursing? Let’s review just a few verses on this subject:

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

This verse speaks of our responsibility to guard our words. We are responsible for what we say, and corrupt speech is not acceptable for the Christian. Our words are to be those which edify others, helping them, encouraging them. It is challenging to contemplate God’s desire for us to use our words as a means of communicating His grace through our conversations with and behavior towards others.

Now, some may argue that profanities and vulgarities are not really “corrupt words” since Paul doesn’t lay out a list for us in the verse above. However, he clarifies the concern for us in Ephesians 5:3–4, where he says:

“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”

Ouch. Can you imagine the scandal that would come upon the church if adultery was routine in an assembly of the saints? Well, Paul outlines filthy speech as being similarly disgraceful. Paul calls us to be those who voice thankfulness. Ponder for a moment, could you construct an edifying sentence of thanks to someone while lacing it with a string of vulgarities? It seems pretty unlikely, doesn’t it?

We can also turn to Colossians 3:8, where we read:

“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.”

Again, there is an action that we are to do, we who call ourselves Christians. We are to make an effort to be different than the world and its vices!

And then, consider these words from James 3:9–12:

“With it (the tongue) we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”

Have you ever heard the question asked, “Do you kiss your mama with that mouth?” The implication being in line with this verse—how can we bless God and turn around curse man? This verse speaks of the state of a man’s heart. If there is sin abiding in the heart, it is not surprising that there is an overflow of cursing, a spring of bitter water. The frequent cursing from those who claim Jesus as Savior is a contradiction to their testimony. We are to be those who bear good fruit, not bad.

Notice that curse words typically fall under five categories:

  1. Human defecation (what my wife would call “potty words”)
  2. Sexual immorality
  3. Profanity (blasphemy)
  4. Cursing of Man
  5. Sexual body parts (used in a deprecatory way)

Some may ask, “Why does it matter? What’s the big deal anyway—it’s only words?” Let me give you three points to ponder in answer to that question.

Garbage in Garbage Out

The first is that our speech is often a reflection of our conditioning. It is a mirror of what we are bringing into our hearts and minds. And so, if our diet of mental consumption is comprised of movies and activities that are laced with profanity and vulgarity, we will indeed reflect the world rather than Jesus. Think back for a moment, what were the last five movies you watched? Did you notice the language in the films? When the name of Jesus was used in a derogatory fashion, did it trouble you? Or are you so accustomed to such profanity that you didn’t even wince?

How much time are you spending in movies such as that in comparison to spending time in the Word or in prayer? We are told that bad company corrupts good habits (1 Cor 15:33). What does your speech say about your habits, your friendships, and your moral choices?

Living a Set-Apart Life

Secondly, as Christians, we are supposed to be a reflection of Jesus in the midst of a lost world. We are told to think like Jesus (Phil 2:5). We are told to put on the new man, the new man of righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). And we are told to not be conformed to this world (Rom 12:2), but instead we are to imitate Christ (1 Cor 11:1).

Jesus said that we are to bear good fruit and that our mouths are to speak of the good treasure that is in our heart (Luke 6:43-45). Yet, it seems in a world awash with course speech that many Christians would rather blend in, looking like and sounding like the world.

A Living Testimony

Which brings me to my last point. What is the big deal anyway? Why should a Christian speak differently than the world? Why should we stand apart when societal norms almost dictate that we use cursing as part of our everyday discourse? The reason is this. We are to be a people serving King Jesus for the expansion of His Kingdom. And we do this when, by our very lives, we testify of the difference He has made in our lives.

When we make the decision to not curse and to not engage in profane jesting, we stand apart. Jesus said we are to be a light in the darkness. We are to be salt to a tasteless world. In other words, we are to be different, for His Kingdom’s sake! When we chose to flavor our words with grace, purity, and love, and to not engage in vulgarities and profanities, people notice. And it gives us an opportunity to communicate our faith to the lost.

I learned this lesson years ago. It was my junior year at the University of Idaho. Finals were upon us. Groups of engineering majors congregated in the commons to work through previous assignments together, helping each other prepare for the exams.

I was sitting with three fellow students as we prepared for an upcoming differential equations exam. Suddenly, one of my study partners, who struggled to understand a particular problem, let out a string of caustic expletives. He was really angry and decided to express himself verbally in the manner taught to him by the world, a manner that reflected his heart.

But then, something interesting happened; he suddenly calmed down. He turned to me with an inquisitive gaze, and asked me in the presence of the other two students, “James, why is it that you never swear?”

I had never berated any of my unsaved friends for the language they used. And I don’t remember making any mental effort to not curse. Because of Jesus, it was just something that had become part of who I was. Yet, because of my decision, Jesus gave me an opportunity to share with my fellow students the wonder of the Cross.

At the end of the day, this is what it is all about. As Christians, we are to get to know our Lord to the point that we start walking in His steps. And then He gives us opportunities to speak for Him. This is why it is important to communicate like Jesus, and not like the world. Friend, do you now see cursing as a sin? Confess it; repent of it; forsake it!

We are told that if we confess our sin, Jesus will forgive our sin and will cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Let Jesus renew your mind! Seek Him—seek His Word. Saturate your mind with His truth. And see what the Lord will do through you!

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17 Responses to “Cursing: I’m So Angry I Could…”

  1. Mrs. Q says:

    This is such a good post. I cringe every time I hear a curse word, though some close to me don’t even care if the do it around the children. It drives me nuts, and I wish there was something I could do about it. I’m so glad to see a truthful post about this, what is, a sin.

  2. SophieMae says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I was seriously beginning to think I was the last holdout. Far too often, I find myself wondering how/why a movie has been recommended by ‘Christian conservative’ reviewers. I’m a firm believer in the ‘just a little dog p**p in the brownies’ philosophy.

    I also had to quit reading comments on youtube. It just breaks my heart to read/hear how much profanity is flung around these days and how common it is among young people. (I’m old-fashioned enough to feel that it’s bad enough coming from grown men, but from women and children… !!!!!) Can you imagine workplace conversations 5 years from now? Already professionalism is dying. We have become a ‘common’ society, frogs boiling in the kettle.

    Television is always pushing the limits, as well. I have come to believe ‘they’ choose a word and add it to the scripts as often as possible until society stops wincing, then start working on a new one. Even some of the Christian TV stations air things that leave me shaking my head. *sigh*

  3. Tosha says:

    What an excellent post.

    I have been raised with a tender ear to cussing and other vulgar language. My parents restricted any films and television shows that hosted such words. I didn’t realize how valuable that was until I was working in an office with many woman who found cussing and vulgar language humorous. I quickly realized that just being around it has an immense effect on you. I no longer cringed at the dirty speech and stories. Instead, it became commonplace and I no longer took notice.

    Since then, I have come to a conviction of daughterhood and now am preparing at home with my family. The Lord has graciously brought back the sensitive ear that every Christian should have toward filthiness.

    Thank you for standing up against a sin that many Christians deem okay.

    Tosha ~one of your more quiet readers

  4. Deanna says:

    During a few years of teen rebellion I used to curse. I don’t at all anymore, and I don’t find it acceptable. I find that I must guard what I read and watch and hear, as those profane words will especially stick in my mind. I don’t want that so I avoid hearing them if I have a choice.

    I am saddened too, by Christians coarse talk and the acceptableness of this – “Well, 7th grade boys are going to say things to try to get a reaction” is what I have heard from a fellow homeschool leader. I say “We are a Christian group – why is this acceptable?” I have felt like I am the lone one speaking out on this…

    Thank James for this very good post!


  5. Alyssa says:

    Wonderful post! We, too, are very selective about the things and words allowed in our home. Our boys watch very few movies, although they do enjoy veggietales! We did notice that Disney movies rated G were not what we would consider appropriate because of language.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I can’t imagine what G-rated movies would have swearing.

    May I ask what movie this was (in the post)?

  7. I very much agree, Stacy! Once, my friends and I literally walked out of a cinema because we couldn`t take the profanity and the cursing. It feels so bad that it`s so hard to find clean movies.

    We really have to be careful with what we feed ourselves.

    Thanks for this post! Your blog is so lovely! God bless you more!

  8. Naomi says:

    Very annointed post!!!!! It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of! So often as christians we can get wrapped up in what we can and cannot do rather than what we are doing to illuminate Jesus in our life. This post reaffirmed that cursing, living as the world does is the enemies way of getting Christians to think, “oh its really not that bad,” and again weaken our spiritman to the holy spirit’s urging to living holy and clean. It’s not about cursing, or watching movies that have uncleanliness it’s about YOUR HEART, just as you said. Although you are absolutly right about how these things can definatly influence the conditioning of our heart, but it shouldn’t be looked as an issue of “we can’t curse” or “we can’t watch this or that” it’s how living for Jesus and daily feeding on his word changes one’s desire to devulge those unclean, unholy things from our lives. AMEN! AND THANK YOU!!! Love your blog!!!

  9. Jacqueline says:

    This post is very true. I hear so much cursing every day that I wish did not have to be subject to as I find these words and expressions get stuck in my mind quite easily and sometimes it can be easy to think that an aversion to cursing is overrated. At other times, however, I am reminded of the absolute vulgarity of using such expressions. I’ve seen a movie that had terrible cursing in every sentence (literally). I just felt weighed down with filth after seeing it. I’m not sure if that makes sense but that’s the best way I know how to describe it. I am very glad that you took the time to address this issue.

  10. Alyssa says:

    G rated movies don’t necessarily have “curse words” but they definately have words that are not appropriate for a 3 & 4 year old. The words “stupid” and “idiot” are in almost all Disney movies…..hence our Disney collection has been dramatically reduced.

  11. So are you going to tell us what movie it was?

  12. Stacy McDonald says:

    Sorry, Jennifer, for not answering your question. I must have missed it. Thank you, Robin, for pointing that out. :-)

    The movie was “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”

  13. Susan says:

    Amen and amen! Thank you for stating what should be the obvious for a Christian.

  14. Jennifer says:

    No problem :P

  15. Lydia says:

    I admit that I am all to used to curse words, they don’t ruffle my feathers a bit except when people use the Lords name the wrong way. That is the only one that bugs me. Although I never say these words when I really get mad I find myself thinking them. My favorite one is “Dang it” I use that one out loud. And then when I’m feeling self richeous I think how much holier I am then others because I don’t curse. Thanks so much for reposting your husbands post; it really has convicted me. Something I will have to work on I guess. Although I hate to admit it.

    Thanks again,
    A Now Deflated Lydia

  16. Lydia says:

    BTW would you mind if I reposted this whole thing onto my blog?

  17. Stacy McDonald says:

    Sure! Please just link back, if you don’t mind.

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