You hear it in speeches from public officials. You read it in magazines, periodicals, and newsfeeds. The media readily shares quotes from celebrities using it but so do many ordinary Americans. What am I describing? It’s the ever present use of profanity. It may be the f*** or sh** bomb or even the use of God or Jesus Christ’s name in vain. Why has profanity become so commonplace? As adults, what are we teaching our children when they hear us using it? Let’s talk about profanity this month.
Why do people use profanity? For many reasons most of them subconscious. I would submit that people use profanity for the following reasons:
- To shock, impact, or stun their hearers. Profanity is meant to jolt the conversation and shock the hearer. It is like dropping a word bomb!
- Force of habit. For many, use of profanity has become a habit so that they are barely conscious of the fact that they use it constantly in normal conversation.
- Peer pressure. If every one of my peers uses profanity to make their point, that puts pressure on me to fit in and use it as well.
- To add emphasis. It’s as though saying “yes” or any other word is not strong enough alone. Profanity has to be tacked onto it as an adjective to add power or outrage.
So there you have it. That’s why profanity is used. So, how should Christians react to it? My father-in-law used to have a stamp that he put on all mail he sent that read, “Profanity makes ignorance audible!” He’s right in that profanity is not civilized speech. It flies in the face of social norms. When a high percentage of the population uses it, we become coarser, less civilized, more savage as a nation. Is that what we want to become? I hope not.
As Christians we need to model godly speech. The Bible exhorts us to “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). Paul admonishes the Ephesians, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Paul links unwholesome speech with grieving the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 4:30). What constitutes unwholesome speech? The Greek word, sapros, translated unwholesome is more expressive than that. It literally means “rotten, putrid, or morally worthless.” Profanity is garbage talk.
Christians, don’t fall into the pit of profanity. We are supposed to be different. We represent Christ. We have the Holy Spirit, not an unholy spirit, living in us. We should not talk like the world. We are “in the world but not of the world.” Our speech is to give grace to the hearers. When we use profanity like the world we grieve the Holy Spirit and live graceless, powerless lives. When someone uses profanity in our presence, depending on the situation, a gracious corrective comment is appropriate.
No potty mouth here,