How do we explain the reason behind why our words matter? Especially when it comes to profanity, expletives, cursing, obscenity, swearing, foul language, bad language and cussing.
Are these all the same words, describing the same things? Can a word be bad? How do we teach the purpose of prohibiting certain words? It can be a bit confusing for kids, teens and adults to understand just how to explain why certain words are wrong to use.
I think it is critically important to explain the purpose behind prohibiting anything. When kids are real young, you can maintain a “Because I said so or the Bible says so” response, but eventually you will need to fill in the reasoning behind such commands.
Over the years, I found this simple explanation to be helpful in teaching people how to discern the intentions of words and help understand why the Bible prohibits certain types of speech. I know that etymologically speaking my divisions or descriptions might not be exactly precise, but I think as a tool for explaining the moral foundation for communication, it’s helpful, but you, can decide for yourselves.
I explain three categories of speech: Cursing, Vulgarity and Cussing. The first two I consider morally wrong, that last one, I do not consider in the same category as the others. Cussing may be culturally, professionally and relationally disadvantageous, but it’s not morally wrong, due to its intent. The first two are used intentionally to hurt others and denigrate what God has blessed and called holy.
This is when we use our words to curse someone. When we use words to demean, belittle, bully, degrade, dismiss, denounce or demonize others. These types of words declare someone to be something. They are often words that accuse or label and they often start with “YOU, ___________!” They are words used to hurt, ostracize and diminish others, while exalting ourselves as over or better than them.
These are words that take something meant to be held sacred, tender, private and personal and use it in a manner that denigrates it. It’s taking something holy and presenting it in a base and crude way. Most often this type of language revolves around sex or sexuality in content. It’s what people call dirty, nasty or crude. When people are reduced to what they do sexually or are described as mere body parts or functions it’s wrong. It’s communication that takes what God intended to be a private and personal world of experience, and is dragged out in common, public and degrading ways.
This category of words are used to express feelings, pain or frustration. They are responses to events and circumstances not words used against people. They are words that do not contain ill intent and therefore fall into a different category than cursing and vulgarity. Again, they may not help you in life, but they are not morally wrong, as the others, based on the issue of intent.
Below are some scriptures that teach about talking:
The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be cut out.
The lips of the righteous know what is appropriate,
but the mouth of the wicked, only what is perverse.
Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
What have you found to be helpful in teaching about the use of words?