Why I Don’t Use Profanity

I was on my way home from church yesterday, when my phone buzzed in my pocket to let me know that I had gotten an email. So I did what any responsible internet-addict would do and whipped it out to read a line or two at a time while occasionally glancing up at the road to make sure that I was still approximately on the road.

The email was from Ellie Anne Soderstrom, who is (by virtue of there not being much competition in this field) probably my biggest fan. She wrote:

I’m really curious about how you decided that you wouldn’t write about sex & you won’t use any bad language. It’s something that I’m really struggling with right now, and I’d really appreciate what you have to say about it.

Which is an excellent question. There are lots of bloggers and writers out there that sling profanity left and right and center, many of them quite talented (I’m looking at you Chuck Wendig). Why should I be such a prude about language?

It might surprise you that the answer is not because I think profanity in and of itself is wrong.

“But Albert,” you might be saying. “You’ve mentioned in several interviews that your faith is very important to you. You’ve said that you read the Bible every day. Are you trying to tell us that that has nothing to do with your decision not to use swear words in your writing?”

Now back up a minute. That isn’t what I said at all. What I said was I don’t believe swearing is in and of itself a sin. But my personal beliefs do have a lot to do with  my decision to abstain from profanity.

In the eighth chapter of the book of Corinthians the Apostle Paul wrote to the people who lived in Corinth about a problem they had. Some of them were eating food that had been offered to idols (unsurprisingly, the statues themselves couldn’t eat it, so the temple sold it to people who could at a discount) but others were offended by this because they believed that eating food that had been in proximity with a pagan deity to be wrong.

Paul’s response was basically, Hey, it’s just meat. The fact that it was offered to an idol doesn’t make any difference because he’s just a dumb piece of rock carved to look like Bozo the clowns ugly stepmother.

(In case you couldn’t tell I’m paraphrasing rather liberally here.)

But Paul didn’t stop there. He went on to say, HOWEVER not everyone around you believes that way. Some of them look at that steak that’s been offered to that statue and they think that eating it would be a sin. Just because you know this isn’t true doesn’t mean you get to act all high and mighty and shove the fact that you’re eating at Baal’s Discount Steak House down their throats.

He went on to say.

But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

So what does any of this have to do with swearing? Simply this:

I believe that words are just words. All of them. The only power any of them have is the power we give them in our own mind.

BUT. That doesn’t mean I’m going to start carpet-bombing f-bombs in my blog posts and my writing. Because I’m responsible for more than just myself. There are other Christians out there who would look at my use of profanity and be offended by it. Still worse there would be non-Christians who would view my use of “bad language” as hypocritical.

Regardless of the inherent right or wrongness of profanity it would be foolish of me to ignore the connotations linked to it in the popular mind. As a Christian my number one goal in life should be to bring glory to my God, and I cannot think of a single scenario in which the cause of Christ would be helped by my exercising my liberty in this matter.

I realize that some of you won’t agree with this. Some of you may not even understand it. But I’ve come to the place in my life where I realize there’s no point in trying to win the blogging popularity contest at the cost of watering down my Christianity. That’s not to say that this blog is going to become some kind of religious diatribe, but if I feel the urge to speak out about something pertaining to my faith I’m not going to fight it for the sake of my readership.

If you’re offended or put off by what I say, then you’re more than welcome to stop reading. We all have to decide what we will do with God as individuals and I’m not here to twist your arm or put you on a guilt trip to get you to see things my way. But I’m through being worried that people won’t like me if they know how important Jesus Christ is in my life.

This is where I stand. This is who I am.

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25 responses to “Why I Don’t Use Profanity

  1. Do not use profanity on my blog(I do curse a lot though, but only if things merit the cursing). Not much to do with religion, but my humor and cartoons will remain wholesome to a wholesome readership. Far too many people know only one adjective and it begins with an “f”. With the scourge of rap music I find it refreshing to be around people of simple decency and to read decent things, gal dern it.

  2. Virtual high five’s Albert.

  3. Bravo! I respect your views. I don’t believe in speaking or writing for the general public and taking a chance on offending anyone’s sensibilities.

  4. Good stuff Albert. Well said.

  5. This is a really thought provoking post. My dad calls these areas, “grey areas,” and for most of my stories, it isn’t an issue since I write for kids.
    I must say it takes a more creative mind to write without swearing. I like that about the principle of no swearing.
    It isn’t very realistic, which is what I don’t like about no swearing.
    But really it comes down to love, and protecting people from thinking ill of God, which you wrote so eloquently about.
    Well said.

  6. Whether you use vulgarities is purely your choice and as such, I won’t use any in my comment (though be warned; if you happen upon my page, the f-bomb is the lowest yield bomb you will find).

    The only part of your entry that struck me was in your concern with what others would assume about you for using more than just a “-” after the f. Now, I am new to your blog (and liking it so far). My deciding the peruse the pages had nothing to do with your Christianity or. lack of naughty words. Swear, don’t swear, praise God or Diana… I don’t see either of those choices as reasons to yea or nay your blog. And I’d be sad for anyone who would pass your blog by based on what you do or do not say or believe.

    • Thanks for reading. And like I said, I’m not trying to be pushy about what I believe, but in the past I HAVE pulled my punches because I was afraid of what people would think of my religion. Christianity isn’t very popular out in the world. It’s either viewed as offensive or just plain stupid. But I’m trying to get over worrying about what other people think. I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be the biggest thing in blogging anyway, so why not just let myself be myself?

  7. Well said. I think it’s certainly a choice. I’m not one for dropping the f-bomb in public, so why should I treat my blog any differently? I recently wrote my first full-length YA novel. During the writing, I found on more than one occasion where I really wanted someone to drop a bomb. I found it difficult in tense situations to limit my characters to saying “crap” or “damn”. And, it isn’t for a love of spicier language. It’s based more upon knowing how certain people respond to stressful circumstances. I mean, what’s more likely to happen when your character stubs his toe? Does he cry out “Great Googily Moogily!” or drop a few colorful “!@#$!s”?

    • I feel your pain. There was one moment in The Mulch Pile where profanity seemed utterly appropriate and I had to find a way to rephrase so the comment wouldn’t sound too awkward.
      There are a variety of workarounds if you write fantasy since you can make up your own swearwords there.

  8. I am an expert at the “F-bomb”( as well as many others…. ), write about sex and violence, AND go to church….Oh well….
    Relax, Al…. You’re still cool….
    Bet Chuck thinks so too.

  9. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I appreciate what you have to say here.

  10. Well, shit.

    😉

    — c.

  11. I see manners as treating other people with respect. I see refraining from “colorful” language as good manners. Not everyone, and religion has nothing to do with it, appreciates it and some it makes actively uncomfortable. If I’m going to make someone uncomfortable, I would rather it be from the thought provoking subject matter and ideas rather than my choice of words.

    That said, I will probably use the occasional swear word (and do in real life).

  12. I really appreciate the face that you stay away from profanity. I also like your analogy with Paul, and your paraphrasing, as it makes perfect sense. At home I tend to use a bit too much however, I know that out in public some people just don’t like it, plus it is far from ladylike. And when I write, I usually try to avoid it at all costs. I was raised Christian, and well, swearing was a no no because of what it stood for. Like you said, it’s just words, but it’s the meaning behind them.

    Personally, I cringe, outwardly, inwardly, when I read a f-bomb. Or any of your harder swear words. And in all reality, they probably don’t need to be used. But to each his own.

    I applaud you keeping your writing clean! Thank you. Makes it all that much more enjoyable.

  13. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

    9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,[a] not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

    13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature,[b] God made you[c] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[d]

    16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

    In other words, yeah, you can trip someone up by a food sacrificed to an idol but you can also DEFAME Christ by subserving his fulness, his deity, his power to the hollow and deceptive philosophy that says “swearing was a no no because of what it stood for.” You can taint the glory of Christ by saying he never cussed just as much as saying he always did.

    The same can be said of a writer who wrote about a mob boss, but uses “golly gee wilekers” and “awe shucks, fellas.”

    I don’t write cusswords because I personally have an affinity for profanity – I hate it when I use it. I write cusswords because I want to tell the truth. And honestly, if I’m writing a story about someone like my grandpa and he says anything other than “that’s a load of horseshit” well…

    I’m a liar.

  14. If you could write follow-ups on here, I forgot to click the “email me” box.

    Thanks, gang!

  15. I wouldn’t use profanity if I could help it myself. It’s just not part of my everyday vocabulary. However, I find it funny when people drop the f-bomb and the s-bomb (case in point, Russell Simmons). I don’t find it offensive at all. Sometimes, people are so overwhelmed with emotions that they had no choice but let an f-word or two slip.

  16. Coming from a family with many brothers whose second language was in fact “cussing”, I find humor in cussing at times. But I wonder if it’s true that profanity can be compared to Paul’s message in Corinthians about not flaunting one’s freedom in front of a Christian or person of “weaker” faith. It could be, but when I read this great post, one passage in scripture comes to mind. Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth.” and some have described this particular talk as frothy language, that which is filthy, unprofitable, noxious, and nauseous.

    You’re right, words are just words, but profanity at the root may reveal something about the state of a person’s heart. “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”, and if our words have filthy or perverse connotations, could it also mean that our hearts are not pure? Just a thought.

    I appreciate your stance on this and I enjoyed reading your post

  17. Pingback: PTP at PNC! « EduClaytion

  18. I came over today from Knox McCoy’s site. This is good stuff man. I take the same position. I don’t have a problem with cursing (or is it cussing?) but I’ll lay it down for the sake of someone weaker.

    True maturity is the ability to lay down your rights. That’s true freedom.

  19. I am a 53 yo man that retired too early after I sold my business; so I moved to CO. When I got here, I found that the police departments will hire people over the age of 45, so I decided to fulfill a long held dream and go to the police academy. The material that is being taught is wonderful; however, the young students and instructors, are still obsessed with body parts and all of their functions, as well as trying to fit as many F–k, words in each sentence as possible. I will finish the course, since there are only six weeks to go, but I doubt that I want to spend much time in a culture that has such a vulgar vocabulary and base mentality. I think that we need to be careful what we say because it not only reflects what we are, but our profession.

  20. How about you drop the silly moral bullshit and keep your eyes on the fuckin’ road?

  21. vyvgqkqjiku qotnbfetqo aommhzz hrccydptomj

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