I walked into a verbal buzz saw this morning and thought I should comment.
It started like this: I posted that a study said that “People who use a lot of swear words tend to be more honest and trustworthy, human behavioral studies suggest”. I posted it on Facebook with my response: “I’m in good shape then”.
A friend wrote “flawed” and I responded “Just like all Christians”. — and away it went. The friend replied that it’s a condition of humanity, not just Christianity and I agreed. Then all hell broke loose (see what I did there?) There was a very lengthy discussion of Original Sin, Salvation, and so on… I was astounded that there was that much energy around a post I meant as slightly humorous and rather humble.
Here’s my thing: I have a love/hate relationship with swearing. Intellectually, I know it’s wrong. Emotionally, I feel it’s perfectly right. As a pastor it freaks some people out, and I probably shouldn’t do it. As a therapist, when I get in the groove of therapy, it occasionally slips out. In the parish years ago and now in the therapeutic session, it seems to “humanize” me. I have clients who have said specifically that they don’t normally trust therapists, or ministers, but my swearing makes me feel safe and human. Years ago, people said the same thing in the parish. People in the parish, and in some places in my life, find it “inappropriate” and are appalled and it really turns those folks off. Whichever result I get, it helps to define the context I am in and it either serves me or doesn’t.
Here’s the logic behind it, if there is any. In the culture I grew up in — Chicopee and Springfield, Mass. — Swears are used all the time: “I got up this ——– morning and —- it was cold! I made some eggs and I ——- burned myself. Can you believe that —-?! It’s lunchtime, mother——- give me some of your sandwich. I didn’t have —- to eat after that”. Six swears in two sentences!
I’m not like that. They are natural to the environment here, but that much is unnecessary. My mother allowed two swears: “hell” (It’s a place) and “damn”.(at least you weren’t taking the Lord’s name in vain).. When I grew up George Carlin’s “7 Words You Can’t Say on Television” said this was silly, and — like all of Carlin’s stuff — made me think. In the end, it comes down to this: Swearing is not a good thing. When you’re describing something which also isn’t good, Swearing is the only thing that’ fits. It gives voice to the pain people are feeling, or the incredulity I feel about some irony my client is facing: “Nooo —-! She/He said that after he/she did this for years?! Are you ——- kidding me?!” or the anger someone feels after abuse: “I hope they fry in —-“. I’m sure there are politer ways to express these feelings, but politeness is not called for in these situations. Raw-ness is.
The Bible and Swears
As Donald Ames points out, “You illegitimate bastard” appears in John 9:34; while the term, “You son of a bitch” is found in 1 Sam. 20:30. Would you parents like to recommend a volume containing the above to your kids and have them begin using such expressions? They will find them in The Living Bible-Paraphrased!”
The Bible Gateway on line says this:
1 Samuel 20:30-32Living Bible (TLB)
30 Saul boiled with rage. “You fool!”[a] he yelled at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want this son of a nobody* to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? 31 As long as that fellow is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!”
32 “But what has he done?” Jonathan demanded. “Why should he be put to death?”
- 1 Samuel 20:30 You fool, literally, “Son of a perverse, rebellious woman.” The modern equivalent is “son of a bitch.” this son of a nobody, literally, “son of Jesse.”