I remember the very first time I cursed aloud, I guess I was about eight or nine years old. Unfortunately, my mom was there; fortunately, she couldn’t reach me. My mom was in the driver’s seat of her gray, two-door, hatchback Ford Escort with the sweet burgundy interior. My older cousin was in the passenger’s seat, her friend and I were in the back (I was behind my mom). We were parked, with the windows rolled down and a bee flew into the car. My common sense flew out of the window and “Oh $#!+” flew out of my mouth. Dead silence followed. My cousin and her friend exploded with laughter. They thought it was hilarious, my mom didn’t. I could see steam wafting out of her ears as she silently fumed.
To this day, I thank God that I was sitting where I was because if my mother could have reached me, I would probably still have handprints around my throat from her wringing my neck. My mom was only upset for a little while but I realized that she must have been more disappointed than anything. At some point, when she was not around to shield me from it, I had heard, understood, and internalized an expletive at such a young age, which I knew exactly when to execute. I never forgot the feeling of shame (and terror) I experienced that day, so I decided never to curse in front of my mom again. Actually, I didn’t curse much anyway after that, not even in my head. I guess I never felt a need to.
Once I started college, all my efforts went to waste. It’s not that I’m easily influenced (I can be downright stubborn) or that my friends were a group of particularly unsavory brutes but they cursed fluently and I got caught up. It’s pretty awful now that I think about it. People cursed in class, in the hallways, in the cafeteria, and especially in the bookstore (how mysterious, I wonder why). I was surrounded. I gradually became desensitized to the words that used to make me cringe a little and I began to curse as regularly (but not nearly as excessively) as everyone else. It got to the point where I almost slipped in front of my mom which scared me. Not only did I fear for my life in the face of my mother’s unnatural physical strength, I thought to myself, “If I’m worried about what my mom would think, I should be twice as worried about what God would think”. Cursing is a hard habit to break even more so when a majority of the people around me do it. It’s offensive (to God and others), crass, rude, disrespectful and shows a lack of mental dexterity in that I cannot find more appropriate language to express myself. I’ve taken a step and told my friends I’m trying to stop cursing. Also, I pray and grit my teeth…a lot.
The Bible says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth [or any other means of communication], but that which is good to the use of edifying, that is may minister grace upon the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 KJV. In (my) words, don’t sing, write, tweet, text, pantomime, or interpret through dance anything that can’t be used for building up or blessing the recipient (yes, even if you’re talking to yourself). Another relevant verse is Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer”. My goal is to memorize this verse and use it as a prayer whenever I feel like I just cannot control my tongue so the words I say will not offend God or anyone else. (though a divine ZAP! Would be effective also).