I’ve been told it’s unladylike, unchristian, unbecoming. That it shows ignorance. That it’ll send me to hell. But these reasons don’t really compel me to quit. Instead, I’ve decided to stop cussing because it’s ruining my marriage.
Okay. To be fair my marriage isn’t exactly flailing. But we seem to rehearse the same tired script over and over again until one of us breaks under the monotony. It’s usually me first. I point out that we’ve been here before. We’re talking in circles; we’ve begun to argue more over our communication styles than the issue that got us going. But it doesn’t matter anymore what we’re talking about. Because feelings have been hurt. Tones have been read and misread. And I am fuming over my own helplessness to dig us out. Then it happens.
I drop the f-bomb on our open wounds.
It falls sharply in the room. The words surrounding its delivery, whatever they were, are lost in the debris. Its hard consonants build my armor. I will not soften, and the resolve makes me feel smug.
Until I begin rummaging through the pages of Scripture.
I’ve been thinking about the kingdom of God lately and how I don’t think my imagination of it is big enough. I’ve planted myself in the middle of Matthew, chapter 12, where I’ve been reminded that Jesus wants mercy not sacrifice (v. 7) and that to insult the Holy Spirit is unforgiveable (v. 32). Although this latter sentiment seems a bit over the top, it is followed by a verse that makes me a feel like a bag of hangnails.
“I tell you that people will have to answer on Judgment Day for every useless word they speak.” (v. 36)
This can’t be true, I think. Jesus wants mercy, not sacrifice right? Surely he won’t make me go through an apocalyptic mudslinging for cursing under the weight of a stubbed toe. Or muttering obscenities to keep warm while walking to my car in the Michigan winter. Such cussing can’t be useless; it’s gratifying, no?
For a time I thought cussing showed people I didn’t take myself too seriously. But maybe it showed I didn’t take Scripture that seriously either.
I still love swear words for their unexpected punch, their humorous hubris, and their ability to reveal our crass humanity. I remember a sermon my pastor gave when I was in high school in which he said we had gotten it all “bass ackwards.” While it took me a minute to realize he had practically said a cuss word in the pulpit, I remember feeling instantly more at ease in Sunday worship knowing it wasn’t a place to be prettied up.
Problem is I’ve lost the “umph” of a well-placed curse word. Instead I carelessly sprinkle them into my speech until they become as banal as a bacon fad. Worse, I fear they’re clogging my heart.
Perhaps I’m just growing up and buttoning up. But until I can clean up, I am swearing off swearing. For my marriage. For my faith.
For the love of God.