A conversation about swearing . . . or cursing . . . or cussing . . . or using foul language . . . came up at work the other day. Mind you, I work in an office at the university with eight women . . . eight very proper women . . . who would never swear. Me, on the other hand, find that swearing is second nature . . . blame it on upbringing (my father was a career military person) or just a lack of will, but cursing is pretty much second nature for me.
Now, I know all the arguments against swearing. I know that ignorant people use swear words to express themselves . . . thus there are times when I am the most ignorant person you will ever meet. I know that the majority, if not all, religious people consider cursing to be a sin . . . Lord, forgive me because I am a sinner. I know that cussing is not nice . . . and, there are times when I am not nice and do not want to be nice. I know all of the arguments against this vile practice . . . and, I also know that no one, at least in the world in which I exist, is void of this despicable practice . . . no one!
But the ladies in the office got me thinking . . . maybe, just maybe, I need to swear a little less often . . . after all, I am an ordained person! Dammit!
Msn.com recently had a little video clip to help people quit swearing. It was an interesting little clip . . .but, I don’t know if it is going to help me. They started the clip with the fact that swearing is a behavior. As a behavior, it can be modified . . . behavior modification. In my training to be a mental health counselor, I have always considered behavior modification to be a four-lettered word. I have not had much success with using behavior modification in the counseling I have done.
Behavior modification . . . that is the advice the video clip offered. This behavior modification would take three phases to be successful: introspection, word substitution, and visualization. Hell, it sounds like a lot of work to me!
I agree with whoever made the video . . . most of my swearing comes as a reaction to what is happening to me . . . usually stuff I do not want happening to me. The suggestion is that introspection will help understand the source or prompt to the cursing. I think that God could help me with this one . . . put less idiot drivers on the road (especially those from northern Wyoming). Quit putting people in my life who think that I care what their opinions or thoughts are . . . there is only one way to do things in life and it is my way. Get rid of politics. Just get rid of stupid people. Most of my swearing is a reaction . . . reaction to being threatened . . . reaction to being thrown off my perceived schedule . . . reaction to what I want . . . reaction, reaction, reaction.
According to the video, it is more important to acknowledge the emotion or feeling that creates the swearing than the swearing itself. Duh! I get that! But if one more person cuts me off on the highway . . . well, birds fly freely and I have shared more than my fair share of birds. Sign language can be wonderful in expressing one’s self. I get what they are talking about . . . I have got to quit thinking that the world revolves around me . . . I am not sure when all these other people showed up in the world, but I wish they would go back to where they came from!
The video also suggested using word substitution . . . to use other words instead of the the infamous four-letter words most of us are used to when we swear. They suggested using words like “fiddle-dee” or “shoot”. My father-in-law, when he was a live, always told me that “la dee da” was just French for “bullsh**”. George Carlin used to say that “shoot” was just “sh**” spelled with two o’s. Now, I am in agreement with both of these fine men . . . substitution or changing the word, is nothing more than using “code words” for swearing . . . the intention is the same. I still want to the idiot driver to know that I am not happy. I guess that is where sign language comes into play. I feel ridiculous using a substitute word for the swear word . . . my intention is still the same.
Lastly, they suggest visualization. The makers of the video suggest that those of us who swear visualize our saying it in the company of others . . . in particular they suggested us visualizing ourselves cursing in front of children, elderly people, and clergy. Most of the children I know swear worse than I do . . . f-bombing just about everything. The elderly have—in my book, since I am quickly approaching that age—reason in the world to swear. And, clergy . . . well . . . let’s just say that they deal in the sacred and the PROFANE! I do not think visualizing who I swear in front of makes much of an impression on me . . . at least not in the three groups that they mentioned . . . where do you think I learned to swear.
For the most part, I consider myself to be a good person. Because I consider myself to be a good person, I listen to what other people say. Swearing is not good . . .swearing should not be a part of my vocabulary . . . I need to curb my swearing . . . and, I keep trying. But it is a vicious circle. I catch myself cussing out an idiot driver from a state I won’t name, but starts with a “W” . . . I flip the bird . . . and, I catch myself doing it. This ticks me off when I catch myself doing it . . . so, I cuss myself out. I guess that is what they mean about introspection. Then I catch myself cussing myself out . . . this escalates the situation . . . I ask God to forgive me, dammit! See what I mean . . . a vicious cycle. But, I am trying . . . and, most of the time I am trying really, really hard.
At the same time, here is the deal . . . it does not matter whether a person uses a four-letter word or a “substitute” word . . . it is not the word that matters . . . it is the intention behind the word. There are a lot of words that are not four-letter words that make people recoil . . . for example, in the church, those words are evangelism and stewardship. It is the intention of the words that are spoken, more than the actual word that make it swearing. I cringe more at words like “stupid”. “retard”, “queer”, “idiot”, and so on, than I do if someone drops the f-bomb in the conversation. If the word is meant to hurt, belittle, put down, or insult someone else . . . four-lettered or not—it is swearing. I am working on that . . . but, it is damn hard to do.
The majority of the swearing I do is pretty much private, but there are times when it slips out in situations in which I end up cussing myself out for my ignorance . . . times when I have hurt others. In those moments . . . I am ignorant . . . I am a sinner . . .
Which brings us back to that conversation at my work at the university . . . with those ladies I work with . . . there is a better way. And, like the video is subtly suggesting, it begins with me. Jesus preached that there were two things we are to do as his followers. First, to love the Lord completely . . . to love God with all that we are. Second, is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I need to work on that second part a little harder . . . I need to love myself a little better. Dammit, that is what I need to do.