On Cussing

I cuss.

I grew up never cussing, though I heard plenty of cuss words. My grandfather was like the dad in A Christmas Story. He would weave them together like an endless tapestry. It was quite a work of art. I found it amusing, not offensive.

Movies I watched and people I worked or played sports with cussed. It never bothered me, but I also did not ever do it myself. It just seemed uneccessary.

Then, sometime in my early twenties, it started to seem necessary. Some forms of anger and intensity seemed to demand it. Some humorous moments were perfected by it. Plus, it was kind of fun and had a nice shock value for me, a Christian guy who never cussed, to drop a well-time naughty word.

I’ve never really had a theological view on cussing. Actual cursing – swearing by gods or calling on spiritual powers to harm people – seems dark and dangerous. But using crass words about bodily functions has always seemed to me not bad in itself, just contextually fraught for its ability to offend. An “All things are permissible but not all things are profitable” sort of thing. Also a “You have the freedom to do this but don’t use your freedom to cause others to stumble” sort of thing.

But I got lazy over time. Just like when I start drinking coffee every morning even though I don’t need the caffeine, before long I get so used to it I’m doing multiple cups without thinking or even really enjoying it. Cussing became an unthinking activity; filler words inserted far too often.

After many years not really paying attention to it, it began to bother me for two reasons.

One, I love words. Writing and speaking are two of the only things in the world I’m pretty decent at, and lazily inserting cusses seemed like a regression in my wordplay.

Two, it was needlessly off-putting to people I don’t intend to put-off.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when a cuss word is exactly the recipe needed to put-off the very kind of people you want nothing to do with. I remember in the early days of Praxis, I had some podcasts or posts where I’d admonish young people to “Just get shit done”. The parents and kids that didn’t want to do the program because of that four-letter word were exactly the type I did not want to have to deal with.

But an occasional and well-placed cuss is different than the lazy kind that began infecting my vocabulary. I realized that, for example, as I moved to a new city and joined a church there, people may Google me and find podcasts or posts where I gratuitously cuss for no good reason. Do I want them to feel weird, or wonder what my deal is? Sure, I could argue that there’s no theological ground for being offended by my cussing (though I’m sure there are good arguments in the opposite direction as well), but is that the hill I want my reputation with fellow Christians to die on?

Worse, I’ve had moments where I’m in a conversation in the business context, and I carelessly drop a cussbomb. Only to find out a few minutes later into the conversation that the other person is a Christian. I have this weird moment where I’m tempted to say, “Me too! Even though I was just needlessly crass and vulgar. Hope you were able to know me by my fruit and light!” (I actually did say this one time).

So I’m trying.

I’m trying to clean up my speech and reserve cuss words for those moments where only they will do. Bear with me.