Profanity — Of The Abundance Of The Heart

I want to preface this blog by saying that I will be using some mild profanity in it – not for my own purposes, mind you, but to elaborate on some points that I’ll be making. If this would offend you, I’d ask you to stop reading here. Thank you for understanding.


This weekend, while the kids were at my Mom’s house, they watched a Harry Potter marathon. Now, Mary and I had originally agreed that they wouldn’t watch the films until we watched them first – part of our parental vetting process, you see 😉 My Mom didn’t know this, so the kids were through the marathon before we knew anything about it. Mary was a bit upset, but I’d seen a few of the movies myself, so I figured “no harm, no foul”.

They came home Sunday morning, and they were ALL ABOUT those Harry Potter movies (I figured they would be). They were telling Mary about the series, but one thing in particular set her off – Caleb said that one of the characters said “bloody Hell”.

I can’t be sure of the context because I wasn’t there (he could’ve been spinning the story to keep from getting into more trouble), but Caleb said that he mentioned it for informational purposes. It’s his nature to share information like that – kinda like how he told me in this conversation that Mary told him that S followed by HIT is a bad word 😀

Anyway, I’d assume that part of the reason he mentioned this was to ask WHY “bloody Hell” it would be considered cussing – I presume because we believe Hell is an actual place, so it doesn’t make sense that the name of that actual place should be a cuss word. I could tell that he was confused by Mary getting upset, because he started crying when he told me what happened – especially considering how we’d told them to ASK us if such-and-such was a cuss word, so they would know not to use it.

Now, I’m absolutely CONFIDENT that Mary did an excellent job of explaining profanity to Caleb, but for some reason or another, it wasn’t sinking in with him, so I tried to find a different way to explain it. Before I get into my explanation to him, let me give you a little background…

1 Peter 1:15-16 – But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

This verse, I think, is a mainstay regarding what most consider profanity – the fact that cuss words are not “holy conversation”. Also, this passage…

James 3:8-10 – But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

And one more…

2 Timothy 2:16 – But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

Again, scripture makes the claim that profanity is ungodly, and that profanity in our spoken word leads to greater ungodliness. Now, I agree with all this. My problem, though – and I’ve gotten into MANY arguments over this – is that I don’t believe that a word ITSELF can be profane. To wit…

Romans 14:14 – I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

For context, this verse is speaking of meat being offered to idols – that which may be pure being used in a profane manner. Many believers of the day, and especially Jews, had a BIG problem with such meat. It was the culture of the day to eat this meat after it was offered to an idol, and when a believer sat at dinner with a nonbeliever, it wasn’t uncommon at all that they would be offered this “unclean” meat. The apostle Paul had no problem with eating such meat, as evidenced in this verse, but he realized that some people DID have a problem with it, and while he may consider himself free to eat that meat, this might cause a “weaker brother” to stumble…

Romans 14:15,21 – But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died… It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

1 Corinthians 8:9,13 – But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak… Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

I see “profanity” in the same light. While many if not MOST Christians see cuss words THEMSELVES as being profane – much like the meats being offered to idols – I see profanity in what is being COMMUNICATED in those words as they travel from the speaker’s heart to the hearer’s ears.

Example: the word “piss”. For years, Mary took this word to be a cuss word, and for years I refrained from saying it in front of her, specifically because of how she felt about the word. Of course, that’s not to say that the word ITSELF is profane…

1 Samuel 25:22 – So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.

Yes, that’s the word. Yes, it’s in context. Yes, it’s saying exactly what you think it says. And it’s in scripture – the very Word of God – so it stands to reason, as Romans 14:14 suggests, that the word ITSELF is not profane.

And yet Mary CONSIDERED it profane, and so I treated it as such.These days, I still limit my use of it, because even if she doesn’t consider the word ITSELF profane, she still doesn’t like its use, and I value her sensitivities too highly to offend them without reason.

Now then… boil all this down into something that you can give to a nine-year old. THAT is what I had to do with Caleb.

I found it challenging, to say the least. He’s a pretty smart kid, but he’s incredibly hardheaded (I can’t imagine where he gets that from). I knew his first response would be skepticism, or confusion, or “but why”, or “can I go play now?” so I had to figure out a way that he would GET IT before I lost my audience.

So I thought for a moment, and I chose a really ODD route I think, but a rather inspired one. I related profanity to excess – to losing control. This is something that Caleb understands, because if there’s one thing that he KNOWS, it’s that he sometimes gets out of control. He smacks his sisters. He talks back to Mommy. When he doesn’t get his way, he growls and stomps off. So I used this.

“When you have something to say, and I tell you that I don’t want to hear it, what do you do?”

“I shut up so I don’t get in trouble.”

“Exactly. That’s control. That’s you holding back what you want to say – even though you WANT to say it – because what I want at that moment is more important than what you want.”

He nodded, and I knew he got it, so I built on that. I explained that ANYBODY can use cuss words, but a wise man, and ESPECIALLY a Christian, should CONTROL his tongue – the same way he controls his back talk when he doesn’t want to get in trouble. A Christian’s supposed to THINK before he speaks, to be CAREFUL with the words he uses, because how he speaks is how he will be judged by the person who hears him.

Now, I know it’s becoming fashionable to “not care what other people think about you”, but it’s more important than many realize, because how people think about you is how CREDIBLE you are to them. This becomes very important when you give somebody your word – nobody trusts a liar. Also, when you promise to do a good job at something – nobody gives responsibility to someone who proves himself to be irresponsible. Though one’s reputation may not be the MOST important thing in the world, it is still very important, and quite a persuasive commodity.

Especially if someone knows your reputation to be one of compassion and integrity, and you present them with the Gospel.

At this point, Caleb was starting to zone out. I’m positive he didn’t hear anything past “being careful with the words he uses”, but he pretty much got what I was trying to say, so when he asked to go join the other kids in the pool, I gave him a hug, told him that I loved him and that he can always tell me and Mommy anything, and let him scoot. Had I been able to keep his attention one more moment, though, I would’ve given him this verse…

Luke 6:45 – A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Caleb is a good boy. He’s a loving, caring boy. It brought him to tears when we were talking about Mary getting on to him. Though he pure TORTURES his sisters, I’ve seen him bawl his eyes out when he thought he’d hurt one of them – not because he thought he’d get in trouble (that was pretty much a foregone conclusion) but because she was HURT, and he was the cause of it. Heck, if I even raise my voice at him, he starts bawling! It drives me up a wall for him to cry at every little thing, but honestly, I’m not sure he can help it.

Caleb loves. All of my kids do, but he’s the one with the deceptively tender heart, so he is the one, more than Livy and Madi, that I want most to teach how to control his tongue – to foster the abundance of good in his heart, and to strangle out the bad. Whatever words he chooses, be they considered clean or unclean, what’s in his heart is what will make them so. As long as that heart is what’s being tended, I’m not worried about “cuss words” as far as he’s concerned. But as I DO worry about how he will be received — especially when he speaks of his relationship with Christ — I want him to understand the value of choosing his words carefully.

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