Hello, Mini-Women! Meet two of what we called the "middle school lambs" at the sheep ranch. How cute are they? They aren't the teeny tiny baby-ness ones who had to be bottle fed. These were just a little older and could eat hay and pellets -- so sort of like the difference between sweet little baby girlfriends and mini-women such as yourselves. They had their issues -- seeing who could get to the hay first and who could climb on top of whom to get to a higher vantage point -- but clearly they didn't have half the issues you have in elementary and middle school. I'm not sure what all the baa-ing and bleating actually meant, but I don't think they were swearing.
But that's a problem for a lot of you. You've reported that you hear bad language:
* in movies, even old ones, even ones that are supposed to be "family films"
* from neighbors
* at school
* at church (yikes, right?)
So basically everywhere! And even if you don't swear, as some of you have pointed out once you hear it it's hard to get it out of your head. Then the fear sets in: "What if I accidentally say it out loud?"
Maybe some different thoughts on bad language will help you get a handle on this. Here we go:
As Christians, we try to resist cussing because two things in the Bible tell us we should. One is the commandment about not taking the Lord's name in vain, and the other is where Jesus says, "Dont swear by this and don't swear by that. As a matter of fact, don't swear at all." Let's look at what those two things mean.
1. The commandment is telling us not to use God's name (or the name of Jesus) for anything other than what it was intended for. Otherwise, it's useless. It's "in vain." So when you say, as one of you put it, "omg," we're slinging God's name around in a way that doesn't honor God. It makes God's name small and, well, useless and meaningless. So that has to be first on our list: no using God, Jesus, or Jesus Christ to show anger or surprise or anything except love and honor for the name itself. We can all agree on that, right?
2. The verse about "do not swear at all," is a little different. It's talking about 'swearing BY" something. Like if your dad uses Vick's vapor rub on his toenail fungus and it clears it up, he'll swear by Vicks as a cure for toenail fungus. I'm not sure you've ever heard that expression used -- "He swears by that stuff, says it works every time", but that's what that verse is referring to. So Jesus is saying, don't swear by anything because you've got God and that's all you need. We shouldn't even have to swear on a Bible when we testify in court; our word should be enough because we love God and tell the truth. Make sense?
So does that mean all other kinds of cussing are okay? Or even just the words that are in the Bible -- the H-word, the D-word, and the A-word? Um, no. Those words aren't used in Scripture as attacks on people, or to show how ticked off somebody is. So yes, you could say, "I'm afraid that person may go to hell" and not be cussing. But if you tell somebody to go there, that's swearing. So instead of standing there trying to figure it out whether it's all right to say it, it's better just not to say it at all at this point in your life!
As for other bad language, here's the thing: if anybody uses words to attack, to put people down, to make something beautiful ugly, to show how tough they are, that's talking trash. God doesn't want us doing that. You don't hear Jesus doing that in the Gospels. He does call the Pharisees a brood of vipers, but they pretty much were AND he was Jesus so it was his job to do that. It isn't ours.
Of course, I'm doing what they call "preaching to the choir" here. You don't WANT to cuss. Most of you probably don't. Your questions are:
1. How do I get those bad words out of my head once I hear them?
2. Should I try to get other people to stop cussing around me?
Here's some help for that:
1. Your mind can only really focus on one thought at a time, so (a) don't beat yourself up because a bad word you've heard pops into your head and (b) immediately replace it with something else, like tacos or chocolate or the next beautiful thing you see. If you dwell on how horrible you are because there's a swear word in your mind, you've pulled up a chair for that word and asked it to sit down. Shove it on out of there with the elbow of something else. Even a substitute word can help. My personal faves are "yikes!", "shooty-tooties" and "What the Sam Hill?" You don't have to say them, but at least they make nicer companions in your head than profanity. You can't help the thoughts that enter your brain, but you can help what you do with them.
2. Whether you confront other people about their swearing depends on how well you know them. If strangers are dropping swear-bombs in the check-out line, it really isn't up to you to correct them. They'll be out of there in a minute. You can silently pray for them, plug in your iPod, or move to another line if it really bothers you. But if it's one of your siblings or a close friend, yeah, let them know you're offended and that you wish they'd knock off the swearing around you. The trick is not to make them feel like they're heinous people in the process, but to keep it about you. So --
DON'T SAY -- "You know better than to be talking like that. What is WRONG with you?"
DO SAY -- "Swearing makes me feel really bad. Could you just maybe not do it around me?"
As much as you may feel like a lecture or some good solid Scripture is caled for, it probably isn't going to work. I'm not saying pussy-foot around so people won't think you're a goody-goody. It takes a lot of courage just to say, "Listen, that really bothers me."
The one exception to that, I think, is when somebody's tossing God's name around in a bad way. If it's somebody you know, somebody you have to be around a lot, that one's worth standing up for. You're honoring God if you say, "I really love God and I can't stand it when somebody uses God's name like a cussword. Is there something else you could say instead, because that's just wrong."
I guess I can't close this little discussion without a word to those of you who do swear. Now and then. When you're really mad or upset or just wanting to sound cool. If something just slips out, God understands. Try your hardest not to do it. If you're in the habit of cussing a blue streak under certain circumstances, definitely take that to God. It can get to be just that -- a habit, and a hard one to break in these times. If you do it because it sounds grown-up and cool, um, it doesn't. Talking trash -- even gossiping, putting people down, being rude with your words -- just makes you ugly. It really does. And then nobody gets to see the beautiful person you are inside.
As we talk more about peer pressure issues like this one, you're going to hear some of the same things again and again.
* You can't change or control other people
* You can change and control yourself, with God's help
* You have to carefully choose what to stand up for and what to shrug off with a "Sorry. Not interested."
* You can be part of positive peer pressure in small ways, like saying to your friends, "Let's make it cool NOT to cuss."
I'm thinking CLOTHES should be next, don't you? Between now and Monday's post, why don't you fill the inbox with comments on what you feel pressured to wear so you'll fit in, and how that makes you feel even if you don't succumb to the pressure, and anything else you want to say about appropriate dress. Just remember not to "preach" to each other or try to fix anybody. We're just telling our stories.
And just to make it more fun -- describe your all time-fave outfit right now. We'll have a virtual Mini-Woman Fashion show!