Is using swear words sinful?


#1

First of all, let’s establish right away that I am not talking about taking the Lord’s name in vain. Nor am I talking about using swear words in a vulgar or disrespectful fashion, like referring to sex as the F-word (which demeans sex, which is sacred).

If swearing, aside from these two obvious contexts, is sinful, then why?

I get that we’re not supposed to be vulgar according to certain scriptures, but we must define “vulgar” from a moral standpoint. Is there something inherently morally vulgar about certain syllables? If so, why? If vulgarity is dependent upon social definitions and contexts, however, then doesn’t this mean that it matters who you would swear around or how you use the words, but not necessarily if you swear? After all, if present company does not find certain words vulgar or offensive and you’re not using the language in a hateful or demeaning way, then it would be arbitrary, it seems to me, to call using swear words inherently “vulgar” in the morally prohibited sense of the word.

Some may ask “WHY use those words if other words are available?” but that’s irrelevant, unless we have first concluded that the words are inherently bad compared to other words and therefore to be shunned–regardless of context or company–unless there were absolutely no other word available…

Another question I find especially interesting: IF you think swearing is a sin, venial or otherwise, do you do it anyway, even in contexts where you could easily avoid it? If you do it in front of people, and you think it’s wrong, do you make an apology for it? Because if you think something is wrong, it seems to me you ought to “call yourself out” on it if you do it in front of others, lest you give scandal. So if you do think swearing is wrong, do you ever do it in front of other people without apology? Why?

If you vote, it will also be helpful to know how you voted. :slight_smile:

Blessings in Christ,
KindredSoul


#2

A priest told me swearing is in and of itself, a venial sin. I don’t understand why and now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I believe him.


#3

why do it…what’s attractive about using ugly language…sinful or not does it make one feel closer to God…I think not… bad habit…


#4

It’s certainly a bad habit. I swear all the time, but am trying to stop in recent weeks. It gets to the point where you say rather ugly things without thinking about it, and come of as uncultured and, for lack of a better word, dumb.


#5

I choose not to swear as a rule. When I do, it is on a very limited basis- a rare exception. Here’s why:

1.) Cursing tends to emphasize and magnify emotion. And its usually negative emotions- “That f’ning a-hole!!!” has a much different emotional weight that “That inconsiderate man!” or even “That jerk!” So, by cursing, we are choosing to magnify our emotional response. If its a negative one, as it often is, we’ve just magnified and emphasized an Un-Christian-like behavior. And that is sinful, or very close to it. It is certainly not making me more Christian, nor even neutral. It is actually making me less Christian. Why would I want to do that? Not only that- but it invites me to sin further by fueling my rage and conditioning my responses.

2.) As another poster pointed out- it’s ugly language, and what’s attractive about that? There is indeed a certain attraction to the base, and the ugly in cursing. What is attractive about feces? The curse words that relate to sex don’t relate to its spiritual or personal dimensions, nor even to its healthy biological dimension. It relates to its distorted “dirty” manifestation. You don’t write a love song about f’ing… you write a love song about “making love”. There is certainly a different connotation there.

By the same token if something bad happens and someone says “Oh feces!”- I understand that perfectly- It’s an appropriate response to some degree, depending on the circumstances. But if you go around exclaiming “Oh feces” as a personal mantra- like so many people I’ve known- well then that’s not exactly becoming of a Christian or someone who loves the good and the beautiful.

3.) It’s lazy and average. As Christians, we are meant to rise above the world. If we become “of the world” we are really doing a disservice to ourselves, those around us and other Christians. Curse-filled conversations do not rise above mediocrity. Being worldly is not exactly something we Christians should be. Could you imagine Jesus or any of the saints talking like this?

On the other hand…

I don’t believe that cursing is always sinful. In fact, I believe the Bible uses ancient “curse words” and even Jesus himself uttered a “vulgar word” or two here and there. I think this use of cursing is acceptable and even worthy. That is- when we use cursing on a very limited basis to call attention and emphasize very important issues or concepts. If something is truly like “feces”- well, there’s nothing wrong with using the more vulgar term to properly describe it and emphasize its “feces-ness”, such as adultery or vice. Curse words are strong words and should be used appropriately for strong subjects and emphasis.

The continual stream of cursing heard from many today do not fall into this category and is not even conscious anymore to a large degree, which means that it at least isn’t a mortal sin, since many don’t even realize when they curse anymore- since it has become an ordinary part of their language, such as we use the words “the” “and” “but” and “thing”. It’s a bad habit though, that does nothing to raise the individual’s vocabulary, mastery of self or cultural sophistication.


#6

I usually either swear when I’m talking about something serious and deserving of some level of extreme language, or when I’m losing my temper. Or when I think it would be really funny to swear. :blush:

In the losing my temper case, my family all know that I think it’s wrong, and it doesn’t really happen outside of the house. In the other cases, I’m pretty much always talking with somebody I’m close to. Well, OK, I have been known to swear mildly while teaching a class (:eek:). I’m not always sure if I think it’s wrong in that context, though I expect it is. I definitely don’t clarify that I think it’s wrong to the students – it would totally detract from the purpose of using the word, which was to capture their attention.

But present company includes oneself! We can’t avoid the effect that a word has on us, even if it’s just we ourselves that use it. I have found myself talking in a vulgar way to myself and I think it can be unhelpful. There is something toxic, for example, in going through life and using the complaint (even the internal complaint) that “this is sh**ty.” In extreme cases, things really are that bad, but otherwise it just “primes” us to look at our own lives with a borderline obscene negativity.

For the record, I think that no one should think less of a Christian because the Christian swears. If that’s the worst they do, they are a saint.


#7

Oh I definitely agree: A person can’t forget his own self when considering “present company.” I, for example, am someone for whom it would be unhelpful to swear often, even internally, because I do attach some strong meanings to the words even, as it were, in spite of myself. At least often I do. Some days, not so much.

I’ve met some people who actually give the impression–and perhaps it’s a false one–that they generally see no difference in “this is sh**ty” and “this is crummy,” except maybe a difference in degree (but a slight difference at that). Almost as if, in certain subgroups of society, the words are almost a different language than for the rest of society. I’m not sure, providing the impression they give is not false, what this means for them… But then, it is telling that these subgroups often do seem to have a more embittered or cynical view of life, so one can make of that what one will…

For the record, I think that no one should think less of a Christian because the Christian swears. If that’s the worst they do, they are a saint.

I’m inclined, by reason, to agree with that. Depending on my mood–see above–I may cringe inwardly when a religious person swears, and it’s hard not to think something is “wrong” about it when I’m in those moods. But that’s hardly a reason I should think “less” of a fellow Christian for it.

Blessings in Christ,
KindredSoul


#8

I realize I myself haven’t answered my question, and my answer is that I flip-flop on it, and that flip-flopping is largely at the mercy of my feelings on the matter (And I openly own up to being scrupulous–so my “feelings” are not always trustworthy on moral matters, although they do at least err on the side of caution if they err): On those days when I just can’t “shake” the feeling that something’s wrong about swearing, I avoid it, which I can easily do because it’s just never been an ingrained part of my vocabulary.

On days when I feel that nothing is inherently wrong with swearing, I do definitely think it can still be wrong based on company and context, and I’m pretty good at never using it at a in a context when I think it would be wrong, again due to having never really formed a “habit” with it.

Basically, it’s a safe bet that if I ever swear in front of someone, I’m only doing it because, at that particular moment or in that particular context, I don’t think it’s wrong…even if at a later or earlier time I might feel/think differently about it.

That’s probably why this question is of such interest to me…most people, I think, swear just because it’s a part of their vocabulary, so they’re just “being natural” and thus the question of “Is it sinful” is more important in terms of whether or not they need to practice restraint. I actually do have complete freedom, if I choose, of never swearing at ALL with no effort whatsoever (slips of the tongue, or typing fingers, are literally unknown to me). Therefore, if I DO conclude that it’s wrong, I’m quite a bit more culpable than someone to whom it came more naturally. I guess my thoughts can be a different matter, sometimes, if I’m excessively angry…but even that’s rare, or it seems to be.

As for why I would ever choose to swear if it doesn’t come naturally to me, I’ll save that maybe for a future post in the thread, although I’m certainly interested if anybody else thinks there is ever a reason to deliberately choose to swear if, like me, it’s not something you would normally say.

Blessings in Christ,
KindredSoul


#9

What exactly makes a swear word a swear word? Everybody would agree words like excrement, urine, sexual intercourse etc. are acceptable. There are alternative words for these things that have varying degrees of “dirtiness”. They obviously sound dirty. What is it about them that make them dirty? One can’t recognize swear words in a foreign language unless one understands that language.


#10

This honestly sounds like an attempt at justification. The Bible tells us to have tight control of our tongues. Obviously, when we are speaking in a polite, civil way even to those who disagree with us, we do not offend or provoke. Or swear.

Peace,
Ed


#11

Well, it isn’t. :slight_smile:

Some background is now in order to emphasize the point that it isn’t: I was baptized in a Protestant background where swearing most definitely WAS sinful. Even the smallest, mildest swear word was at best considered a mildly embarrassing transgression, and at worst the sign of someone who was not a true Christian at all.

So believe me when I say I have no ingrained habit of swearing, I could go the rest of my days without using even the most mild swear word if I decide it is always sinful (and I could do without it easily), and I would be rather comfortable if the Church made it clear–in black and white–tomorrow that all swearing for any reason whatsoever is a sin (even if usually venial). That’s the “Christianity” I knew early on, so it fits right into my comfort zone.

So why do I care? Because, frankly, I want the truth. I’m not comfortable just saying “Well, that’s not right for me, so I won’t do it” because either it is objectively sinful or it is only subjectively sinful (or in certain contexts). If it is objectively sinful, then I owe it to everyone around me to stand on that conviction, especially–for example–my children.

If it is NOT (always) objectively sinful, then I owe it to the great and awesome religious people I know who DO swear (something I had honestly never encountered until later in life) to not inwardly judge their actions as being sinful (even if I’m not judging them as people) when they do so. Just as I wouldn’t want to believe “eating apples” is inherently sinful if it isn’t, because then–no matter how I refrain from judging individuals–I could not help but rationally judge that everyone who ate an apple in my presence was sinning, whether culpably or not.

This is my approach to anything that I’m not sure is or isn’t a sin: I want to know, because even if I can just go through life “erring on the side of caution,” knowing still matters for the sake of how I relate to the world and people around me.

The Bible tells us to have tight control of our tongues. Obviously, when we are speaking in a polite, civil way even to those who disagree with us, we do not offend or provoke. Or swear.

I know people who do swear, though, even when they have no intention of being impolite, so the last two words from this quote do not always hold true, at least when these people are exclusively swearing around each other…

I agree that the Bible tells us to have tight control of our tongues, but there are so many ways that this applies–gossip, slander, hateful speech, expressions of unjust anger, using one’s words to lash out at others, obscene humor, deliberate degradation of what is good or holy, and an endless list–that it is not clear to me that this must apply to swearing regardless of the context or situation.

I’m not saying it doesn’t, I’m just saying that in my quest to find a firm answer one way or the other, once for all, there is not enough evidence that swearing is (inherently) condemned by such passages…

Blessings in Christ,
KindredSoul


#12

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