Young People Ask
What’s So Bad About Swearing?
“I wanted to blend in with my schoolmates. I think that’s why I picked up the habit of swearing.”—Melanie.*
“I didn’t think swearing was such a big deal. I was around it all the time—both at school and at home.”—David.
WHY is it often viewed as normal when adults swear, or use profanity, but when young people do it, it’s considered shocking? Does a person’s age determine whether it’s okay to curse? Since so many people use foul language—and there seems to be a double standard when it comes to age—you might well ask, “What’s so bad about swearing?”
There’s no doubt that swearing is widespread. In fact, some youths would say that if they could have a dollar for every vulgar word they heard at school, they’d never have to work and their parents could retire. “In casual conversation,” says 15-year-old Eve, “my schoolmates seem to swear several times in each sentence. When you hear that kind of talk all day, it’s hard to keep from joining the crowd.”
Are you, like Eve, surrounded by swearing? Have you picked up the habit yourself?* If so, take a moment to examine just what motivates you to swear. Once you identify that, you’ll be in a better position to eliminate the habit.
With this in mind, try answering the following questions.
In most cases, why do you swear?
□ To express anger or frustration
□ To get attention
□ To fit in with peers
□ To appear tough
□ To challenge authority
□ Other ․․․․․
In what circumstance are you most inclined to swear?
□ At school
□ At work
□ In e-mails, instant messages, or text messages
□ When by myself
How do you excuse your swearing?
□ Peers do it
□ Parents do it
□ Teachers do it
□ Entertainment is saturated with it
□ It’s no big deal—they’re just words
□ I only swear around people who aren’t bothered by it
□ Other ․․․․․
Why conquer this habit at all? Is swearing really that bad? Consider the following.
They’re not just words. Jesus said: “Your words show what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45, Contemporary English Version) Note that what we say doesn’t simply reflect the type of person we would like to be—it reflects the type of person we already are. Even if you use bad language simply because others do it, copying their example reveals that you “follow after the crowd” and that you’re not your own person.—Exodus 23:2.
But that’s not all. Language expert James V. O’Connor says: “People who swear often tend to be disagreeable, critical, cynical, angry, argumentative, and unhappy complainers.” For example, those who curse whenever something goes wrong reflect the belief that everything must always go right. It’s as if they just can’t handle mistakes. On the other hand, O’Connor notes, those who don’t swear “are often calm, . . . mature people who [can] deal with daily annoyances.” Which type of person would you rather be?
Swearing hurts your reputation. Like most youths, you probably care about your appearance. You want to make a good impression. But did you know that how you speak can have a greater impact on others than how you look? The fact is, your speech can determine such things as
▪ Whom you will attract as friends.
▪ Whether you will be hired for a particular job or not.
▪ The amount of respect you will receive.
It’s true—often the initial impression people form of us based on our appearance quickly fades when we start talking. Says O’Connor: “You have no way of knowing how many opportunities to make a new friend you might have squelched, or how often you alienated someone or lost a degree of respect through your lackadaisical use of foul language.” The lesson? If your speech is vulgar, you’re only hurting yourself.
Swearing shows disrespect for the Creator of speech. Suppose you gave your friend—as a gift—a shirt or a blouse. How would you feel if you saw your friend using that garment as a rag or a doormat? Think of how our Creator feels, then, when we misuse the gift of speech. Little wonder that God’s Word states: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness.”—Ephesians 4:31.
As you can see, there’s good reason to stop swearing. If it’s become a deeply ingrained habit, though, how can you overcome it?
First: See the need to change. You likely won’t stop swearing until you understand how you will benefit from altering your speech. Which factors below would motivate you to stop swearing?
□ Pleasing the Creator of speech
□ Gaining greater respect from others
□ Expanding my vocabulary
□ Bettering myself as a person
Second: Figure out what’s behind the swearing. Melanie says: “Swearing made me feel tougher in a way. I didn’t want people pushing me around. I wanted to have the upper hand, to tell people off the way all my friends did.”
What about you? Understanding why you swear is a key to determining how you will address the problem. For example, if you swear just because everyone else does it, you need to learn to build confidence in your own strengths. Taking proper pride in being your own person is a vital part of growing up—and a big help in eliminating the habit of swearing.
Third: Find alternate ways of expressing yourself. It’s not just a matter of biting your tongue. Conquering the bad-language habit involves putting on “the new personality.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) This will help you to gain greater self-control and self-respect—as well as respect for others.
The following scriptures will help you to put on—and keep on—the new personality.
Colossians 3:2: “Keep your minds fixed on the things above.”
Application: Train your mind to value things that are upright. Your thoughts influence the way you speak.
Proverbs 13:20: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.”
Application: The language used by your associates can rub off on you.
Psalm 19:14: “Let the sayings of my mouth and the meditation of my heart become pleasurable before you, O Jehovah.”
Application: Jehovah notices how we use the gift of speech.
Still need help? Why not use the chart above to track your progress by noting how many times you used a bad word? You may be surprised at how quickly you improve your vocabulary!
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
Names in this article have been changed.
Christians have strong reason to avoid foul language, for the Bible says: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth.” “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt.”—Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6.
TO THINK ABOUT
How can swearing affect
▪ the kind of friends you will attract?
▪ whether you will be hired for a job?
▪ the way you will be viewed by others?
[Chart on page 21]
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1 ․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․
Week 2 ․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․
Week 3 ․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․
Week 4 ․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․ ․․․․․․․․ ․․․․․․
[Picture on page 20]
You wouldn’t abuse a valued gift. Why abuse the gift of speech?