Obscenities—Are They Really Harmful?
IN SOME large cities of the United States, it is estimated that every fifth word uttered may be a curse word. In Italy, according to estimates by the National Union Against Blasphemy, more than a billion blasphemies a day are uttered toward God or the church. Indeed, swearing is a major pastime in many places.
That should be applauded, says Reinhold Aman, editor of Maledicta, a magazine about profanity. He feels that verbal aggression is beneficial since it is preferable to physical aggression. “I’d rather be called a [*@*@] than get a bullet or knife in the chest,” says Aman.
Also putting in a good word for bad words, Chaytor Mason says: “Profanity, swearing or whatever you want to call it is a time-tested and effective method of releasing emotions built up by frustration.”
More and more people are becoming tolerant of profanity, feeling that it is harmless. They feel that the use of an obscenity to fit the occasion is justified. In fact, Seventeen, a magazine for teenage girls, observes: “Every once in a while, it’s fun to get together with the girls or the boys—or both for that matter—for a raunchy, can-you-top-this swear fest. I’m thinking of the scatology contest held on the third floor of my women’s college dorm. The four-letter words slung through the air that night would have made a vice cop blush.”
Do you agree that profanity is justified? Are obscenities really harmful?
‘Just for Fun?’
What is a “scatology contest”? According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, “scatology” is defined as: “Study of excrement; hence, study of the obscene.” What do you think about trying to top others in the use of vile language?
“Ranking” or “bagging” is the term often used for the swearfests in which young persons frequently engage today. The objective often is to insult the other person’s mother in a can-you-top-this word exchange. The opponents, generally two, are surrounded by a group of friends who laugh as they hear their friend’s mother degraded by a more witty opponent. A similar practice is name calling. It is the practice of describing another’s appearance, likening it to some unpleasant animal such as a pig, rat or skunk.
These practices, along with the telling of obscene jokes for entertainment, have become very common. By sharing in them, participants imply that indecencies are not so bad since they can joke about them. And they point out, ‘Look at how many people laugh.’ No doubt such practices have contributed to obscenities’ becoming a part of everyday speech, with even “professional” and “sophisticated” persons using them. However, is the use of obscenities potentially more harmful than many may believe?
The Effect of Obscenities
Obscene words are to the mouth what pornography is to the eye. Verbal pornography invokes sexual imagery. So what may happen if sexually explicit words are regularly used? Will not the person who uses them be more inclined to do what he talks about? Surely it is significant that the tremendous increase in the use of obscenities has paralleled the increase of fornication, adultery and homosexuality.
In view of this, you may well see the wisdom of the Bible’s counsel, when it urges: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming.”—Ephesians 5:3, 4.
The fact is, the user of obscene speech is corrupting himself. And he is spreading the decay to others each time he repeats obscenities. With good reason, therefore, the Bible counsels: “But now really put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth.” “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 4:29) Also, it urges: “Put away all filthiness.” (James 1:21) To go contrary to this counsel results in God’s displeasure.
Also, think about this: If two people exchange verbal insults, do they come out of the match with an improved relationship? And even if, as a result of a verbal insult, physical combat is averted, can you say the two really solved their problem? Hardly! On the other hand, do not shouted verbal insults actually increase the possibility of a fight rather than minimize it?
How, then, are love and understanding promoted? It is by one’s refusing to “return evil for evil.” God’s Word commands, “Do not avenge yourselves.” Rather, “yield place to the wrath” by leaving vengeance in God’s hands. Your kind words and acts toward someone who is abusive “will heap fiery coals upon his head,” and perhaps cause him to soften his attitude toward you. Wisely, follow at all times the positive Scriptural counsel: “Be blessing and do not be cursing.”—Romans 12:17-20, 14.
Avoid Being Ensnared
It is obvious that we must constantly be on guard against being pulled along with the trends of this profane world. None of us are immune to its encroachments. As a writer of a book on profanity, Burges Johnson, says: “If profanity is generally a disease of the vocabulary, how is it conveyed and who catches it? The answer is easy: it is not only contagious but also infectious, for there are germs of it deeply imbedded within all of us.” The Bible confirms that we imperfect humans are inclined to gravitate to wrong and immoral activity. So we have to fight against using obscene speech.—Genesis 8:21; Psalm 51:5.
Avoiding obscene speech begins with learning to control the emotions and actions that lead up to it. What are these? The Bible answers: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.” (Ephesians 4:31) So before reaching the point of being so angry with someone that you want to curse him, stop and force yourself to focus on the good you know about that person. Do not allow anger to cause you to use obscene language. Seek to heed the Bible command: “Let nothing go forth unrestrained from your mouth.”—1 Samuel 2:3.
The one place where you can get a supply of right thoughts is God’s Word, the Bible. By filling your mind with proper thoughts, you will be building up right desires of the heart. How will this affect your speech? Jesus stated: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”—Matthew 12:34.
Do not hesitate to pray for God’s assistance and ask for his spirit. The psalmist prayed: “Do set a guard, O Jehovah, for my mouth; do set a watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3) By our own vigilance to control our tongue, coupled with God’s backing, we will be able to avoid the snare of profanity.
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Will you retaliate when another curses you?