NOTE: This blog post will contain “four letter” words. Probably many of them. If you are easily offended by such language, then this post isn’t for you.
Yes. I cuss a little. I try to be respectful around others that might be offended by cuss words, but @#$% it, I cuss. I like to cuss. I think there are times that using such words are appropriate, even acceptable and expected.
And I really don’t think it’s a religious or spiritual issue. It’s just not.
“But wait!”, you say, “What about the Bible! It says:
Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (ESV)
Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (ESV)
Matthew 12:37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (ESV)
And probably 100 or more other verses.
But to paraphrase a quote from the movie The Princess Bride, “I do not think they mean what you think they mean.”
Let me explain.
First of all, words are just words. They’re just sounds. Words have the meaning we give them. And they’re Language Dependent. Words that are cuss words in English are not cuss words in Japanese or Chinese or Italian. A prime example is the word “fuck”. If I go to France and I say out loud “fuck”, they lovely French people will think I said “seal” (phoque, the mammal, not the sticky part of an envelope). Or even in English-speaking areas, the word “cock” is not inherently a cuss word. It’s a rooster. “Show me your cock” will result in being shown a chicken.
So right off the bat, words in and of themselves are not automatically “bad”.
But what about the Bible? Keep in mind that the Bible was not written in English. The three verses I shared were originally written in Greek (probably) and were translated into Latin and then English – Old English. And it wasn’t until the mid 20th century that it was translated into English as it is spoken today. So when those verses were written, what did they mean when they said “filthiness” and “obscene talk”? Did they mean cuss words in all languages in all time throughout history? Or did they mean something else?
Remember when I said the verses were written in Greek (most likely)? The examples I gave were written in the first century, probably around 50-70 CE (or AD if you prefer). During that time, Greek was the common language of the Roman Empire so it’s a pretty good guess that they were written in Greek. But since we don’t have the originals (as far was we know) and only have copies (probably copies of copies of copies), we have to go on those. But the good news is that a large percentage of those are in Greek too, so we can look at them and know what was written (or at least our best guess based on what copies we have.)
So what do we know? Here are the same verses in Greek.
ΠΡΟΣ ΕΦΕΣΙΟΥΣ 5:4 και αισχροτης και μωρολογια η ευτραπελια τα ουκ ανηκοντα αλλα μαλλον ευχαριστια
ΠΡΟΣ ΚΟΛΟΣΣΑΕΙΣ 3:8 νυνι δε αποθεσθε και υμεις τα παντα οργην θυμον κακιαν βλασφημιαν αισχρολογιαν εκ του στοματος υμων
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 12:37 εκ γαρ των λογων σου δικαιωθηση και εκ των λογων σου καταδικασθηση
Yeah. Not so clear is it? But no worries. Greek is not too hard to read (as far as non-English languages go) Let’s look at the important words here. Keep in mind that I am not a language scholar and I am only a beginner at Greek. What I’m looking at is what you can find on the Internet.
αισχροτης – (aischrotēs). This is a noun. In the first verse from Ephesians, it’s translated into English as “Filthiness”. It’s the only place this word appears in the Bible. The trick with trying to find the meaning of a word that only appears once in the Bible is finding a non-Bible-study tool to find the meaning of said word. But then there’s also the pesky matter of context. As in English, getting the right meaning of the word depends on the other words in the sentence. Like “I read this book” and “I will read this book”. You can’t always go by the word standing alone.
So the context here starts at verse 3. In English, it talks about sexual immorality and impurity and jealousy. Good. Great. Marvelousness. And then the context continues into verse 5 which says that no ‘fornicator’ or impure person has any part of the kingdom of God. OK, that’s pretty harsh but OK. So where does that put verse 4? Well, verse 3 is about sexual type behavior and verse 5 is also about sexual type behavior, so what does verse 4 say and what does the word αισχροτης mean in this context?
If you dig through the Bible study tools and find an actual Greek to English translator you’ll find several translations of the word, like obscenity, and turpitude. In other words, this word seems to apply in particular to issues of sexuality.
It’s not about cuss words, it’s about talking openly and loudly about sexuality in a situation where it’s not appropriate.
That’s a good rule. But it’s not about cuss words. At least not in terms of common vulgarities. It’s specific to a certain type of conversation and not specific words.
So what about the others? You can easily do the same look-ups I did on the Internet, but let me assure you that you will find similar results. It’s not about particular words, it’s about a general type of conversation.
The point these are all trying to make is that your method of talking to others should generally be about building up and not tearing down. It’s not about whether you say fuck or damn or shit, it’s about whether you are respecting your fellow man and showing LOVE.
Sure, in love you should probably respect your audience and not set out to intentionally offend people, but if your audience is cool, then why worry about a random arrangement of sounds?
Should we just cuss willy-nilly? Throwing around 4 letter words in every conversation? Well, no. I mean, you can, first amendment and all that, but should you? I wouldn’t. But like any speech, you need to respect your audience. You can have a great conversation about sex without being crude, but should you have that conversation in front of 7-year-old kids? No. Of course not. But why worry about every syllable that comes out of your mouth?
Cuss all you want! But mind your audience and no matter what words you use your speech should always build people up and not tear them down.