The issue of language has always been a tricky one in Christian circles, and debates tend to flare up whenever controversial movies are released, such as the recent Deadpool movie. Too often Christians get caught up in which words are good or bad, when the real issue is in the heart. As I see it, there are five main ways in which people use “swear words.” The following examples don’t apply to taking the Lord’s name in vain – that has ramifications for Christians that are beyond the scope of this post.
- Proper Context
Example: “I’ll be right back, I need to shit.”
This is no different from using the commonly accepted alternatives (poop, dump, crap). Fun fact: the words we consider more acceptable have Latin origins, while their more “vulgar” counterparts have Germanic origins. That’s a bit racist, don’t you think?
Example: “You’re a piece of shit.”
As Christians we should always be kind in our speech and not looking to hurt others. This is true whether we’re using “bad” words or not. There are plenty of “clean” insults that are just as wrong as the above example.
Example: “I work in sanitation. It’s a shitty job.”
If the humor isn’t hurtful to another person (see #2) there’s nothing morally wrong with it. Screen your jokes for situation-appropriateness, and recognize that others have different senses of humor.
- Modernized Meaning
Example: “No shit, you’re serious?”
Words take on new meanings over time. There’s nothing wrong with adapting accordingly, but be sensitive to the situation. If your audience doesn’t understand your meaning, it can cause trouble.
Example: “Shit! I just crashed my car!”
Sometimes extreme situations call for extreme words. However, if you regularly use strong language, when you need a really strong word you won’t have any left.
As a general rule, I measure language by the intent and context. Is the language hurtful? Or is it just a way of communicating? Words were created for communication, and I don’t think the words themselves are bad as much as how we use them.