Swear Jar

I am not settled on my use of swears, but I think about the purpose and context of my written and spoken language. I’ll write on this again, as I’m thinking through.

Yesterday I wrote the word fuck in my post. Before publishing, I thought about finding another word or phrase, but fuck had the connotation I wanted.

I didn’t grow up in a blue household. I heard my parents swear only a few times. We didn’t even say dang, shoot or what the heck. When I was in third grade I swore about a failed spelling test and got grounded from the Brownie troop overnight trip. During adolescence, if I swore, it was under my breath, behind a closed door. Even in college when the wheels came off, I kept my mouth clean, a hallmark of good Christian living.

The first time I wrote a character who swore, I read the scene thinking my parents would be disappointed, and edited the F word.

The F word: effing, frick, friggin’, freaking. I don’t understand swear subs.

Here is where I am now: I use swears sometimes. I rarely say dammit, because I don’t want it damned. And my language toward or about people is affected by my belief in our inherent worth. But some situations remain shitty. When I titled a draft Comparison Shit, I called it that because saying stuff or junk connotes a yard sale or a drawer of pencil stubs and loose change. Shit gets to the point: a mess no one wants to examine closely.

I read the book of James often. Chapter three opens with a passage about taming the tongue. My emphasis added:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James 3:1-12 ESV

I used to read that passage with a small mind, thinking the main reference was swears. There is more truth contained. I can start a fire without putting a quarter in the swear jar.

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