I hate getting asked about cussing, because most of the time it involves wives wanting to justify their husband-nagging, husbands wanting to justify them disregarding their wives’ sensitivity, or Christians wanting to justify more serious sins. (We’re good at that.) The actual words are rarely the real problem. Nonetheless I have to say something. If the words themselves aren’t the issue, what is?

Contempt. Our words reveal our heart and intention toward other people. Are we speaking in ways that build up or tear down? Much cussing falls into the latter category. It would be difficult to argue that calling someone a s*head or dumb son-of-a-b*, or telling them to f* off demonstrates Jesuslike love.

Control. In our day of dumb advice like, “You should say whatever you’re feeling because anything else is inauthentic,” self-control lies among the most underrated virtues. Just as good character reinforces itself, so does bad character. This isn’t to say that people who can’t control their mouths will cheat on their spouses, but learning to control your language certainly doesn’t weaken your ability to control other parts of your body. Either way, inability to control our tongues is not okay.

Context. Put simply, we need to know what kind of impact our words will have on the people we’re speaking to. Sometimes this means using a normally-out-of-bounds word for emphasis, but more often it means finding more creative and less offensive ways to make our point.

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NOTE: In light of my 30th birthday and in honor of the guys who have all the fun, I’ll be offering thirty reflections in thirty days starting December 19th. Today’s post is #21 (see the so-far list here). The only rule is that I have 250 words to make my point. After that just stop reading. Thanks for making my blog part of your internet experience.