Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Wednesday 14 April |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Hadewych of Meer
home iconNews
line break icon

3 Reasons to Swear

MIT OpenCourseWare

Tom Hoopes - published on 02/02/15

… and 4 better reasons not to

Is it just me, or is profanity suddenly showing up where it never did before?

Watch American Sniper, and there it is in the private, loving conversations between husband and wife. Read Facebook discussions of Catholic apologetics, and there it is again: F-bombs, S-words, and more, from the keyboards of church-types. I am used to overhearing it at work or at the grocery store … but only recently have I heard it on the parish steps.

There must be some good reasons for it. I thought of a few …

1. Profanity makes clear we aren’t “holier than thou.”

There was an interesting debate at National Review Online about Mike Huckabee’s recent public worries about profanity. Katherine Timpf argued that by fussing over profanity, religious people make themselves seem hopelessly out of touch and judgmental — exactly what people dislike about them.

I agree. My wife and I home-school our children, and we are always haunted by the image a fellow home-schooling mother shared of a 13-year-old boy horrified because he heard another boy say “stupid.” We don’t want our children to have that kind of inability to relate to today’s world.

When we’re screening a movie at “KidsInMind.com” you will hear me tell my wife, “Yep, this movie’s fine. Just profanity.” We remind the kids that we don’t talk that way, but some people do.

And if my children rush to judgment of someone because of the words they use, I remind them that bad words do not equal a bad person. I tell them about my Spanish-born grandfather, a lover of literature and liturgical music who introduced me to Chesterton, Newman and Belloc — and swore like a sailor, in several languages.

2. Profanity is the best, vernacular way to expresses certain emotions.

If we are called to speak the language of the day, and we are, then we cannot limit ourselves to the nice words we use in church. Occasionally a stronger word will be necessary to capture an emotion.

You see this in the way some church-types will say “frickin’” or “freaking” as an adjective (full disclosure: I am that guy). This can even serve a higher purpose, if you replace the sacred words some use as profanity with truly profane words. Perhaps this is the “strong language apostolate” that St. Josemaria Escriva wrote about?

3. It actually helps you feel a little better when you drop something on your foot.

But ultimately, there are even more compelling reasons not to swear.

1. Profanity is insulting.

Much of the profanity we use is in reality a way of summing someone up in a dehumanizing way. It’s the opposite of charity.
Jesus warned about this: “[W]hoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”

Christians are supposed to be God’s love in the world. When we curse someone we are assessing them as worthless and wishing evil on them — the opposite of love.

And angry profanity isn’t the only problem — many listeners feel disrespected by our everyday use of profanity: It signals that they don’t rate our best behavior.

2. There is always a better word.

I was out with a friend and his father as a kid when we overheard people swearing. I can hear his wise dad’s words to this day, in his Mexican accent: “Swearing is so lazy. They just don’t want to find the right word for what they want to say.”

And it’s true. I have accepted his challenge throughout my life. If I want to sum up an angry parking lot attendant’s behavior, a one-word anatomical reference really says nothing at all about what happened. Saying that the person was “aggressively bitter” starts to explain it a little better.

  • 1
  • 2
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...



Top 10
1
LOREN SCHAUERS
Annalisa Teggi
Amputee from the waist down is thankful every day to be alive
2
SAINT FAUSTINA,CELL
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
St. Faustina’s coffee cup and lessons for Divine Mercy Sund...
3
HOLY SEPULCHRE CROSSES
Zelda Caldwell
Mystery of crosses on walls of Church of the Holy Sepulchre may h...
4
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
St. Padre Pio: His life, his miracles and his legacy
5
JESUS
Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ
A simple test to see if you really believe Christ is risen
6
DIVINE MERCY
Aleteia
Here’s how to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday at home
7
PRINCE PHILIP
Cerith Gardiner
11 Interesting facts about the late Prince Philip
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.