Swearing as a Spiritual Gift

"Spiritual Gift" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Spiritual Gift” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Last week I wrote a letter to The Lasting Supper community. I thought I would share it with you. It’s about why we allow swearing in our discussions. (TLS = The Lasting Supper).

Here it is:

Last week I asked TLSers in our Facebook group for an explanation I can give to people who ask, “Why is swearing allowed on TLS?” Some people who are no longer with us found it either unnecessary, or rude, or indicative or immaturity or even sinful. Some others just found TLS unbearably intense, and this is sometimes reflected, obviously, through our language.

Rather than promise them that I would police the words TLSers use, I bade them farewell and peace on their path because I think swearing is valid.

The responses I got from many TLS members were serious, hilarious, and poignant!

Here is a summary of the explanations for you:

1. Release: For lots of TLSers, they find using swear words incredibly releasing. Venting their anger or pain or whatever is more effective with swear words. In fact, some people found studies which showed swearing actually decreases physical and emotional pain.

2. Freedom: Many TLSers have come out of very controlling environments. Swearing is an easy and handy expression of their newfound freedom. Being liberated from a culture where even the words you can use is policed, saying a swear word is a radical and rebellious declaration of their independence.

3. Adulting: Several TLSers suggested that this is just the way adults talk. Adults swear because they can. It’s a normal part of their everyday speech. I know people who use swear words liberally. It’s just the way they talk. Some people judge those who swear by suggesting they are less intelligent and resort to lazy language when they swear. I know very intelligent people who swear and less intelligent people who don’t, so… so much for that theory.

4. Word: Sometimes there’s just no other word that expresses pain, anger, joy, frustration, confusion… whatever… than a well-placed swear word. We can use lesser PG-rated words, but they just don’t convey the intensity of emotion like a strong swear word. The swear word is a verbal manifestation of the potency of what we’re feeling or thinking.

5. Humor: The “F*** Threads” on TLS are, well, special. They are a mixture of seriousness because someone might be struggling with something, but they’re expressing it in a way that makes us laugh sometimes. Or watching a video of a mystic guru using swear words… it’s just funny! We all appreciate comic relief in the middle of a serious episode.

6. Spirituality: One of our members suggested that Jesus did the equivalent of swearing by calling his opponents names or suggesting they do this or that. Perhaps we have sanitized spirituality to the point where we’re no longer truly human. Swearing is just a part of being real flesh and blood people rather than disembodied pure spirits.

There are probably a lot more reasons to swear. But, come to think of it, who needs a reason? Why do we need to police our words? Of course I want to only say things that are helpful, honest, and true. I want to speak in ways that build up the good and bring down the bad. And if a swear word helps me to do that, then I will.

Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. Swearing can be a healthy part of that process.

Why not join us?

Like the cartoon? Get the original or a print HERE.

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6 Responses

  1. Beka says:

    I came from a Mormon break-off group, then left that only to enter another cult, University Bible Fellowship, so my words and actions, and even my thoughts, if they could, were so policed. When my husband (now ex) and I began fighting constantly, many swear words came out of my mouth. It felt like a giant pimple bursting, releasing all the poison that had been building up in me for all those years. Now I am free from the cult and my ex-husband and living as I choose, even found a church in which I can express myself as I wish. Still, some words come out of me because it just feel like the right and appropriate word for all the f***ing a**holes in the world.

  2. Awesome Beka! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sabio Lantz says:

    I grew up between two communities – one swore every other word and the other minimal. I have had to learn to restrain my swearing.

    But after joining evangelical groups for a long time, where I saw their restrained lives, I could see why the opposite would feel empowering for them.

    Indeed swear words are used to show emotion — except when used habitually, then they are just dialect habits.

    Oh my goodness, David, and aren’t you worried about them being belligerent and making people uncomfortable? Those are the qualities you accused “militant” atheists of having. As for me, belligerent, emotional and challenging people’s comfort zone is not a sign of “militant” or “fundamentalist”, like you (and some of your TLS members say) their Jesus supposedly did that too.

  4. Brigitte says:

    “Fuck” is not swearing. “Jesus Christ” is swearing. I have had students who went around with emphatic “Jesus Christ”‘s. I have said to them: “Why don’t you just say ‘fuck'”. Now that is a shocker. You should see those faces.

    We had an individual in our practice who transitioned male to female. This person was from England, originally, and continually said “bloody this” and “bloody that”. If you use these terms regularly, they don’t really communicate anything powerful anymore, they just assault other people’s ears and sensibility, and do make you seem boorish and inarticulate. It’s good to learn to use them as appropriate seasoning in rare doses, only. Since they are very easy to use, you can’t really call it a “gift”. A gift would be something special or something harder…

  5. rtgmath says:

    For me a well-reasoned argument and polite discussion (including disagreement!) is best. I get frustrated when people resort to name calling or abusive language.

    An occasional swear word isn’t bad, I suppose. I don’t think it really adds anything to a conversation, though. Crude and sexually-laced language bothers me. I’m not trying to shock people. I want to understand and be understood. And if there can’t be agreement, I don’t want to be abused for it.

    I suppose it all depends on what you use communication for, who you communicate with, and what friendships you expect to get or maintain. Some people care. Others don’t.

  6. Ray Barrier says:

    When I taught school, I explained to my students the origin of swear words. In a desert region, may the fleas from a thousand camels infect your arm pits would be swear words. Some of our swear words come from potty training. I told my students that if they went into the restroom, put their heads in the toilet, and returned to class, they would get attention. If they did this every day, students would just say you stink. Over use of swear words make your conversation stink. The use of a swear word tells other students that you have a problem with that word. When a student would accidentally use a swear word, the other students would say now we know what your problem is.