Tonight I Start Swearing on My Blog

I’m tempted to swear
in my blog posts.
Not because I’m angry or anything
but because that’s, apparently, the mark of a cool and relatable Christian these days.
You know, someone who’s “down” with Jesus
but hasn’t forgotten her roots in Sin-town.
She’s not so “far inside of God” that she can’t reach out and pull someone else in.
I’ve noticed that some very popular women who write about faith sprinkle curses liberally throughout their posts –
I like their writing and I often agree with what they have to say (although the cursing stops me for a moment every time – like literary speedbumps).
I want a wide audience and so, there are moments when I think,
maybe I’ll start swearing on my blog.
I swear outside the blog – in traffic, when I burn dinner, or when I’m making a point in an argument with my husband.
Those are times when it feels necessary (although in afterthought, it wasn’t really)
but normally swearing is something I work to avoid doing
not just because of the whole sin factor but
because I’ve been raised to believe that cursing is the refuge of the lazy mind.
I love this quote by Ernest Borgnine. “Writers used to make such wonderful pictures without all that swearing, all that cursing. And now it seems that you can’t say three words without cursing. And I don’t think that’s right.”
I work daily with people who punctuate every phrase with curse words.
There’s one particular word that seems to work as an adjective for everything in some households.
It’s funny that when I’m focused on what people are trying to communicate, the cursing doesn’t bother me. It’s like an accent or a dialect distinctive to their life situations and it doesn’t get in my way with them at all.
But when I see intelligent authors choosing to swear in writing,
I know it wasn’t an impulse, it was a conscious choice
and that bothers me.
It’s like a comic going for a cheap laugh
or a director letting the camera linger on the heroine’s tear drop.
It seems like a mechanism intended to elicit a response from me – shock or identification or awe at their cool courage to swear in print.
And I come away feeling a little – used.
So, it’s sad (and exemplary of my sin nature) that I feel tempted to resort to the same technique
with you.
So, I won’t.
It does get me thinking, though.
I care so much about communicating with people who have yet to enter a relationship with Jesus.
It’s important to me to represent Him well
and often that means exposing my imperfection so people can see His work in my life.
But, I don’t think I have to swear
to make you feel at home on my blog
or to convince you that I’m just like you
or that Jesus is interested in loving “real” people.
You’re smarter than that.
Many of you know me in person so I don’t have to waste any effort “proving I’m not perfect.” You could write your own blog posts about my obvious imperfections and the work Jesus still has to complete in my life.
In the big picture, swearing is nothing.
Swearing happens.
Words that fly through the air
are here in one breath, gone in another.
But writing is a thoughtful process,
what is written today, is read tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
The words I write are a commitment
so, I can’t commit to a curse word.
If it slips from my mouth, I can’t take it back
but if it slips onto the page, I can backspace, delete, edit, reconsider, reword, write up.
I don’t know – what do you think?
I’m a northerner living far from the Bible belt. We northern Christians get away with a lot here in New England.
Sometimes, that has the appearance of being cool and “authentic,” and “real.”
Often it’s just a result of laziness.
I’m real. Big deal.
Believe me that my husband were prefer I be a little less “real” when we’re arguing.
Maybe I should write my side of the argument from now on.
There’s a thought.
What are the markers that draw you to a writer – the things that make you feel the writer is being authentic and relatable about faith?
Are you sometimes tempted to swear to be relatable? How about you pastors? Do you think if preachers swore from the pulpit, we’d have more bikers in the pews?
I don’t know.

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    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes! Ernest Borgnine is great.
    I am glad you choose not to use swear words! It is just not right.
    As you said writing is a thought process…those writers who swear
    in their writing, are they to impress or are they loss for words?

  2. Jennie says:

    I often have to fight the temptation to swear for effect, in writing and speaking. I never was in the habit of using the word that one hears so much now, but I have my own words that my family would rather I didn’t use. I don’t like it when people, especially women, swear in writing to sound relatable, or cool. Ladies need to be careful, and I need to be more so, in my speech.

    • “swear for effect” – that’s my temptation. You nailed it! I’m not sure it’s only ladies. I’ve heard men do it from the pulpit “for effect.” It didn’t shock me, it just seemed lame. If that’s the effect they were going for, it worked.

  3. cyn rogalski says:

    I’ve heard it said that when people swear, it makes me listen to how they’re saying, rather than what they’re saying. I’d rather have people listen to what I’m saying.

  4. Sarah says:

    It doesn’t bother me when anyone, of any faith, swears when writing, but it does bother me when it’s obviously done for “effect” or when the language has degenerated so much that swear words are just interchanged adjectives that provide no additional meaning.

    Even before I was Christian, I didn’t swear an awful lot. I could probably count on fingers and toes the times my husband has heard me swear, and we’ve been married going on eight years; he doesn’t swear much either. This is mostly because neither of us value it has a means of communication most of the time. We can say much more without it.

    • Yeah, it’s not a good thing for me to swear in arguments with my husband. Not even something I like to admit but, in the spirit of full disclosure, felt it was important to confess since I don’t – not swear – on the blog in order to be a hypocrite.

  5. I have one teenaged son who swears a lot, with the foulest possible vocabulary. I like to remind him of what those words really mean.
    Do you really want to damn someone to hell? That’s what “Damn” means.
    Do you really want to have unloving, disrespectful sex with that person or that object? That’s what the “F” word means.
    And so on.
    When we think about what these words mean, and what Scripture says about mouths that are full of cursing, it can help us remember to turn to God and ask Him to fill our hearts with love, not hatred; with blessing, not cursing; with purity, not vileness; with gratitude rather than coarseness, etc.
    The bitten-back curse is better than the spoken one, but the curse replaced by blessing, love, and gratitude (even in the heart, by the grace of God) is better still.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate your conscious choice not to swear.

    I doubt that swearing would make you more relatable. Furthermore, cursing would not help people relate better to who Jesus is, assuming you’re trying to embody Him.

    Dare to be different. Sometimes it takes courage. God will honor choices made for righteousness

  7. Lori, I was actually shocked when you wrote that other Christian bloggers swear in their posts. I guess I have been hiding under a rock. Actually, I don’t read too many other blogs except yours.
    I may sound judgemental so here goes. Jesus would never swear to get his point across. I love what you wrote, “cursing is the refuge of the lazy mind.” When my son swears I tell him, Michael, you are so intelligent I know that you can think of another way to express yourself.” Unfortunately I swear when I am mad and I am truly trying to break that habit. It Must come from my Navy days. I applaud you for refraining to use !@%$# when you write. That is truly the mark of an intelligent godly woman.

    • Thanks for you encouragement, Cherrilynn, but don’t applaud me too much. I’ve been seriously tempted to swear and I’m obviously not above using the topic to draw readers in. The thing is, I think the others who use it in their work are also intelligent, godly women and it’s their attempt to write, as themselves, with integrity, using the language they use. I started swearing when I worked alone, 2nd shift at a runaway shelter straight out of college, to sound as tough as my clients. I try not to swear in the daily course of my life but I honestly don’t get really bent out of shape when I do. It’s a good reminder to keep letting God into my heart.

      I also believe there are “innocent swearers.” People who grew up around swearing, it was part of their culture, and it’s as natural to them as an accent. I’m not offended when they swear as much as I am when a Christian uses it for “effect.” And some people who refrain from swearing are masking some pretty profane thoughts and inclinations with “clean” language so, I think there are distinctions.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Wow! You got a lot of responses to this one. It’s a strange habit but when I’m reading, and I come to a cuss word, I simply skip over it in my mind and don’t read it. I’d rather not come across it but I like all sorts of books: autobiographies, detective stories, exposes of political “grand poo bars”! Reading as much as I do, I’m used to coming across the swear words I try to avoid in everyday conversations. So I’ve trained my eyes to see ahead and skip the cuss word. It has never made the story less effective! Keep on, keeping on. MOMMA

  9. I’ve been part of lots of conversations, both on blogs and at conferences, on this and some of them get quite heated.

    I don’t care for swearing in real life but it really grates on me when I come across it in most Christian books. One exception was some mild language in a book whose target audience was not the “blue-haired ladies on the second pew” and the character on used it was a cynical cop who was a non-believer. It fit the character. But the other instances, such as you have mentioned, are completely inappropriate.

    Light is what draws others to Christ, not our sin. People want to know there’s a way out of their messes, not that we’re still just as sinful as they are! (Not that I’m advocating hypocrisy, but doing things just to be relatable is a wrong motivation.)

    And James 3 is pretty clear on what our speech should be – whether we need to conquer swearing, gossip, judgmental and critical language, etc. No, we won’t get it perfect, but we shouldn’t celebrate our failures either.

    Keep being thoughtful and deleting and editing. Don’t sell yourself – and Christ – short!

    • I think dialog in fiction may be another issue, Linda. As you say, if it fits the character, I don’t find it distracting (and I’ve seen those heated discussions). I’m just beginning to see it more and more in non-fiction and blogs. I love your perspective. Thanks!

  10. Hey, I’m glad to have discovered you just now, through my agent, Les. I agree and appreciate this post. Like you said, it depends on the reason. It’s the same (imo) with Christians posting on Facebook about drinking, or bloggers posting photos of themselves puffing a cigarette (one well-known writer did this; great way to make an impression on his young readers!). Paul wrote that nothing is a sin in and of itself, but certain things become sin when they make others stumble.

    I do wonder if there are writers who swear in their writing for the same reason some people do in their speaking; as you said, it’s their accent or dialect related to who they are or their cultural experience. Take Anne Lamott, for example. I adore her and her writing, “F” bombs and all. But she’s a great artist and a person trying to live out her faith to the best of her ability. But would another Christian be taken the same way, doing what she does? I know I wouldn’t!

    I had an interesting conversation with a (very, very) nonchristian once. He said he never swears, because it just isn’t a noble thing to do. Now there’s a concept!

    You’re right; relevance doesn’t need to be propped up with four-letter words. I have lots of nonchristian friends and I dare say they respect me even more for my choice not to swear.

  11. The BearPair says:

    Thanks Lori… Frankly, for a “Noreaster,” I think you were downright soft & easy when it comes to reasons for not using profanity… Let’s face it, I don’t really care who chooses–as you so accurately said–to use such language, there simply is no need, unless you are trying to typify the kind of person who only must swear. Ernest has it right… going further, not only lazy, but pathetically inept in their writing skills. Stick with your guns Lori… swearing NOT required to speak either for or against our God!

  12. To be honest I am not above an occasional swear word in real life, but I would never dream of swearing on my blog. Going a step further if someone claimed to be a Christian blogger and their blog was peppered with frequent swear words, I probably after awhile would quit reading, but not because I am better than they are, but because I want to read from spiritually strong Christians that I can learn and gain from, and not from one that would tempt me to swear. Because the more I read or hear swearing the more likely it would appear in my behavior.