Stubbing a toe. Slamming a finger in a door. Ripping a fingernail. Jamming a finger. Biting your tongue or cheek. Just thinking about these makes me cringe with pain. It is ridiculous how much pain can come from something so small. Hardly anyone can live very long without experiencing some of these. My daughter isn’t even 2 yet and she has suffered through at least two of these already.
So, what happens right after the pain hits us? For whatever reason, swearing has become a custom with painful situations. A person stubs a toe and out pops out some bad words. Over time, after many stubbed toes and slammed fingers, people began asking the question, “Does swearing actually help someone deal with the pain?” Recently, both Mythbusters and Keele University (in the UK) conducted studies on this. Their answer to this question: “Yes.” As shocking as it may be, both came to the conclusion that swearing can have a painkilling power to it. So, since this is the case, would it be acceptable to shout out a couple cuss words when we are in pain? Let’s examine this:
1. Positives vs. Negatives. Honestly, this painkilling argument is the only legitimate reason I have ever heard to justify swearing. But, this “positive” reason seems more like an excuse than it does anything else. Our bodies are naturally going to help much more with the pain more than any word we say. Most people just want to swear. People will always look for excuses to justify their actions. Sadly, we do this all the time with our own sins. Just because there might be one so-called “positive” does not outweigh the plethora of negatives that come with swearing.
2. Swearing Damages Our Reputation and Influence. Peter is a great example of this. Peter had already denied Christ twice and people were still pressuring him about being an apostle. So, he purposely chose to do something an apostle would not do. He began cursing and swearing (Matthew 26:74; Mark 14:71). Clearly the apostles had a reputation for having much cleaner speech. What would we think if our preacher stubbed his toe and began yelling out cuss words? Would we not think less of him? I know I would. No matter the situation, if we let swear words come out of our mouth, it will damage our reputation and influence as a Christian.
3. Swearing Shows Lack of Self-Control. Christians must exercise self-control (Galatians 5:23; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:8; 2 Peter 1:6; etc). This isn’t an impossible task. We are able to keep silent when we smash our fingers in the door. If we must speak, we can choose to say non-vulgar words. A person who chooses to let out bad words is demonstrating a lack of self-control and an unbridled tongue (James 1:26).
4. Other Scriptures. While it certainly applies beyond swear words, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth….” Some of the most unwholesome words are swear words. Christ also expressed that what we say from our mouths expresses what we have in our hearts (Luke 6:45). Vulgar words reveal a vulgar heart. See also Psalm 34:13; 39:1; 141:3; Proverbs 8:8; Matthew 12:34-35; 15:10-11; Colossians 3:8-10; etc.
I honestly cannot think of a time when using cuss words would be appropriate, in public or in private. The studies may have shown that swearing acts as a painkiller, but I would much rather deal with slightly more pain than to sin in my words. Let’s always seek to have pure and wholesome speech. I hope we have the same attitude as David when he said, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).