I am sitting in the diner this morning, working on Romans 15 to the background noise of conversation. It seems that the profanity is flowing looser than normal today. It is not uncommon in the diner to hear a word of profanity every now and then. It is rather uncommon to hear as much as I am hearing this morning. It has quieted down a bit now, since the most egregious offenders have left.
People are upset with various things, though it seems mainly the plowing practices of the city and state for after the snowstorm yesterday are in their sights, not to mention the lack of salt. Several were complaining about shoveling their drives only to have the plows plow them back in. I share their frustration having had that problem before. In fact, I have it right now, but can't shovel due to my back and don't want my wife shoveling ice (since it melted and refroze overnight). Besides, I figure that in a couple of months it will have all melted and I won't have to worry about it.
But I must confess some confusion as to what profanity accomplishes, particularly when the people with whom you are upset are not around to hear your verbal emphasis. I suppose it is simply venting frustration.
And the truth is that I really have no problem with unbelievers using such words. I expect them to. After all, why wouldn't they? They have no reason not to. Oh, I suppose I could confront them on it, and perhaps feel better about taking a stand about morality and civil decency. And I have been tempted to do it before. And have done it. And would do it again in the right situation. But why do I want to encourage an unbeliever to an outward show of morality in restraining the tongue without a heart change that gives a reason for the restraint? I am not sure I do.
Of course, we Christians have our own swear words, subtly changed to sanctify them. We use words like darn or dang, heck, shoot, gosh, golly, and the like, all in exactly the same way that unbelievers use words that shall remain unmentioned on this blog. I suppose if I were an enlightened pastor, sensitive to the culture we live in and truly dedicated to reaching them, I would use those words myself.
But the bigger issue is, Why do we find it necessary to sprinkle our conversation with such sanctified words? Are we that lacking in creativity to find a better way to emphasize something? Or are we that lacking in self-control that it simply flies out of our mouths? Is our character so lacking that we think no one will believe us if we do not grab their attention through such literary devices? Or does it reveal a deeper problem of the heart in the way that we view the circumstances which provoked the use of such words?
Think about it ...
Speaking of new words, my soon-to-be two-year-old has somewhere picked up the word "daggum." We have no idea where he got it from since it is not a word that we use around the house. It is truly hilarious to hear him use it. He knows exactly where it fits.
The first time I heard him say it, he was shooting baskets on his little basketball hoop in the kitchen and missed. His ball went under the highchair and he blurts out a rather forceful "daggum." We don't want to encourage his use of that word, but it is hard not to laugh him using it. And of course, that only encourages it. Upon hearing our poorly stifled laughter, he continued to say it over and over again, to our amusement and dismay.
Now, I have been called naive before, and so I am used to it I suppose. But I am not even sure exactly what the word means or what it is a substitute for, though I suppose I can make a pretty good guess. It is a word whose only use appears to be verbal punctuation to express frustration or to emphasize another word.
We hope to teach my son better habits of the heart that will result in better use of the tongue.
Speaking of my son talking, two weeks shy of his second birthday, he is learning new words everyday, and managing to string some together.
But the funny thing is that he has a word for stuff he doesn't know: Sheba or shebash (short "e" sound and "a" as in "wash"). When I read to him, and point out pictures, he will identify the ones he knows, and for the rest he just says "sheba" or "shabash" like it means something. He uses it in normal conversation (whatever that is for a two-year old) just like it is a real word. Truth be told, I will miss the day when he quits using it ...