Should Christians Say Cuss Words?
The idea of “Curse/Cuss Words” has been floating around in my mind for quite some time and I’ve been seriously debating whether or not Christians should use “curse” words.
I think the OBVIOUS answer is, “Of course not! Christians shouldn’t say bad words because they’re BAD.”
But digging deeper, WHY are bad words deemed “bad”? I want to present some questions to you to think about, as I have been pondering these same questions.
What makes words bad?
Are words inherently good or evil, or is this a meaning we ascribe to them?
What about “bad” words used in a positive or humorous context?
What about the anthropological evolution of linguistics?
I think the evolution of linguistics is the most curious question of all when it comes to Christians and cursing, but we will get to that shortly. For now, let’s look at some “bad” words and their meanings.
Are Bad Words ACTUALLY Bad?
I have researched some of the most common “bad words” in English; let’s dive into their meanings to analyze if they are inherently “bad” or not. All definitions are provided by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.
The B**** Word
Dictionary Definition: “The female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals”
Informal Use: “a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman”
So is it a BAD word?
I personally believe words are not inherently bad - it’s the meaning we ascribe to them that makes them bad.
That being said, I have only ever heard this word used in a negative and derogatory sense. As we can see from the informal use of this word, it’s quite offensive and sexist in nature. Personally, I believe the B word is bad in most contexts, unless you’re genuinely using it to discuss a female dog. The key word here is genuine.
I have heard some elderly people discuss female dogs using this word, and it still shocks me, but I have to laugh because they’re genuinely using it to refer to a female dog in the same way people use “heifer” to refer to a female cow (lol)!
The D*** Word:
Dictionary Definition: “to condemn to a punishment or fate”
Informal Use: “a curse, often used to express annoyance, disgust, or surprise.”
So is it a BAD word? In every sense of the word, this “D” word seems to be the exact definition of a “curse” word. I can’t really think of a positive context to use this word, unless one was discussing a historical event, in which one was “damned” to something. Even then, it is a very serious and heavy word by nature, and there are many other words one could use, like “condemned” or “sentenced” that express the meaning just as well without the derogation.
The S*** Word:
Dictionary Definition: “(Vulgar) Feces, (Vulgar) an act of defecation.”
Informal Use: The S word has become a very versatile word; I have heard it most commonly used to refer to “stuff” in general. Typically, the S word can be interchanged with the word “stuff” and the sentence will carry the same meaning. Some use it to refer to POOP, or as an expression of pain or surprise.
So is it a BAD word? It seems like in most cases, the S word is used in a vulgar context with a negative meaning. As far as using this word as an expression of surprise or pain, it seems to be neutral - though given the historical use of this word, it is still classified as a “bad word”… Thus, when used as an expression of pain or surprise, there’s still a slight negative connotation.
The A** Word:
Dictionary Definition: “Any of several hardy gregarious African or Asian perissodactyl mammals (genus Equus) smaller than the horse and having long ears
especially : an African mammal (E. asinus) that is the ancestor of the donkey”
Informal Use: “a stupid, obstinate, or perverse person”
So is it a BAD word? This words seems similar in nature to the “B” word in that it’s original meaning goes back to an animal. It seems like a harmless word when used in its genuine context, and again, this word is actually used the some older versions of the Holy Bible in reference to actual donkeys.
This words becomes negative in nature when used informally, which, to me, clearly classifies it as “bad”.
The F*** Word:
Dictionary Definition: “an act of copulation”
Informal Use: “To engage in coitus with —sometimes used interjectionally with an object (such as a personal or reflexive pronoun) to express anger, contempt, or disgust
- to deal with unfairly or harshly : CHEAT, SCREW.”
So is it a BAD word? Looking at it’s dictionary meaning to “copulate” (have sex), it’s clear that this word is a bit more explicit in nature. Our English use of the F word originally comes from the Dutch word, “fokken” (to breed Cattle) or the Swedish word “fokka” (to copulate).
This word was first recorded in the 14th century; there is no mention of whether or not the word was intended to be vulgar. It seems as though it was not intended to be vulgar in the Scandinavian tongue, but ever since it was introduced to the English language, it has only ever been used in a vulgar, negative context (until recently, in which comedic use has come of the word).
Is it bad? Honestly, this word bothers me the most, ESPECIALLY when it is used to refer to the act of “sex”. Sex is meant to be a beautiful and joyous gift, and to ascribe a vulgar word to the gift of sex is extremely degrading. Apart from its reference to “copulation”, it is mostly informally used in anger, contempt or disgust, which again, is clear that this word’s intended use informally is rude.. So again, it’s clear to see that it’s also a bad word.
But what about when “bad” words are not used in a negative context? Let’s talk about that.
Cuss Words & The Evolution of Linguistics
It’s quite clear just by looking at their definitions and most common uses that “cuss words” are definitely leaning more towards the “bad” side of the spectrum at this point. But to me, perhaps the most interesting point of discussion is the evolutionary linguistics through cultural shifts and time. As with everything, linguistics is not immune to evolving with time.
60 years ago, women wearing pants was considered inappropriate, but now most women wear pants daily - this is because there was a cultural shift. We shifted with culture. Now culture says wearing pants is acceptable!
Just 5 years ago, I’m pretty sure the word YEET did not exist, and now the entire Gen Z uses it to express more things than I even understand. Don’t even bother googling it, it has too many meanings (LOL). I’ve given up on the word “yeet”.
These kinds of shifts happen all the time as culture evolves and shifts, and recently, I’ve been watching a cultural phenomenon take place as “cuss words'“ that were once exclusively used in derogatory ways slip their way into every day vocabulary that is neither negative nor positive.
Words like the F word and the A word have almost become adjectives to ascribe greater emphasis.
“That was F***ing hilarious!”
“That was funny a** joke.”
Many people in this day and age have shifted from using cuss words solely as a negative thing, and begun using them as adjectives or for comedic purposes. One could argue that “cuss words” when used in this context are not bad, as our culture has shifted to deem these words as more neutral in nature… And I don’t necessarily think they’re wrong. As to whether or not Christians should partake in this, that’s a different matter.
I took to Instagram to find out what the most common belief was here. I surveyed my audience, and of those who answered, approximately:
99% responded that they identified as Christian
1% - responded that they identified as agnostic
I asked a series of questions:
Should Christians say cuss words?
If not, why should Christians NOT cuss?
If it doesn’t matter, why does it not matter?
The first question, “Should Christians Say Cuss Words?” yielded 36% “NO” and 64% “It Doesn’t Matter”.
I got so many great responses but I’m only going to share a couple that brought up really great points.
Responses AGAINST Christians Cussing
Let’s start by saying that Christians affirm that our basis of TRUTH is the word of God - The Holy Bible. If you are a Christian, you, by definition, affirm that the Holy Bible is the word of God and the foundation on which we establish and understand “truth”.
Regarding cussing and whether or not Christians should cuss, I have determined to root my belief on my understanding of what God’s word says is truth, and not what culture says is truth.
Thus, I believe Christians should NOT say cuss words (see why below).
Even though I have never cussed habitually, I still struggled to come to this conclusion, simply due to the fact that language does change and I believe it is evident that cuss words are in the process of changing and becoming less-bad and more neutral in meaning. However, their roots DO come from negative and derogatory meanings and there are countless scriptural proofs that urge us to NOT partake in this kind of behavior.
Let’s look at a few passages from the Bible regarding behavior that brings glory to God, because ultimately that should be our goal as Christians, right?
Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
Proverbs 18: 20-21 From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Ephesians 4: 29-31 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. (OUCH - Huge conviction here!)
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
After digging into the word and seeking what God desires for His children, it seems that if we’re truly obedient to God, we would desire to be set apart from the world and use our words to bring glory to God.
I really like what my friend Alexa said in response to this topic; “When I come face to face with Jesus, curse words would likely never leave my mouth…” That really struck me. If we are in the presence of God himself, our response would be to be in a constant state of worship to him, which means curse words don’t fit in there.
And isn’t that our call as Christians? To live in a way that is led by the Holy Spirit and to walk “in the Spirit” in every moment of every day, and to bring glory to God in everything that we do?
I also really liked what my friend Marcelo had to say in response to the question of Christians and cussing. He said, “Ephesians 5:4 says, ‘Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk, nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.’ However, I believe we are all hypocrites. Saying ‘oh crap’ is exactly the same as saying ‘oh sh*t’, it’s just one is more culturally accepted in certain places…”
Marcelo brought up a GREAT point, because both words “crap” and “s***” have essentially the same meaning - both have a negative connotation, yet one is deemed “bad” and the other “acceptable”. So, honestly, if we’re holding a standard and belief that Christians should not cuss, should we not also do our best to always speak in an edifying manner, and remove unnecessary words and phrases like “crap” as well?
I personally believe, yes, we should do our best to reflect Christ in everything we do. That being said, we have to walk in GRACE for ourselves and others. I can’t judge someone who says the F word when I use “crap” on the daily, see what I’m saying?
That grace should never become an excuse, but should rather serve as a humble reminder that at the end of the day, we all need God every second of every day.
Responses FOR Christians and Cussing
I did receive many responses in favor or indifferent about Christians and cussing as well. It seems there are many Christians and non-Christians alike who are indifferent about Christians and cussing. Many responses brought up that it depends on the context, words are only “bad” because we decide that they are, and even that cussing can make Christians more approachable.
However, by NOT cussing, that doesn’t make us unapproachable or judgmental - most people wouldn’t think twice about someone who does NOT say curse words, and if they DID, I don’t know a single person who would be offended by someone who did not say a cure word. Not cussing won’t hurt your reputation, whereas, cussing may cause discomfort or offense depending on the setting.
I definitely see where a lot of people are coming from regarding this topic, as I once believed many of these same reasons as to why it’s “okay” for Christians to cuss, however…
The Final Conclusion
This verse rings in my heart so loudly that I cannot deny it.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” - Romans 12:2
This verse applies to everything in life beyond cussing as well. This hits home for me personally because we live in a day and age where it is becoming harder and harder to obey this verse. These days, if we are “not conformed” to what culture says, we are often viewed negatively. Culture is screaming at Christians to be tolerant, nay, encouraging of everything, all the while being intolerant to Christian beliefs. This goes beyond cussing, but applies to every Christian moral belief that is contrary to what the world believes.
Abortion and Homosexuality being two of the hottest topics.
The challenge for Christians is that the world is yelling at us and telling us that if we don’t ENCOURAGE and AGREE, then we are “bigots”, “biased”, “close-minded”, “hateful”, “inhuman”, and so on. Thus, our tendency as believers has been to believe these accusations as “truth”, which can be confusing especially when the bible commands us to love. How are we to love our neighbor when they’re saying we hate them if we disagree with them? It can be challenging and exhausting for sure, so it is my belief that we as Christians have begun to give in and become more and more like the world, so that we would be “more approachable” and people would like us and think we’re friendly.
I am the most guilty of this! Having an online platform, though small, I am tempted DAILY to be liked by people at the expense of my reflection of Christ and moral framework.
What I have to remind myself of is this; Jesus NEVER compromised the truth for the sake of being more approachable. Jesus LOVED all with a perfect love. He also spoke the truth. Those two are not mutually exclusive, and I think that is something Christians need to hold fast to.
All of that to say, the Bible is very clear on how we are to speak and live as Christians. But this starts first in the heart.
Behavior modification will never last if we don’t have a heart after Jesus. I may not say the F word, but if I’m angry at the person who just cut me off on I35 (hands down, the worst interstate in all of Texas), I’m just as guilty as the one who says the F word.
The goal is not behavior modification, the goal is to truly be transformed by God, and we do this by reading his word and spending time with him.
Truly, if we live in a way where we come face-to-face with Jesus daily, if our hearts were so in love with Jesus that we were in a constant state of worship and adoration, we would never have a cuss word or an angry though slip out of our hearts.
My sister Crystal also sent over a series of videos on this topic that have some GREAT insight. I’d encourage you to give them a listen!
Part 1: “On Cussing”
Part 2: “What about Soft Cussing?”
Part 3: “Can Christians Cuss to Prove a Point?”