A little, or even nothing, goes a long way.

The subject of language has been front and center in my mind of late. In part because of its continual decimation due to the ever shifting meaning of words and phrases for the purpose of political posturing, but also because we tend to utter words without proper forethought. Silence can reveal -or at least leave room for- assumption of knowledge. It’s an opportunity few of us take advantage as Proverbs invites:

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.Proverbs 17:28

The type of speech we engage, or don’t engage in, speaks volumes. It draws questions without any faith identification. I spend most of my social and outside interaction with other home schooling mothers. The variety of people my family is exposed to, however, is one I haven’t experienced consistently since our children finished elementary school several years ago.

Two years ago for example, my husband spent a year working at a large company overseeing the transition of some of the internal workings of their system. During that time, he developed a rapport with a young man there. The young man never expressed any religious belief, and my husband never engaged in any sort of faith based dialog with him.

Near the end of his contract there, the man asked my husband to do something that startled him. He had a girlfriend and a young baby. He figured it was time to make it official so he asked my husband if he would be willing to marry them. They could do it right in the cafeteria of the office building over lunch, since they weren’t interested in any kind of big wedding event.  He assumed my husband was a minister of some sort. As an Asian man raised without any religious tradition, he didn’t know what sort of clergy my husband might have been and I don’t know that he cared. He simply respected him, and wanted his blessing on their union.

My husband’s first question was why this young man assumed he was a minister. There isn’t anything noteworthy about my husband which indicates minister, or even typical church guy. The response was telling: “It wasn’t anything you said. It was what you didn’t say. You’ve been hear nearly a year, and I never heard you curse.”

Our daughters have had a similar experience on their jobs. Usually after about 3 months, someone notes that they never hear them use a curse word. Apparently, unlike when I was a child, profanity is like a tattoo. You don’t stand out if you do it. You stand out if you don’t.

I find this interesting because none of us flinches, winces, or gets offended when anyone uses profanity in our presence, and we don’t assume that people who do so are necessarily  irreligious or bad Christians. It’s basically a holdover from how each of us were raised. My husband’s father wasn’t a saint, nor would he ever be mistaken for one. He just didn’t curse. Neither did my parents. We just sort of picked that up, as did several (though not all) of our siblings.

Profanity is an example I used here because it recently came up in our conversations about language, but it’s just one example among many. I am keenly aware of the issues that can come from mistaking propriety for piety. It’s one the thing I loathe most about certain strains of American Evangelicalism. But there is a lesson to be learned here about the importance of keeping a lid on it.

It really is possible to get through an election season without getting into a debate with your family members whose political opinions are different from your own. It’s possible to inspire or motivate others in areas where you may have been especially graced or worked hard to overcome without preaching to everyone you know or beating them over the head with your hard won knowledge.

People naturally tend to ask questions of those they see succeeding or accomplishing at the things with which they struggle. They almost always solicit the prayers of the least vocal but straightest walking believers they know. We don’t need to be nearly as vocal as many seem to think in order for others to glean from the wealth of knowledge and wisdom we presume we have acquired. Most of all, we can all save ourselves a lot of trouble if we would learn to be quiet:

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.Proverbs 21:23

I think about this often in the rough and tumble world of Internet communication, where people feel not only compelled but entitled to say whatever pops into their head with as much veracity and acidity as they can muster to get their points across. There also the saccharine treatise laced with contempt, and veiled in passive aggressive attacks. After a while the stealth sweetness is lost and the malice seeps through. Whatever the tactic, it’s the opposite of this:

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24.

Using the logic of if this, then that, it is safe to conclude that: rude speech is like wormwood, bitter to the soul and sickness to the body.

I think I’ve said enough, so I’ll stop right here.

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11 thoughts on “A little, or even nothing, goes a long way.

  1. Couple of additional thoughts:

    1. I sometimes have to resist the urge to curse in my head. I’m working on that.

    2. My husband didn’t preside over that couple’s wedding. He wasn’t qualified to do so nor was he up for that kind of pressure, LOL.. But he did act as one of their witnesses as the JoP did the deed. The bride looked like a beautiful China doll in the pictures. I know that might sound very offensive, but it’s what sprang to mind when I saw her.

    3. For those so inclined to wonder: No, the irony here is NOT lost on me. I’m working all this out within myself as well.

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  2. 1. Sigh.

    2. Well done on SAM’s part. I’ve seen as well that if you show a little bit of human kindness to people, a certain portion of people will assume you’re pastoring on the side. And glad to hear that the bride looked great.

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  3. People ever stop cursing? Yes, they curse at work. Not as much, but yes.

    Personally I’d like to live in a world where people didn’t scream out cursewords as they were passing my house in cars, or use them as verbs in conversations my children overhear because we’re waiting at a stopsign, or … yeah, that would be nice, if people would just curse in the bars or something.

    Rap has introduced me to the concept that you can conjugate a sentence using nothing but profanity.

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  4. People are cursing at work? I didn’t know that was a thing.

    Oh, yeah. It is a thing. My hubs often holds conference calls via speaker phone in his office and I have to remind him to shut the door because those guys…

    It’s regular language now, and as such more acceptable everywhere. Certainly there are times and places where people rein it in (in front of clients, for example) but in general interactions between co-workers it’s standard.

    Anyway, today Garvey’s Ghost made a reference to the way people talk at work in his latest post, so it’s not just my family members and friends who hear it. Two of my kids works around a lot of men (gasp!), and 90% of my husband’s colleagues are male as well, even though he has lots of female clients. However, even my daughter who works in an office says that the men and women there use curse words very nonchalantly.

    People ever stop cursing? Yes, they curse at work. Not as much, but yes.

    Thanks for the back up, hearth. There seems to be this tendency to discount things as just some kind of odd, dishonest, or unbelievable thing when certain people write about them online. I sometimes wonder if (despite living and socializing in a fairly large and diverse city), I am somehow living in the twilight zone. Or maybe if I just stayed my behind in the house (like some advocate), I wouldn’t see and hear as much, LOL

    Rap has introduced me to the concept that you can conjugate a sentence using nothing but profanity.

    LOL

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  5. More than a few cursewords – fairly gnarly ones – are now used as sentence enhancers by relatively normal people. They’re not even mad or upset or showing off.

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  6. True, which is why I hardly blink when I hear it. Even among relatively educated people a few *four letter words* really are just regular words now.

    You just reminded me of this, Hearth. I saw it years ago but, LOL:

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  7. Steady erosion of class, maybe, or maybe people just don’t care, or think it’s funny.

    Mr. Incredible’s field is a very blue collar trade and even he gets miffed when coworkers, especially younger guys, think it’s ok to curse left and right. Not the he doesn’t from time to time -bad habits die hard – but if this former Navy sailor who crewed a frigate in the Med and Rec during the first Iraq war thinks your language is coarse and base, then you’ve got a problem!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was thinking about this recently. It makes perfect sense and stands to reason that as people feel more comfortable talking about all kinds of topics publicly, engage in a lot more online banter and the attendant freedom that comes with it, see profanity being uttered more and more on TV and in music, it stands to reason that this coarsening would even seep over into every area of life.

    It is as you say, “a steady erosion of class”. In that light, it also makes sense that people who don’t do it would stand out in the same way that people who go against the grain in other ways stand out.

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