Following Jesus in the Real World: The power of words


One of the fun facts that you will learn about your humble correspondent is that I was ADD before ADD was cool. So instead of a guilt-reducing diagnosis and explanations about my serotonin deficits and unique brain chemistry I was given this uplifting analysis in school:

"You are a lazy slacker. You are too smart to be getting these grades."

I ask you, how can that not inspire dedicated effort and long lasting self esteem? So I have lived with a brain that veers wildly off course for no apparent reason. Last week I kind of promised that we would discuss the use of God's name and examine how in the wide, wide world of sports did Jesus Christ become the phrase of choice when hitting your thumb with a hammer. I have been distracted, however, by the shiny objects of your comments last week and I want to spend another round on the topic of coarse language and civility in the workplace. By the way, you are doing a great job so far in responding with grace. Thanks.

Reader Jon wrote this:

"I don't like it when every other word coming out of someone's mouth is the 'f' word because I think it cheapens its value to be used as an adjective of emphasis. But I do think there are appropriate times and places to use that word."

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I would (gracefully) disagree with Jon. Although I realize the proliferation of the "f" word in our culture has blurred the original meaning, it is still a sexual word. So I choose not to use it. I can think of many other words that can forcefully and accurately communicate my frustration, disappointment, or even humor. If I would concede that there is an "appropriate time and place" to use that word, then I would certainly suggest that place should be away from other people not involved in the conversation. That is one of my primary arguments for a call for civility in workplace language. I don't want to hear it.

I thought reader Harris made a great point:

"I have found that language like that sticks to me the way smoke from the bar does---I bring it home."

I have found that to be so true. I have to be careful to avoid bringing home not only the coarse language but also the locker room sarcasm and joking that the sports world produces. My wife will often gently remind me that I am no longer in the "TV truck."

Perhaps my greatest issue with the coarsening of our language is simply how inescapable it is. Second-hand cursing is like second-hand smoke. The purveyors wonder what the fuss is all about. Those forced to inhale or listen resent it greatly.

I cringe when I hear someone loudly and continually "f" bombing on a cell phone or talking with a co-worker in public when there are children all around. Because the average person doesn't understand the concept of the microphone picking up your voice, these dipsticks speak at a decibel level just below a rock concert. I cannot avoid hearing their creative use of the word as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunction, modifier, preposition, and interjection. And that was just two sentences.

So if there is an "appropriate" place, then could you please scout around and make sure that kids and strangers are not forced to listen in?

One of my co-workers argues long and passionately that the "f" word is just a word. Why make such a big deal? Yet when his young children visit the workplace he does not use the language and does not want others to use it as well. Hmmm . . .

Commenter Spinoza jokingly (I think) said this about Paul's words to the Ephesians concerning obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place:

"Even more evidence that Paul needed to lighten up!"

The fact is that Paul was not afraid to use strong and even vulgar words. He wrote these words to the Philippians:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).

The Greek word translated here as "rubbish" is "skubala." The word is a slang or vulgar word for human excrement. Yep. Paul said that he considered all of that other stuff as . . . well, you know the word.


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