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It was 1990-something when I started working at the law firm downtown. I was a naive , small town “miss goody-2-shoes” fresh out of college. Ann* worked in the cubicle behind me. She worked hard but she also swore hard – the kind that made paint peel and hardened criminals blush. And that was when she wasn’t stressed out or angry!

I never said a word about it.

Talking to a co- worker a few weeks later, I found out that Ann had noticed I didn’t swear…and when she found out I went to church, well…apparently she responded with a new string of expletives!

The thing is, while I didn’t swear, I also didn’t judge others. I have always believed more in building relationships and accepting a person for who they are and where they are, than in insisting they meet me where I am. I may not always agree with their behaviour, their language or their choices, but I don’t have to…Sure, I may wince a little inside from time to time, but I want language to be a bridge to relationship and not a barrier. And I’m going to trust that they will do likewise. Besides, I’m hardly the bar to set standards by!

“Language  does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes” – Stephen King

I swear more than I used to…and I don`t like it. I recently read an article, “Foulmouthed and Faithful” by Patricia Paddey, and I’ve started taking a closer look at myself. With thousands of words in the English language, surely there are plenty of options for expressing myself (how did 1 word become a noun, a verb, an adjective and an adverb)?  Plus, the words themselves are less a concern than the impact they can have on those to whom I am speaking.

Choice phrases usually come with a sense of entitlement or a “screw you” attitude. The words don’t communicate respect to others (or to ourselves). When a society becomes absorbed with its own self-importance, it loses empathy and forgets to stand up for the weak and vulnerable. Am I glossing over someone’s need or being disrespectful?

Profanity is usually intended to be harsh, to pack a punch, to shock the listener. But life is already harsh. We all experience more than our share of vulnerabilities, insecurities, and wounds in the day to day. We are all in need of a little tenderness, compassion and gentleness. Am I causing more pain?

Richard Beck wrote “profanity functions as a psychological assault”(Journal of Psychology and Theology, 2009). And the more we’re exposed to it, the more tolerant we become of it. As a result, we can become more tolerant when the intent is to assault, demean or oppress a person or group of people, until the assault silently grows into more than just an assault on our sensibilities. Am I part of a bigger problem, and if so, how can I be part of a solution?

“As our language becomes more careless or sloppy, our thinking also grows sloppy” – Patricia Paddey

I’m a middle-aged Mom -I can’t afford to be careless or sloppy. My body is already breaking down and some days I worry about my mental state. I can’t be too sure how many years I have left before my kids put me in a home for the bewildered where I will make tissue roses and sing kum-bya. In the meantime, I have a responsibility as an adult and parent, still being of sound-ish body and mind, to lead by example. My kids already know I am far from perfect but I owe it to them to do better.  I owe it to others to do better. And I think I owe it to myself too. One carefully chosen word at a time!

As mentioned 500 words ago (sorry), I want words to build relationships. It’s not my job to judge others and I’m trusting I’ll be treated the same way.

I worked with Ann for over 2 years and we got to be pretty good friends…her language never improved…but we got to be pretty good friends.

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This was supposed to be a 10 minute Monday post where I write for 10 minutes without editing … I confess I needed a bit more time… 🙂   And of course Ann* is a pseudonym.

 

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