Swearing is becoming more commonplace all the time. Words that were not heard in “polite” company even ten years ago are now everywhere. Young and old, men and women – it seems there are no longer any boundaries on swearing.
But is swearing rude? Some considerations:
- By definition, swearing is offensive language, usually used in anger. When offensive words are used aggressively or to attack someone, they are a problem. When used to push peoples’ “buttons”, to get under their skin, it is a problem.
- Most (all?) swearing is also vulgar. Vulgar words by definition lack good taste. Making explicit references to bodily functions, for example, is vulgar. Vulgarity is commonly considered coarse and rude.
- Most (if not all) swearing is perceived as angry. People who throw “F bombs” around regularly sound angry. There are far better, and more constructive, ways to express anger.
- Many also consider swearing to be simply lazy. With a little effort, better and less offensive ways of getting your message across can be found. As Shannon Alder said, “Swearing doesn’t make your argument valid; it just tells the other person you have lost your class and control.”
Looking at this list might well make you rethink swearing. Do you want to come across as aggressive, angry, classless, lacking in good taste and lazy? Do you really want to casually offend people by your words? Do you really want that kind of insensitivity to be part of your character, how others see you?
Looking at this list answers the question. In most instances, swearing is rude as it shows a lack of respect for yourself and others. It adds to an increasingly uncivil world.
Does this mean swearing is never appropriate?
There may be a random (and rare) event that might justify it. This is especially true if someone is attacking you and you can’t get his/her attention any other way. If your life is full of this kind of activity, you have bigger problems to address.
Some people find it to be an effective outlet for stress and anger – if it doesn’t inflict stress and harm on others. If you feel stressed and/or angry and you want to swear, consider doing it in private so you don’t risk offending others. This strategy has two important short-comings:
- If you are swearing often, it becomes a habit. Your resistance is lowered and you will do it more often. If it is a habit, you are less likely to restrain yourself around others who might find it offensive.
- It shows a lack of self respect. Making it a habit, even in private, continues to devalue you and keep you from being your best self.
There are other, better ways to make your point. Use them and save the swearing for those extreme circumstances when nothing else works.
What does swearing have to do with respect and dignity?
Respect is all about recognizing that people – all people, including you – have intrinsic value and honoring that value. It really is that simple. If you speak or act without respect, as in swearing, you say you don’t value others and this leads to many problems, from causing people to be wary of you to conflict. If you rely on it to make your point, you also tell yourself you don’t have value and that prevents you from being your best. Swearing is a large reflection on you and your character.
If you want to become the best person you can be, to live into your personal greatness, it is in your best interest to speak and act in ways that show you respect yourself and others. It is in your best interest to exercise self-control and maintain your dignity.