Taming the Tongue, Part 2
About the Guest
As small as it is, the tongue can still get us into BIG trouble. On today's broadcast, FamilyLife President, Dennis Rainey, tells how we can tame the tongue by listening and obeying the wisdom found in Scripture.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
As small as it is, the tongue can still get us into BIG trouble.
Taming the Tongue, Part 2
Dennis: The bottom line about cussing is it's wrong. When cussing is allowed to occur in a family, it lowers the moral standards of that family and thus the culture. Curbing the tongue within our families is a part of the Christian life. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. When people are allowed to spew forth words in public – that degrades everyone who hears. It just doesn't do any good for our society.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 10th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you think cussing is really not that big a deal, maybe it's time to think again. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You have some concern about the words we are using in our culture, and you think it's time to do something about it, right?
Dennis: I do. I think we have taken the "x" out of expletives, and we have dumbed down our morality, across the board, in our nation, Bob, and what's happening is, even among Christians, our speech, unfortunately, is seasoned with words that are inappropriate, and I think cussing, words that are used inappropriately by Christians – well, we ought to just talk about it for a few moments and talk about cleaning up our language a bit.
Bob: Yesterday you took us through a lot of passages in the Scripture that really anchor us around this issue, but I remember specifically Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 29, where the Bible says we are to let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouth – only those things that are profitable, that are edifying. That's at the heart of this whole issue, both with us individually, as parents, but also with how we are training our children.
Dennis: That's right, and truthfully, there is nothing more powerful in the culture to control language than a family that has good standards, because what's happened over the last 50 years is – well, it's interesting. Let me just review some of the things that have happened. Fifty years ago there used to be censors who would actually delete terms from books before they were published. James Jones, who is the author of "From Here to Eternity" had more than 250 terms and vulgar words in that book, and the censors eliminated 208 from the hardback book.
When the book came out in trade paper, which is the more inexpensive, more popular version of the same book, the censors deleted all 258 vulgar terms in the book. The reason? They didn't want the masses to read these words – now, that was in 1951. Consider, by comparison, what Random House, a major publishing house here in America did in 1995, when they published a directory of curse words. And I'm not even going to give the name of the book, because the name of the book is a …
Bob: … is profane?
Dennis: … is an expletive. More than 200 pages of definitions, demeaning phrases, that, well, by contrast to 1951, we've come a long way. And then there's cartoons on TV for kids now, like "South Park." You keep going on this stuff, and, well, it just – there seems to be no end to it.
Well, you know, I think that, as Christians, we need to be taking a stand around the issue of cussing, and I think there are three reasons for this. Number one, when cussing is allowed to occur in a family, it lowers the moral standards of that family and thus the culture.
Bob: You're saying when you unbridle the tongue, the rest of the soul follows in the same direction.
Dennis: Well, Jesus said in Matthew 12, "It's out of the heart come the things that defile a man." And where did Jesus say it ultimately ends up? Out of our mouths. He said it was our mouths that ended up bringing condemnation.
The bottom line about cussing is it's wrong. It's dead wrong. Well, the second reason why I'm concerned about cussing today, I believe it degrades interpersonal relationships. When cussing occurs, it robs a society of its civility. When people are allowed to spew forth words in public – that degrades everyone who hears. It just doesn't do any good for our society.
Used casually, cursing is rude to those who hear it and have to listen to it. It's like verbal pollution. If it's used on purpose, it's derogatory or demeaning and strips the dignity of another person.
Well, James, chapter 3 says, "With our tongues we bless God, and we curse man, who is made in the image of God," and we need to bring our tongues under the control of the Holy Spirit.
One last reason, and you hinted at this earlier, Bob, why I'm kind of on my soapbox about cussing – it's a message that we're sending to our children. It's almost like, even within the Christian community, that cussing in moderation is okay. And I think, as Christians, we are supposed to hold to standards not just in terms of morality with the opposite sex but also in terms of our speech, and curbing the tongue within our families is a part of the Christian life.
The fruit of the spirit is self-control, and does that mean I've never lost control, that I've never said some words that I wish I hadn't said? No, I have made a mistake on an occasion with my kids, and you know what's really weaned me away from using words I shouldn't use, is having to get down on a knee with a son or with a daughter and say, "Dad was wrong. I shouldn't have said that."
And, you know, as Christians, I think a part of our hope is the grace of God and the forgiveness of God that redeems us from bad habits, one of which we're talking about here.
Bob: Aren't we talking about what's coming out of the heart of an individual? If you want to correct the problem, you can say, "I'm going to try to clean up my language," but unless you're cleaning up the root issue, you're really not going to fix things, are you?
Dennis: Well, you asked me yesterday at the conclusion of the program just for some encouragement about – well, what to do if you find yourself caught in this and where do you begin?
Well, the first thing I think you need to do is to clean up your speech, and to do that, I think you start where you're talking about, Bob. You start in the heart. And I read Psalm 19, verse 14, and my strong exhortation to any man, woman, or child who is struggling with words that are inappropriate is to commit Psalm 19, verse 14, to memory. And, I promise you, if you will commit it to memory, within 30 days I think you'll begin to watch the spirit of God reduce your vocabulary.
Let me just read it to you – "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." It touches on all of it, Bob. It touches on our heart and what we think about and what we ruminate on, and I think, ultimately, there is a form of curse words that come about because we are angry at God, and they are expressed in anger. Some are used even taking God's name in vain, and at that point I think the heart needs to be dealt with, and the sin needs to be confessed.
I think a second thing you can do is, after memorizing Psalm 19:14, is to tell your family you've been wrong, and to go before them, maybe in a family council, and to ask for their forgiveness and to hold you accountable to keep your speech flattering of the King.
Bob: So you're talking about a 10-year-old holding mom or dad accountable, calling them up short when they make a mistake?
Dennis: I think it's appropriate for a dad to confess to a 10-year-old and say to his son, "I was wrong. I have not been a good model here and you know what? I want you to hold Dad accountable."
Bob: You know what's going to happen, though – the next time Dad's mad or Mom's mad, he or she is going to let one of these words loose, and then when the 10-year-old tries to inject a little accountability, it's just going to make the same dad or the same mom angrier …
Dennis: … maybe …
Bob: … and they're going to wish that they hadn't asked for the accountability.
Dennis: I have confessed to my children, and, I'll tell you what, Bob, it feels healthy. Why? If your kids have heard you say it, and they are aware that you've used wrong language, they know. Why sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn't exist? Go ahead and go to them.
Maybe you don't feel like you should be accountable to them. I think, at the very least, though, you need to confess to your children if you have used words that are inappropriate around them, or if you've used words to your spouse, aimed at your spouse, that are inappropriate that your kids have overheard. I think they need an apology in that situation as well.
Bob: Once again, we're talking about the heart of the issue, and it may be that in addition to cussing, you've got an anger problem that needs to be dealt with.
Dennis: Well, no doubt about that. I mean, if you really want to dissect, which I don't want to do here on the air, but if you wanted to dissect some of the terms that are used, the vulgar terms that are thrown around, they really take – some of them take things that God has made in their beauty, that are magnificent, and they twist and pervert them and make them dirty and earthy and perverted.
And I think, ultimately, it is the heart of a man who is rebelling against the God of the Universe and doesn't want to be accountable to Him in our speech. I think that's a part of what Jesus was talking about over in Matthew 12, where he says, "By your words, you will either be justified or you will be condemned." I think he's talking about the heart, Bob, and if a person never gets control of their language, you've got to wonder are they a born-again Christian or not?
Bob: You know, not all profanity comes out of anger. Sometimes it comes out of a desire to fit in, to be cool, to be a part of the gang. I don't think there is ever a time when we can look back at a use of profanity and say, "That was done with righteous or pure or holy motives. I really wanted to honor God, and that's why I chose those words." Ultimately, there is some sinful motivation that is prompting the use of that kind of language.
Dennis: Yes, and you've just hinted at something here, Bob, that needs to be addressed – that's peer pressure. Peer pressure can, well, really encourage a person to use language that's inappropriate. It's almost like you're one of the guys when you finally stoop to their level and begin to talk like it.
Job, chapter 2, verse 9, it's interesting – it's not Job's friends, it's his wife. But she comes to him and said, "Look, it's been a hard time for you, Job. Curse God and die. Go ahead and shout a profanity at God and check on out of the planet."
Bob: Almost as if she expected God's judgment would be instant in that moment for Job's curse.
Dennis: Right, and yet he withstood the peer pressure, all right? But I've watched grown men – forget teenagers, forget our children who can pick up language, even when they're little. I mean, they drag that stuff in when they're six, seven years old, and Mommy goes, "Where did that come from?" Forget about all that.
Let's talk about adults again, let's talk about the moms and dads here – the language that sometimes we're around on the softball team we play on, the church basketball team – I mean, hey, the language that is at work, it can all begin to seep into our hearts, and we can begin to entertain these words as well. It's a part of why I'm not going to go to R-rated movies. I don't want to have all those words banging around in my brain.
I did a little research on R-rated movies, and many R-rated movies have somewhere between 100 to 200 curse words for every 120 minutes. Now, run that out. That's more than a cussword a minute, and in one case, a number of years ago, I found one that had two per minute.
Now, why would you want to pay money to hear those words, to have those things stick in your heart, and you wonder why a word slips out now and then. I don't like to read books that have words in them. One time I left a very expensive, hardback book by a popular author – I left it on a plane because I was so disgusted with it. My regret was I didn't pitch it in the garbage can.
But I was grieved that I was reading material that was once again dropping these words in my brain, and I know, at this point, I'm beginning to sound like a Pollyanna, goody-goody two-shoe here. That really is not my intention but, you know, what my intention is, I want to be like the Savior, and if I'm going to be like the Savior, it means I can't do everything that everybody else does, and I can't allow my standards to continue to seep lower and lower. At some point you've got to push back against the world and say, "Enough is enough."
Bob: You know, it's one thing to leave a book on the plane or even throw it away, but some of our listeners say, "I'd have to quit my job. If I'm going to get away from the influence of profanity, I'm going to have to not walk on the street corners anymore, I'm going to have to wear a bubble over my head," you know, it's everywhere. You can't turn on the radio unless you're listening to Christian radio. You can't walk through the shopping malls. I can't go to work tomorrow because the guys I work with – this is the way they talk.
Dennis: Well, now, Bob, I work with you, and I don't talk that way.
Bob: Okay, there are a few places where it's safe.
Dennis: There are, there are, come to work at FamilyLife.
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: That's exactly right. I'll tell you, though, I think it may be the result of Christians saying nothing that cussing has been allowed to almost have free rein in the culture. I mean, why do we have a guy by the name of Jim O'Connor, who has a cuss-control academy for corporations, and the whole purpose of it is to teach people how to stop cussing, and the reason that companies are hiring the guy is they're hiring him because the employees don't like it, either.
And I think it may be, if you're around a group of people that just have garbage mouth all the time, it may be, if your supervisor is one of them, maybe just going to him and say, "You know, I would really prefer if we kind of cleaned up the language around here. It really is demeaning to me, personally, to the women who work here," and not go on a tirade, not pull out your six-inch-thick black Bible and start beating people over the head, but just appeal to sensibilities, to nobility, ask for people to step up instead of continuing to slide further and further down.
I talked to Barbara right before I came on the air, and she said, "I think it's good that you're talking about cussing." She said, "We are children of the King, and we need to be using language fit for ambassadors. Those who have set themselves apart in their speech with dignity, nobility, and with speech that represents the King of kings and Lord of lords."
Bob: You know, I keep track with what's going on in radio because of our program, and there is a radio station in one community that I am aware of that's running commercials where they're saying, "We're a family-friendly radio station."
Now, they play pop music, just like all the other radio stations play, but they say "we screen the music, and we won't play the songs that have profanity in them, and our announcers are not going to use profanity." And they are advertising this as a benefit for listeners, inviting them to tune in saying, "Here is a safe station for your family." They are seeing that as a competitive advantage. It may be that if folks would step forward and say, "That's what I want," we could see, well, some of the air pollution cleaned up a little bit.
Dennis: No doubt about it, and Edmund Burke said, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." And I just wonder – I wonder if there aren't a lot of people who are in workplaces and in gymnasiums and workout centers, who would just love it if someone, along with them, would step forward and say "You know what? That really offends me."
And not be pious, not – you know, because if people don't know Christ, you can't expect them to have language that represents the King, but it might give you an opportunity to talk to them about Christ and the condition, the real condition, of their hearts.
Bob: I think we have to be aware, as well, that the words that our teenagers are using may be reflecting what is in their hearts. I mean, if we have children who are prone to using offensive language, or if profanity slips out of their mouth either when they're with us, or if we find out that it's happened when they're not with us, I think we have to pull back and say, "Where do you stand with Christ? Do you understand how your language reflects what's in your heart? Do you think Christ is pleased with that kind of language when you use it?
I know this is a subject that you and Barbara addressed in the book that you wrote, "Parenting Today's Adolescent." There is a chapter in that book on language as one of the traps that you have identified that are facing teenagers in our culture today. And I know a lot of our listeners have benefited from your counsel that you offer in this book on a variety subjects that our children are facing today as they go through their teenage years.
Many of our listeners have already contacted us to get a copy of the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," but I know there are some of our listeners who have children who are just now, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 years old that are not yet to the teenage years. That's actually the perfect time for parents to get a copy of this book and start reading through it, because it can get you on the same page as husband and wife, and it can help you think through in advance how you are going to approach these issues with your teenager when they become issues. And unless your teenager is going to live in a cave somewhere, these issues are going to become issues at some point in their teenage years.
We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can get a copy when you go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button that's in the middle of the screen that says "Go," and that will take you to an area of the site where there is more information not only in this book but another book by Dr. Joe Stowell called "The Weight of Your Words," which is not so much about teenagers but it's about those of us who are adults who may find ourselves slipping more often than we ought and using language that we know is not edifying, not seasoned with grace.
You can get a copy of either book, again, from our website, from our FamilyLife Resource Center. Click the red button that says "Go" that you'll find in the middle of our home page at FamilyLife.com, that will take you right to the area of the site where you can get more information about these books or you can order online, if you'd like.
If you order both books, we'll send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation on this subject, and you can listen to that again or pass it along to someone who may benefit from listening to it.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-358-6329 to request a copy of the book. The number, again, is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team will make sure that the resources you need are sent out to you.
And then let me encourage you, if you can help us this month with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we have a thank you gift we'd like to send you. Let me remind you, first of all, that FamilyLife Today is listener-supported, and we don't want you to do anything that would take away from giving to your local church. That ought to be your top priority.
But, beyond that, if you are able to help us with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today to keep it on the air on this station and on other stations all across the country, we would like to send you a book as a thank you gift. It's a book by the late Dr. Bill Bright called "The Joy of Trusting God," and as we've talked today about letting no unwholesome speech come out of our mouths, I've been reminded about how our hearts really are changed as we meditate on the character, the attributes, of God.
And that's what this book by Dr. Bright is really all about. It's about God being all-powerful and ever-present and sovereign and holy and righteous and just; how God is love and mercy; how He is faithful; how He is also absolute truth.
It comes with an audio book on CD in the back of the book read by John Tesch and, again, it's our gift to you when you help us with a donation this month of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. If you're making your donation online at FamilyLife.com, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form just type the word "joy" in, and we'll know to send a copy of this book.
Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone and mention that you'd like a copy of Dr. Bright's book and, again, we'll be happy to send it out to you. It's our way of saying thank you for your participation with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate your partnership.
Well, tomorrow we want to talk about what you do as a parent if, all of a sudden, you hear a five-year-old using a word that a five-year-old shouldn't us. Well, not just a five-year-old but none of us ought to be using. We'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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