FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Taming the Tongue, Part 3

with Dennis Rainey | April 11, 2007
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If you're like the rest of us, you've probably found yourself regretting something you've said to another. If so, set your dial for today's broadcast when popular author and speaker Dennis Rainey gives advice for taming our unruly tongues.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • If you're like the rest of us, you've probably found yourself regretting something you've said to another. If so, set your dial for today's broadcast when popular author and speaker Dennis Rainey gives advice for taming our unruly tongues.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve probably found yourself regretting something you’ve said.

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Taming the Tongue, Part 3

With Dennis Rainey
April 11, 2007
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Dennis: One of the things I think parents have got to decide is, you've got to decide what are you going to do in advance?  Because if you don't, you're going to be caught off guard, and I think parents have got to take control of their own household and decide who is going to set the standard.  And if kids are abusing that, I think you've got to step forward and clarify where you stand and then back it up with the action.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 11th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We've got a strategy for you today to help your teenager tame his tongue.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.

Dennis: Do you know who wants to quit cussing?

Bob: Who wants to quit cussing?

Dennis: Yeah.  I've got a quote here.  I'm not going to tell you who it's by until the end.  Are you ready for this?

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: She says, "I swear.  It's the one thing I really don't like about myself.  In a recent survey, 89 percent of the people said swearing is an issue with them."

Bob: Eighty-nine percent.

Dennis: Right.  She goes on to say, "Jim O'Connor runs the Cuss Control Academy, which teaches people how to stop swearing.  I agree that swearing is terrible, and I am going to quit."  Do you want to know who said that?

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: Oprah Winfrey.

Bob: Really?

Dennis: Isn't that interesting?

Bob: That is interesting.

Dennis: It almost sounds like an advertisement for someone who wants to quit smoking.  You know, I believe that our country is out of control with its language.  I mean, if you think about it, 89 percent of the people said swearing is an issue with them.  I mean, I believe we have a nation who needs to take personal responsibility for their own language, first and foremost, and then we need to take responsibility in our marriages and families.

Bob: We've talked about this issue over the last two days – I can imagine somebody who has listened saying, "Aren't there worse problems in the world?  I mean, here you are talking on the radio program about bad language, profanity – really, aren't there bigger issues we need to be dealing with than maybe letting a few adjectives slip from time to time?"

Dennis: I think there are bigger issues, there is no doubt about it.  We could talk about abortion, we could talk about sex before marriage, people living with one another …

Bob: … infidelity …

Dennis: … absolutely, adultery is one.  But, you know, one of the things that's happening in our nation is there are issues, like swearing, that are going unaddressed by the Christian community.  Personally, I have heard thousands of sermons.  I do not recall ever hearing anyone ever talking about swearing, even as a side issue, a sub-point of a sermon.  And yet the Bible talks about being careful what we say.  It says we'll be held accountable, before God, for what we say. 

 I think, Bob, maybe a personal illustration at this point would drive the point home.  Barbara and I were in Fort Collins, Colorado years ago, and the kids were in some kind of vacation Bible school or some kind of Christian conference at the time, and so we had an opportunity for a late lunch together.  And we walked in, and there was no one else in the Wendy's except these two boys, and they were college-age boys, one of whom had on a t-shirt that had a word that is so vulgar I'm not even going to refer to it.  It was just all over the t-shirt at least 200 times, maybe 500 times, I didn't count, but it was a t-shirt covered with one of the most vulgar terms I could imagine. 

 And it was about a football game that had occurred that year, and …

Bob: … they were cursing the other team.

Dennis: Right, exactly, and I sat there eating my sandwich with Barbara, and those two young men were enjoying their sandwich, and the Lord kept prompting me.  He didn't speak audibly, but I just knew it.  I said, "Barbara, I want you to go sit in the car, turn the car on," because both of these guys could have probably taken me out, if they'd wanted to, but I sent her on to the car, and I went and got a chair.  And you know how sometimes you can pull a chair where you don't sit with your back against the back, you turn around where the back is in the front?

Bob: Mm-hm.

Dennis: I pulled the chair up to their table, and where I could look both of those young men in the eyes, and I said, "You know, I just want you guys to know that I'm probably old enough to be your dad, and I have six children and a wife, and I just want to share with you, I was a college student one time, and I know that there is fun at college and all kinds of stuff, but I just need to say to you about your t-shirt.  Your t-shirt is really offensive to me.  I'm a family man," and I said, "Someday both of you young men are going to be daddies.  You're going to have your own homes, your own wife, your own children, and I'm going to tell you something, when you become a husband and a father, I promise you, if you walk into a Wendy's like this with your wife, and you see a young man wearing a shirt that has that word all over it, something within you is going to cry out for you to respond in that situation to protect your wife and your family.  And I just want you to know that I think you ought to be ashamed for wearing that in public."

Bob: That took a lot of guts.

Dennis: Well, it was interesting, Bob.  Both of those young men, and especially the young man who was wearing it, their heads began to drop, and what I should have gone ahead and done but didn't do – was I should have gone ahead and shared the Gospel.  Now, I think there's times when you shouldn't proclaim the Gospel in those situations, and maybe I was right.  Maybe that was all I should have said at that point.  You can always second-guess yourself at that point, but you know the real need of those young men in their hearts was to know Jesus Christ and be forgiven for their sins and have him as Maker, Lord, and Master of their lives.

 We're not going to change this culture just by confronting every person who wears an obscene t-shirt and ballcap or how they dress.  I mean, we're not going to change the culture that way.  But I tell you what can happen, as a result of us stepping forward, I would be curious to know whether that young man ever wore that t-shirt again.  I would almost be willing – I'm not a betting man – but I'd almost be willing to bet you that that t-shirt went in the garbage can.

Bob: You have to imagine that the next time he pulled it out of his drawer, he thought back to wearing it at Wendy's the last time, and the guy who came up and talked to him, and that had to give him a second thought about whether he was going to wear it that day.

Dennis: That's exactly right, and, you know, the whole point of why we've been talking about cursing this week on FamilyLife Today, is that we feel like it's time for individual Christians, for married couples, and for families to have standards around the subject of their speech, whether it be public or private.  And we're all modeling something for our children, for the next generation.  The question is, are we modeling speech that, as Barbara said, is befitting for a King?  The King that is our Master and our Lord?  The King for whom we are an ambassador?  Or is our speech a little earthy at points?

Bob: You know, when I was in the second grade, I spent the night over at David Gassmeyer's house, and we slept in a tent out in the side yard, and in the middle of the night, we started giggling and cussing.  I don't think I'd ever used these words before but, as an eight-year-old …

Dennis: … it sounded big.

Bob: It did, and we would cuss and giggle and cuss again and giggle, and I still have this vivid picture in my mind of the two of us kind of experimenting with cussing.  Did you ever have a situation with your kids, where you caught them cussing?  Did you ever have to discipline them for cussing?  What do you do?

Dennis: Well, I'll tell you two stories around that.  One was when we were in – well, not far from Fort Collins, Colorado, there is a river that comes out of the canyon called the Poudre River, and one of my sons and I were going rainbow trout fishing way up near the Continental Divide, and we were walking across this cactus-infested, high-country field on our way to this prime rainbow trout spot.  And one of my sons didn't cuss, but he used a slang word referring to God. 

Bob: How old was he?

Dennis: I would imagine five or six, maybe seven years old, and I remember stopping in the middle of that field, turning to my son and saying, "You know, I just want you to know that word is not appropriate, and you may not have understood that, as a young man, but I want you to know that any kind of reference to God, because He is holy, because He is a God to be feared, because He is a God to be reverenced, and He is so sacred, I just want you to know, son, don't ever use a word to ever demean or make light of the name of God.  His name is above every name, and He alone is to be worshipped, and I just want you to know the reason I don't use those words is because I reverence God, I fear Him, I love Him, and I want to please Him."

 Now, I don't know if my son remembers that conversation, but I do, and I remember it was a defining moment for me, with my children, realizing that if I slip just a little bit, my life can be a gateway, a door, through which all kinds of stuff gains entrance into my children's lives.

Bob: There is a principle in parenting that I think I've learned throughout time, and that is what we allow in moderation in our own lives, our children indulge in excess.  So, as an adult, we can say, "It's okay, it's just moderate."  Our children don't have those same kinds of controls around their lives, and they will move forward in excess.

Dennis: And that really leads me to a second story, where, on an occasion, one of my teenagers let go with a word that was inappropriate, and, you know, one of the things I think parents have got to decide is, you've got to decide what are you going to do if that happens, in advance.  Because if you don't, you're going to be caught off guard, and you're not going to know what to say, and if you're not careful, you're just going to get angry and may say something in return that hurts your teenager and that is inappropriate back to them. 

 I'm not speaking of cussing at this point, I'm just saying you need to decide how you're going to deal with that, and it had never happened with our children, but I remember sitting down with that teenager and saying, "You know what?  Those kinds of words in this family will not be used nor will they be tolerated.  There will be a punishment for that, and I want you to know that your speech needs to be reflective of who our family really is, and that is not what our family is all about."

 Now, Bob, there comes a point with teenagers where, in their rebellion, their sassiness, their own smart mouth, that I could see where a parent might want to draw a line or might be left with drawing a line with them if they refuse to honor the rule of the house, which is no cussing.

Bob: If your child comes up to you and says, "I heard this word.  What does it mean?"  Do you define curse words for your son, for your daughter?

Dennis: Well, that leads to another story, Bob.  One day we were in the kitchen, and the kitchen is kind of where these things happen, you know, they just kind of – it's kind of a de-brief, decompression time from the school day, and I believe it was Ashley, who came home from junior high or high school, and someone had used an obscene gesture, and she was wanting to know what that meant.

 Now, you know, that's a good question and how you would explain that.  And so I turned to Ashley, and I said, "You know, sweetie, what man has done is, he has taken something beautiful of a man and a woman coming together as is talked about in Genesis, chapter 2 and chapter 3, and what God said was very good, and man has twisted it.  He has perverted it, and he has made it into an angry, obscene gesture that ultimately I believe is an offense to the Lord God Almighty because what He made was very good.

 And that's as close as I've ever come to explaining a term or a word to my children.  I have had my children come home from school, as Benjamin did one day.  He came home and said, "Dad, I don't think I should be reading this book."  And he was in the eighth grade. The best teacher he had was his eighth grade English teacher.  She was a great teacher.  But she had them reading a book that had all kinds of curse words in it, expletives. 

 He held it open and showed me some of them, and I said, "I'll back you all the way, son."  So we went in to meet with the teacher, and I'll be honest with you, I had a lot of fear meeting with that teacher.  I had very clammy hands, and I didn't go in to beat her up, I went in to appeal to her to say my son has got a problem of conscience with this book.  Could you give him a different book to read?  And, did you know, it was one of the best meetings I've ever had with any teacher.

 She said, "You know what?  Someone else should have pointed that out to me earlier.  Benjamin, thank you for saying something."  Bob, we've since had meetings with teachers who have shown movies that have all kinds of language issues in them, and even some Christian teachers who have shown movies.  I'm telling you, it's everywhere.  And it's kind of like if parents don't step up, if parents don't tend to say, "You know what?  This is really. This is really not appropriate.  This is not good.  We just shouldn't allow this to occur." 

Bob: You know, a few years back, we heard about a device that you can attach to your television set.  It reads the closed captioning on TV programs or on movies that have closed captioning, and it mutes the television when those words pop up on the screen.

Dennis: It doesn't get all of them. 

Bob: It doesn't.

Dennis: It gets the lion's share.

Bob: It does, and we got one of those and, you're right, it doesn't get all of them, but it does send a message, even with having the device on the TV, it sends a message to your kids, and that is we're not going to tolerate that kind of language in the house.  Now, you could respond by saying, "Well, don't watch TV and don't bring in any movies," and that may be the appropriate response at that point.

Dennis: Yes, I can defend that response.

Bob: But, at the very least, it's made a statement to our kids – this isn't acceptable in our home.  This kind of language isn't acceptable, Mom and Dad don't use it, and it's not going to be a part of our entertainment.

Dennis: I think the home needs to be an oasis.  I think we owe it to our families to protect them and, certainly, standards for what we're going to watch and view and allow into our homes are appropriate and, going a step further with a device that actually filters out many of those words, is yet another good step to protect your home.

Bob: I guess the point, though, is that, ultimately, it's an issue of standards, not devices, right?  You can put all the devices we can find around our home but ultimately you've got to deal with what's in your heart, what's in the heart of your children, because it's a heart issue here.  And if you work to secure your home with a bunch of devices, then when your child leaves home, and those devices are no longer in place, then the question is does your child have what the child needs in his heart to be able to deal with the reality of this kind of language.

You've dealt with this subject in the book you and Barbara wrote called  "Parenting Today's Adolescent."  You not only deal with this as one of the issues facing our children, but you deal with 15 different traps adolescents are facing, and you give us, as parents, some very practical ideas on how we can steer our children clear of those traps – things like dating and and drinking, appearance, part-time jobs, sports, things that we don't always think about as traps, but they can be traps for teenagers. 

And there is also a chapter on the tongue in this book, on cussing and profanity, and I want to encourage our listeners, if you don't have a copy of the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," it is available in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can request a copy when you go to our website,  Click the red button that says "Go," on the home page.  That will take you right to an area of the site where there is more information about this book.  You'll also find information about a book by Dr. Joe Stowell that is written for the rest of us, for adults to study the weight of our words.  Not just the issue of profanity but how powerful and profound our words can be for good or for ill in the life of a relative, a friend, a loved one, anyone around us.

Again, the two books are available on our website, and our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Click the red button that says "Go" that you see on our home page, or call 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy of these books – 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  If you're interested in a copy of both books, we'll send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation on this subject this week.  Again, the website is, and the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY.

During the month of April we want to ask you if you would consider making a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  I don't know how many of our listeners realize this, but more than 60 percent of the revenue we receive each year, the funds that we have to operate our ministry, more than 60 percent of those funds come from folks like you who make a donation to help support our ministries, and we're dependent on those donations to be able to continue not only this broadcast but many of the other average ministries of FamilyLife Today.

When you make a donation during the month of April, we want to send you a thank you gift.  It's a combination book and audio book by the late Dr. Bill Bright.  Prior to his death in 2003, Dr. Bright put into book form what he regarded as the key attributes of God that ought to be studied, meditated upon.  It's how we get to know God by studying His attributes.

The book he wrote is called "The Joy of Trusting God," and we'd like to send a copy to you as our way of saying thank you for your financial support during the month of April.  Included with the book is the audio book read by John Tesch, and we'll send this out to you again when you make a donation this month of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

You can donate online, if you'd like, and when you do, as you fill out the donation form, you'll come to a keycode box where you type in the word "joy" so that we know to send a copy of this book to you, or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  Make your donation over the phone and, again, when you do, just mention that you'd like Dr. Bill Bright's book or the book, "The Joy of Trusting God."  In either case, we'll get a copy sent out to you as our way of saying thank you for your financial support of any amount this month.  We appreciate hearing from you, and we appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry.  Dennis?

Dennis: Well, I'm wondering, Bob, if we have any listeners left after talking about cussing for three days.  In fact, what I'd like to challenge you, as a listener, to do – write me and let me know what you think about what we've talked about here around the subject of cursing, swearing, and foul language.

Bob: I'd be interested in hearing stories from parents who have cured it in their children or …

Dennis: … modern-day washing out the mouth …

Bob: … with soap or maybe those who have had to deal with it in their own lives and have found what's been effective for them in terms of getting ahold of this issue.

Dennis: And I'll tell you what helped one man – a man that I was used by the Lord to help lead him to Christ, and I've never been a particularly judgmental person.  God has given me a lot of grace, and so I feel like I need to be one who dispenses grace liberally with other people, but this particular guy, I'll call him Jim, could never seem to get control of his tongue.  And it wasn't that he was foul-mouthed as in vulgar, using terrible, terrible language, but this particular businessman would just let a bad word slip every once in a while.  And this was a decade after he'd come to faith in Christ.

 Finally, I was out to lunch with him one day, and I decided, you know, I've been patient – past being patient.  I probably should have said something to him years ago.  So I put my arm around him, and I just looked him in the eye.  I said, "Jim, you know, something has always been curious about you that you've never cleaned up your language.  I'd really like to challenge you, as one who is now known in the community as a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ to let the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart be acceptable in His sight."

 You know, he looked at me, and he didn't feel any condemnation from me.  I do think he probably felt a little bit of shame from the Lord, which I think is appropriate at that point, but I do believe that gentle word of exhortation helped lift him out of the habit pattern that wasn't doing him any good, and it was one that he needed to deal with. 

 And so it may be here at the close of our broadcast today, that as I've told this story, you know of a man or of a young man who needs another man to put his arm around him and just say to him, "You know, you've said you've been a follower of Christ all these years," or, "I know you're a believer, you and I share that faith in our Bible study.  Let's clean up our act together," or "maybe you need to clean up your act."

 It takes courage, it takes faith but, Bob, I think we need to be looking out for one another in matters like this.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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