Recently, sparked by a philosophical conversation with Pace (as many of the great things in my life are), I started paying attention to how often the other people in my life cuss. I found, surprisingly, that I am, by far, more prone to foul language than anyone else I regularly converse with – I cuss like the proverbial sailor, while my friends and cohorts only occasionally use such words. I remember some time ago, Pace asking a few of the people we admire most if they ever swear, and the general consensus said that they don’t.
Back then, I was baffled! I had a very non-witchy attitude: I thought words are just words! A word being deemed a “swear” word or a “dirty” word doesn’t make it so – just because some random assignation from some random doods a very long time ago made some words bad and others not doesn’t mean anything to me.
I mean, it seems to me that hell and damn are bad simply because of the local dominant religion. What makes shit bad and poop not, ass is bad but butt is fine – and why are most of our cuss words souped up versions of bodily functions or body parts, anyway? And come on – if I say flipping, fricking, frelling, fracking, or even fudge – you totally know what I really mean.
So what’s the big deal?
I’d get all bah-humbug on it. I’d rail against the Control Paradigm and say that cussing was a way to make all words equal. There’s nothing wrong with casual use of cussing! I defend my right to say what I want, when I want! And to hell with anyone who says otherwise. I had an internal censor for times when I was around other people’s kids, since most people don’t particularly want their toddler to swear like a sailor (what’s with the bad rap for sailors, anyway?), but generally, I had a severe case of potty mouth.
Okay, but still. So what? I cuss, you probably cuss, most people cuss. Why all the fuss? (I made a rhyme!)
Because I started noticing that I cuss more when I’m angry. I get flared up and the swears start streaming; the f-bomb is indeed a word bomb, an explosion, dropping heated anger onto my target from afar. I shout swear words when someone cuts me off in traffic. I mutter them when I drop something on the floor. I bark them when I stub my toe.
I decided to see what it would be like to stop. I ran an experiment over the last few days, while we’ve been traveling. I asked Pace and the boy to help me notice when I say the Big Four (fuck, damn, shit, hell), and I’d rephrase. Just like when I rephrased “should” out of my vocabulary, I figured this would be the easiest way to run the experiment.
Honestly, I didn’t think this would be any big deal. I figured at best I’d be slightly more PG, but I doubted any real good would come of it. I like to experiment, I like to try things, and I’m incredibly curious, so I gave it a shot.
But the results shocked me.
After only two hours, I was already feeling lighter. We’re driving a lot (as you might imagine), and after six hours on the road, my tiredness level was high. A truck cut me off, nearly swiping my fender in the process, and I tensed up. I could feel the anger bubbling, I could feel the words forming on my lips. But I took a deep breath, relaxed, and said, “Well, you’re certainly in a hurry. Welcome to my lane.”
And poof; I defused.
A full day later and I was feeling markedly more relaxed in general. I was amazed. Seriously? One day without cussing and I’m already feeling better? What’s up with that?
The thing is, I’ve learned to associate swearing with feeling angry. I’m not always angry when I cuss, but more often than not, that’s when the Big Bads come out to play. If I focus my attention on my language, I find that I can relax before I even start talking. I complain less. I’m more charitable to those around me. I’m less judgmental. I’m less prone to steaming, stewing, holding grudges, and being pissy.
I’m finding that I’m more prone to being chill. I’m more likely to give someone the benefit of the doubt. I’m more likely to be gracious and kind.
I’m focusing on the positive instead of living in the negative.
And all it took was a shift in my vocabulary. I don’t think I would’ve believed it – in fact, I know I wouldn’t have believed it – if I hadn’t experienced it myself. It’s remarkably surprising to me, but here I am. Cussing less, stressing less, and suddenly finding more love and peace in my heart.
What small step can you take, right now, to bring great (and possibly unexpected) benefits to your own life?