Saturday, October 20, 2018

Do You Swear?

Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

My mother never swore. Almost never. I heard her say “damn” once, but that was it. I remember one time when I was in the back seat of the car and she was driving. A nice conversation was underway between me and someone else in the car (I no longer remember who) when in response to something incredible that the other person said (probably my sister) I expressed amazement by saying "gees" instead of my usual "gee!"

Faster than a whip came my mother’s hand across my mouth. “You don’t talk like that!” she simply said, not yelling.

What did I do? What did I say? She went on to explain that “gees” was just too close to Jesus’ name. I was maybe nine or ten and I understood the Ten Commandments, especially the one about not taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Pretty rough, you’re thinking, to strike a child for that, but
I am so thankful that she did. I don’t swear. I never picked up the habit and though I’ll let a character in my books swear, it's nothing stronger than a synonym for "poop." And my characters will never, ever use the Lord’s name in vain.

I remember a sad story about a poor, homeless child learning the Christmas story for the first time. He was amazed and happy to learn about the baby’s birth, but couldn’t understand why Mary had named him with a cuss word. Sad.

Sad. Yet amazing. Does anyone curse by saying “Oh, Buddha!” or “Hare H. Krishna!” or “Allah damn it!” or anything like that? Think about it. Why do people use God's name or Jesus' name to express anger, disbelief, or surprise? I believe it's because it's a subtle habit learned and that they've never stopped to think that they are belittling the most powerful names in the universe ... names that are infinitely more sacred and holy than Buddha, Krishna, or Allah (and Allah is not the same God Christians and Jews know, but that's another post).

Psalm 148: 13
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.