The first curse word each of my children heard came out of my mother’s mouth. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of the curse words you might find in the Bible.
She wasn’t angry. or frustrated. or hurt in any way. She wasn’t speaking passionately about anything of significance. It was just a passing thoughtless comment. I’ve said in a previous post that
“I grew up with a mom who used “colorful” language. nautical colors.“
It’s not like I’ve never used colorful language myself. I freely admit that I sometimes cuss in my head. Sometimes it leaks out of my mouth or my fingertips, like in THIS post, from back in 2013. My language has not been – and probably will not be – consummately color-free. Even so, I can honestly say that in my immediate family, profanity isn’t something we regularly weave into our lives.
Of all the places we go, we hear curse words at Walt Disney World the most.
Casual replacement of the word “stuff” with the word “sh!+”
Telling children to “get their “a$$” over here!” or that they’re “going get they’re “a$$ busted!”
Calling a woman a “b!tch” – sometimes in front of her own children. or her parents.
And then there’s “shut the F#¢« up” and the tired overuse of “F#¢«ing” as an adjective.
While this language is commonplace for some, it’s startling to us. There’s an inward flinch. Our outward response is almost always silence. Because we’re articulate like that. Meanwhile, the silence feels awkward.
Here’s what I’ve observed:
If profanity is a normal part of your vocabulary, and you use it with someone who doesn’t, it doesn’t facilitate camaraderie, it creates distance.
Sometimes it leaves a lasting impression.
If you’ve decided that including profanity in your everyday vocabulary and conversations is no big deal, I’m going to pass along some unsolicited advice:
A good rule of thumb is not to use profanity with anyone until and unless they use it with you first.
And NEVER use profanity with children. Just don’t. Sure, it’s possible they’ve grown up saturated in it and are desensitized to it. But it’s also possible that profanity hasn’t been a part of their everyday life and using it with those kids doesn’t make them feel more comfortable with you. It makes them UNcomfortable. If they respect your authority as an adult, they won’t tell you they are uncomfortable.
Consider this possibility:
From a kid’s point of view, you, an adult, have perceived power/authority over them.
When you cuss, they feel that telling you it makes them uncomfortable is the same as telling you that you’re wrong.
They might believe that telling you that you’re wrong would be disrespectful.
Distance has been created. They are intimidated by you.
Intentionally or unintentionally – that intimidation is an abuse of power over kids.
Years ago, I told my kids my view of profanity: It’s often used to emphasize something, but in reality, one of things it most emphasizes is a lack of vocabulary and creativity. Using profanity, besides being unprofessional, is just plain lazy. There are so. many. words. available for use.
So, if you’re looking for some creative alternatives to colorful language, I offer these for your consideration:
In this dream, my daughter was being stalked. And NOTHING we did could stop the stalker.
If you’ve read my blog before or follow me on facebook, you already know my daughter LOVES people. Genuinely, empathetically, compassionately, passionately loves people. She gets a high from encouraging people that I think actually fuels her. When someone hurts, she hurts. And she prays. She prays for people she loves, she prays for people who are mean to her and she prays for people she doesn’t even know.
She prays because she’s already figured out that most of the time, while she can make things better by loving people, she can’t fix some things. Some things are too big, but she knows God can do ANYthing.
And that’s how the horrible dream started. She befriended someone in pain. And he latched onto her. It wasn’t long before he began telling her she was an inspiration to him. “You are my inspiration” soon led to “You are the only one who understands me.” He gave her gifts. She caught him staring at her often. He began saying things that made her worry that he might hurt himself and she began to feel responsible for his emotional state.
In real life, she shares everything with me, so of course, in my dream, she told me all this. In my dream, I coached her to still be herself and not to hold back from being kind to him, but to never be alone with him, to always be in a group and to always make sure she didn’t treat him differently than she treated anyone else.
Then everything changed. Instantly.
(remember, this is a dream)
In the dream the chronology was all over the place. Her age ranged from 13 to 18, but one thing was a constant. We were desperate. We tried everything we could think of. We started by changing her schedule so she didn’t have classes with him. We took her to a therapist to help her cope and to help her understand how he was trying to manipulate her. We resorted to changing schools, which broke her heart because she had to leave all her friends. We sent her to relatives. She and I moved. The entire family moved. Across town and out of state. Her dream of working as a Disney princess was impossible because he would stalk her at work. He broke into our house. He vandalized our house. Sabotaged her car. Followed her. Restraining orders did nothing. If he was arrested, he started up again as soon as he was released.
NOTHING we did made any difference at all.
And then (don’t forget – this is a dream)
I remembered. God can do anything. We had spent years trying to handle the situation on our own and nothing had worked. So I gave it all up to God. I prayed like a widow (persistently, like in Luke 18:8).
And suddenly, PinkGirl was 13 again. It was like I rewound the dream. None of the horrible, unpreventable things had happened yet.
And in my prayers, God reminded me of an article I read a while back written by an elementary school teacher. I don’t remember the specifics, but she was heartbroken about a school shooting or maybe the Boston Marathon bombing, I don’t remember. She wondered about the childhood of these people who kill. She was burdened. And in working through that burden, she recognized her influence. The power she had to impact young lives and maybe, hopefully, change the trajectory of those lives. She wrote about her teaching philosophy. In her classroom, every single day she was identifying the subtle way some kids were being excluded and isolated and she was not only lovingly, creatively and intentionally putting stop to it, but molding the character of the other students as she taught them to see people. Really SEE people. Compassionately. And in the process, that isolated kid, the one who felt invisible and unloved and unaccepted began to change his opinion of himself and of the people in his life.
So (remember, this is a dream) I went to the administrators of PinkGirl’s (private, Christian) school and told them what was happening with this boy and PinkGirl. I told them about the article. We made a plan. Every. single. middle school teacher began to intentionally speak into this boy’s life. To SEE him. To validate him, encourage him, mentor him. To constantly reinforce that God loves him unconditionally. That Christ loved him so much He died for him. To teach him that even though the people in his life might fail him, God never will. Everyone involved began praying that he would find and accept Christ and that these teachers who interacted with him 7 hours a day, 5 days a week would have a chance to disciple him before he moved on to high school.
As the teachers began to draw him into group activities and the other kids began to really see him too…
I woke up. (At the crack of dawn, way before I needed to, I might add.)
And I remembered these two facebook posts I wrote about my daughter back in February:
I LOVE my daughter’s school and the middle school teachers. She just called me in uncontrollable happy tears to tell me how much she loves me because she just came out of a class where her classmates (PinkGirl included) just “poured their hearts out about everything they were all going through and how we’re all so thankful and blessed that we have Christ in our lives to help us and…” Her next class was Bible and she asked to go to the office to call me and ask me to come up to school so she could hug me. I’m outta here. #ilovemydaughter
Just got back from going to PinkGirl’s school to give her a requested mid-day bear hug. One of the kids involved in that heart-wrenching discussion was sharing really, really hard things and everyone was telling him it would be okay. PinkGirl said: “I can’t promise you everything will be okay. At least not the way we see our life. But it will be okay the way God sees it. I think God is using the things in our lives to mold us into the people we’re going to be. It’s like a blacksmith. Sometimes, a blacksmith has to heat stuff up and hit it really hard with a hammer to mold it into something beautiful. The blacksmith knows what he’s making.”
#ilovemydaughter #seepeople #reachout
And I remembered how my daughter had told me that this boy had later told her she was an inspiration to him. And how he had given her a few small presents. She told me it made her uncomfortable. And I remember how I had coached her to continue being his friend, but to always stay with a group when she was around him. I had explained that she wasn’t equipped to help him, so she shouldn’t give him any advice, but she could be his friend and pray for him.
There was no going back to sleep.
So I went downstairs to curl up on my loveseat with a cup of coffee and my prayer journal.
And I wrote this:
“Lord I HATED that dream. Please help me use whatever I learned from it. I pray Lord, that if we are ever in that situation, that’s exactly how we would respond.”
“I pray for PinkGirl’s friend from school. Can’t remember his name Lord, but you know who he is. Please draw him close to you and let him know You love him.”
Driving PinkGirl to rehearsal later that morning, I asked her about the boy from school, and she reminded me that for some reason, he wouldn’t be returning to her school next year.
So. That’s that, right?
Except that when I went to pick her up, I found out that the boy had come to her theater company asking about auditions.
I had a flash of fear. The dream wasn’t even 12 hours old.
But then I realized. This theater PinkGirl goes to? SEEING kids is what they DO. It’s saturated in their culture. They don’t just help kids develop their talent, they also focus on helping kids develop strong character and confidence. They mentor kids from teeny to teenager. When a kid first comes to them, they start with the assumption that each one wants to please and to be validated. They search for aptitude and potential and try to help kids grow into their strengths and to gain confidence and become self-motivated by providing age and skill appropriate challenges and holding them accountable. Any sign of kids excluding kids isn’t allowed. The more outgoing kids are mentored and taught to be intentionally inclusive and specifically encouraging to the shy and quiet kids. Constructive criticism isn’t shied away from, but shaming criticism and demoralizing sarcasm isn’t tolerated for a fraction of a second. Like the teacher who wrote the article, these kids, if they stay with this company, begin to recognize the power of their words and actions and their ability to influence others through encouragement and inclusion.
This boy is a beginner, so if he does come to PinkGirl’s theater, it’s likely he won’t be in the same productions, at least for a while. But I’m confident that if this boy comes to this theater company, he will be seen. He will be included. By the time he interacts with PinkGirl in that environment, she will not be the only person who inspires him.
Or prays for him.
No matter who you are, there are people in your circle of influence. People you are in a continuing relationship with and people you will interact with today and may never see again. Start with prayer. Ask God to show you who those people are. Ask God to equip you. Because God can do anything.
You can spend years trying to handle a situation on your own or you can give it all up to God. And pray like a widow that He would bless you with wisdom and discernment and patience and stamina and…pray like a widow that He will guide you. Pray that you would have the courage and motivation to be obedient.