Ramadan Reflections: Day Thirteen — Well, &^%$.

Cursing can be hilarious. At the right moment, a cuss word can be the best part of a joke or a fun addition to an emphatic statement. I can only speak for myself, but as someone who was raised on a diet of Chappelle’s Show, Mad TV, and Saturday Night Live, bad words have given me a hearty laugh countless times.

This is a problem for me during Ramadan. During this holy month especially, Muslims are encouraged to be careful and intentional with their words. This includes refraining from gossiping, lying, saying unkind things to one another, and of course, cursing.

To be clear, I am not in the business of cussing people out on a regular basis and sending a middle finger to all who annoy me. Have I done both before? Sure. Am I able to abstain from such things when necessary? Certainly. Is it difficult right now? %$#! yes. Ramadan has been instrumental in helping me recognize what serves as a spark for my cursing.

At work during Ramadan, for example, I do not feel the need to use colorful language. This is probably because I am not cursing in general while at work. I work with children and that is not how I would prefer to be fired.

At home, my husband and I never curse at each other, but we do curse in conversation. Our cursing is usually a result of discussing the current state of the world and saying things such as, “What the *&^% is happening?” or “What the &$#! is he thinking?” or “Now we are all &^%$*!.”

Yesterday, I realized what (rather, who) is the biggest contribution to my cussing: my younger brother. When I write the story of my life, my brother will encompass several chapters, so I will spare the details at this time. My brother and I are almost polar opposites in every way, with the exception of two areas: food and humor. We both love to eat (and love to eat the same things at the same places) and find the same things hilarious. Our closeness comes from the fact that food and humor are important to us, so it brings us together more than the other things separate us.

When I saw my brother yesterday, wearing his large gold chain (a chain I firmly believe is not made of real gold, but he insists it is), I blurted out a joke immediately. Well, &^%$. It happens instantly because this is what we do. It is what many siblings do. What I said, though a joke to both of us, still was not kind. It was not something I should have said, and not during Ramadan.

Lesson of the day: I must avoid my brother all month in order to be a good person. I am kidding, but recognizing what prompts my less-than-wonderful behavior is important. Watching the news is not the cause, but the fact that I am upset with the status quo is. My brother is not the cause, but the fact that I enjoy joking with him is.

Ramadan helps to shed a light on the feelings behind word choice.

The news alone does not make me use fowl language. Some news is great news, but when I do curse in response to a current event, it comes from a place of frustration. I curse in these situations because I am angry. Identifying the root cause can allow me to channel my emotions more effectively. I need to take a break. Go for a walk. Turn off the TV. Take a deep breath.

My brother alone does not make me use fowl language. In this instance, because he jokes around with me in the same way I joke around with him, my word choice is mostly harmless. For us, it is used as a way to build friendship. We could find less crass ways to do so though, so I will work on that. Luckily, there are no feelings hurt and we still express that we care about each other. My brother even says, “Love you” on the phone. I am sharing this publicly, partly to embarrass him and partly to remind myself that he has moments when he is not being an @$$. Some days, his heart is almost as gold as his chain.

Cursing as a mechanism of spreading hate is unacceptable, always. Any words used to spread hate are unacceptable, always. We all have a responsibility to take a step back to examine the function and purpose of our words. Sometimes, it may be something as simple as communicating a joke. Other times, it can alert us to things that are causing us pain and need to be addressed. Whatever it may be, it is worth examining the meaning and reasons behind the words we choose to use, even ones in this cool language of symbols I have been using throughout this reflection. Words $%^*(*& matter.