Sometimes cussing is a form of armor used to disguise a lack of vocabulary or general insecurity and fear. Sometimes it’s an act of rebellion against the falsity of civil society. And sometimes it can be a spiritual practice that sets a person free.
Don’t get me wrong. No one would mistake me for tattooed, ballsy, and fabulous Nadia Bolz-Weber. (If you do, please let me know. It will make my day.) Nadia often portrays herself as a cranky spiritualist prone to cussing. The brashness of her language seems like a strange contradiction to the vulnerability of her message and Christ-like acceptance of people the Church wrote off years ago.
Such a contradiction can be baffling when you’re raised to believe that the best evidence of your faith is the fruit in your life and that swearing equals rotten fruit. Or maybe not. I’m sure there are those who use habitual cursing as a reason to write off people like Nadia.
Maybe that’s why I shied away from swearing for so long — fear of judgment. Whatever the reason, I became one of those people who could not get away with cursing.
Once, when I was listening in on a conversation between my husband and his brother, I felt both passionate about my own views and a need to feel included. So I decided to punctuate my rhetoric with cursing.
It was a mistake. I felt it the moment the word left my mouth. My cheeks turned hot and my brother-in-law’s lips curled in a lazy smile.
“You’re not a cusser,” he informed me. My own embarrassment was all the confirmation I needed. He was right.
It’s kind of funny, really. I knew he meant it as a compliment. But I also realized that I had allowed myself to become typecast in roles that didn’t give me permission to be fully human.
I was the stay-at-home mother of three adorable boys, a foster parent. I was the big sister. I was the Sunday School teacher.
Which are lovely and admirable and I was happy to be that. Problem is no one is only those things or can be those things all of the time.
The reliable older sister needs someone to care of her. Even this sweet mother of three needs to be seen by her husband as a lover. I need a faith that’s about more than appearances and people pleasing.
And I need a Jesus that doesn’t mind a little cussing so long as I’m not cutting someone down and it’s true to who I am and what I’m trying to communicate and I’m not saying it just because I’m afraid of being left out.
My point is this: The faith journey is a paradox. Sometimes just when you’re closest to the truth, you look the farthest away.
When I was a sweet, non-cussing lady, I looked great even as I felt exhausted and phony. My outside life did not reflect who I was inside because I had gotten so good at hiding.
Now that I’m filtering my language less and resisting the urge to cover up with religious verbosity, I get more blank stares and tsks and you-weren’t-raised-like-that-young-lady.
I know, I want to tell them. That’s how I know I’m on the right track.