Creator of new organization aimed at stopping kids and teens from cursing explains societal and Jewish aspects of using bad language
What do Joe Biden, Mel Gibson, and Sarah Silverman all have in common? They all use bad words pretty frequently. Joe Biden is infamous for saying “this is a big f**king deal” when President Obama signed the healthcare bill; Mel Gibson for his cursed-riddled anti-Semitic, sexist, and racist remarks; Sarah Silverman for liberally sprinkling bad words throughout her comedy routines.
I find such speech patterns disturbing. In my opinion, cursing is something that should be avoided, from both a societal and Jewish point of view.
There are many negative effects of cursing. It’s a commonly accepted thought that people who use bad words are ignorant, unimaginative, immature, whiny, and have nothing better to express themselves with. It also shows that you have a bad attitude, lack of control, and very little character. When you curse and people around you don’t, you become unpleasant to be with. It’s also disrespectful, can be offensive, and can make people uncomfortable, which can endanger relationships.
When you walk outside every morning and act a certain way, you impact people’s views on not only yourself but your family, school, and community. We live in a society that frowns upon the usage of bad language, and when someone hears you cursing, they think less of you. In turn, they will think less of your parents, since they are the ones who raised you and allowed you to have such a dirty mouth.
It will also reflect poorly on the schools you have attended; after all, what kind of school would condone that kind of language? People will also hold your community in a lower regard. Your community can be any group of which you are a member, whether it’s your group of friends, ethnicity, neighborhood, or any other group to which you belong. One such group is your religious affiliation.
Judaism is extremely critical of inappropriate language, and even lays out specific guidelines for proper and improper speech. The prohibition of “lashon hara”, literally meaning evil speech, is an exceptionally important part of Judaism. In a nutshell, you are violating “lashon hara” if you say something bad about someone else, mislead, or embarrass someone. “Lashon hara” is not the only law banning bad speech; nivul peh prohibits inappropriate language, like curse words.
Another reason Jews should refrain from cursing is because it is a “chillul Hashem”, or desecration of God. When a person is openly Jewish, he or she represents every Jew, and people will judge the Jewish nation based on the behavior of the few Jews they may meet. If you curse, it’s a huge “chillul Hashem”, and people will think less of not only you, but all Jews. We are the messengers of Hashem; we need to act it.
The writers of the Talmud understood the power God gave us with speech. One teaching is that the tongue is so powerful, it has to be guarded behind two walls: the teeth and the lips. The Talmud also teaches that using bad language like “lashon hara” and “nivul peh” is considered as bad as murder, idol worship, and adultery! “The punishment for bad language is many afflictions; harsh decrees come, youths die, orphans and widows cry and are not answered,” Shabbat 33a says. It says in Arachin 15b, “Whoever speaks lashon hara raises his/her sins to the Heavens.”
The mouth is considered the Jew’s weapon. After Balaam tried to curse the Jews in “Parshat Balak”, the Jews killed him. The text mentions specifically that he was killed by sword. The medieval commentator Rashi explains that “Balaam came against Israel and exchanged his craft with Israel’s craft, for the Israelites triumph only with their mouth, through prayer and supplication, and Balaam came and seized their craft by cursing them with his mouth. They, too, came against him and exchanged their craft for the craft of the other nations, who come with the sword” (Numbers 31:8).
Because of my strong feelings against the usage of bad language, I created an organization, Bleep!, whose mission is to stop kids and teens from cursing. So far, Bleep! has almost 650 members in 24 states and 10 countries. By becoming a member, you’re stating that you understand the negative effects of cursing, and you receive an optional monthly newsletter. To join, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, state/province, and email address. Bleep! also does programs with schools. If you would like to bring Bleep! and its message of clean speech to a school near you, email email@example.com for more information.
When God told Moses at the burning bush that he was to free the Jews from Egypt, Moses told God that he could not accomplish the task because he was “heavy of mouth and heavy of speech” (Exodus 4:10). Rashi explains that Moses had a speech impediment and stuttered. Despite this setback, Moses went on to speak to Pharaoh and free the Jews. If Moses, who had a speech impediment, could do such amazing things with his ability of speech, imagine what we, who have complete control over what we say and how we say it, can do by keeping our mouths clean!