Thinking Out Loud

May 17, 2015

The Worst Word

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

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The scene is etched rather clearly in my memory. We were driving on the freeway heading to a Christian conference grounds for a week of spiritual retreat. My parents were in the front of the car, and I was occupying a middle seat in the back, affording me a clear view of everything from the front window.

It was then I saw the word, spray-painted in black on the side of the bridge; a four-letter, one syllable word beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet.

[Pausing while people count.]

With my mastery of Hooked on Phonics kicking in full steam, I blurted the word out.

The lecture kicked in immediately. “That is the worst word;” I was told. Now that I knew that, I was given a warning that using that word again would result in my mouth washed out with soap. Or worse.

“What word is that?” I asked.

Okay, I didn’t ask that.

As years went by I started to wonder if that word really is the worst word, especially now that it turns up occasionally in Christian books, purely for provocation of course. Maybe we’re all becoming desensitized.

As I matured, I decided that to name a particular word worse than others was somewhat arbitrary. If anything, I think that hearing God’s name or the name of Jesus misused probably grates on me to a much greater degree.

Blasphemy is clearly the worst.

But so are words of hate. Hate speech can be racist rhetoric, or it can be the over-reaction of internet trolls speaking out against people who disagree with their pet doctrine or favorite Bible translation, or people who simply don’t use the same terminology as they do to express the gospel.

I still think the use of the F-word represents a lack of refinement. It is clearly still considered substandard English. However, it doesn’t raise my blood pressure as much as the aforementioned alternatives.

Do you agree?


  1. I agree with you. I was in the military for 20 years and have heard so much profanity ot barely phases me any more other than, as you said, it represents a lack of refinement.

    Mocking faith, taking The Lords name in vain, and blasphemy are far worse and much more offensive to me.

    Comment by I 53:5 Project — May 17, 2015 @ 8:23 am

  2. As a radio guy there are certain words I just don’t use, figuring if they aren’t part of your daily vocabulary they won’t mistakenly show up on air. But I have never quite understood why scatalogical and sexual terminology is (was) so offensive. Waht does that say about us as a culture?

    I grew up in Quebec. Swearing in French is vastly different than in English. It has nothing to do with sex and excrement, and everything to do with the church. I wont repeat examples. I suspect many modern Quebecois, raised in a post-Christian society, don’t know what their swear words really mean.

    Blasphemy is a much different matter, for more offensive to my ears and I am sure to God’s. It is about respect. However, unlike some who follow a different God, I do not feel it is my responsibility to punish those who blaspheme. I figure an all-powerful God can deal with that Himself.

    Hate speech has increasingly bcome a problem due the popularity of anonymous internet communication. Given humanity’s sinful nature I am not sure if we can ever eradicate the problem. All we can do is be faithful to the calling to love and try to help those who are less than loving to see how things should be.

    Comment by Lorne Anderson — May 17, 2015 @ 8:50 am

  3. Great comments. People are quite good at saying incredibly horrible things and hateful sentiments without ever stooping to using profanity. Is it the four letter word our culture deems offensive that God is really concerned about? Or is it the way we speak about and treat each other?

    Not saying a potty mouth is excused, or even a good thing. But again, I’ve heard some profoundly hurtful but legalistically clean words come out of mouths that never drop an f-bomb. And I have to say, I care far less for the former than the latter. Good thoughts.

    Comment by sonworshiper — May 17, 2015 @ 10:54 am

  4. I agree! Using foul language is, in itself, not the worst – it shows a lack of a proper vocabulary or laziness to find the right words to describe one’s emotional thought – and adds nothing to a story for me when used by others. If I said “cat” in the same context as some regularly use the f/word, then it renders that word as bad as the f/word. When we search for proper words to describe our feelings – we actually learn and grow each time we speak. I know this when I read the bible! By the way, I can still remember what soap tastes like! :)

    Comment by Planting Potatoes — May 17, 2015 @ 11:01 am

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