how do you stop swearing?

Growing up in a pretty nasty neighbourhood in Jalan Besar, I picked up all kinds of language from gangsters and pseudo-gangsters. In retrospect, it must have been quite a sight to hear a prepubescent boy spewing endless vulgarities in a high-pitched voice, at people who were probably twice his size. I must have been possessed to have such guts.

Being educated in Anglo-Chinese School only made it worse. If I learnt lewd dialect in the rougher neighbourhood environment, then I certainly balanced it off with an equivalent amount of profane English words in a polished and cultured institution. Swearing became a part of my vocabulary and it was a routine for me as a 14-year-old to curse in hellish language on weekdays and to praise the Lord with hallelujah language on weekends.

I was a hypocrite and a terrible testimony in how I used my tongue for good and for evil.

The use of vulgarity could be habitual; it gets dangerous when this bad habit becomes chronic. Regardless of your religious beliefs, there’s nothing worth boasting about if you are expending an arsenal of damning words in your daily usage. You could be 13 years old or 30 years old and still there won’t be a good reason to employ the use of abusive words. I’d like to believe that in a professional (or even in a social) setting, it is a massive turn-off if you carelessly and subconsciously allow vulgarities to roll off your lips. The scary thing about swearing is that there no longer seems to be any societal standard anymore. These negative expressions have been infused into our culture and it has become the neutral norm, unfortunately. No one frowns at a cussing teenager anymore.

Personally, I have enforced a no-swearing rule wherever I went, so long as I was allowed to exercise authority – be it with my tank platoon, colleagues or in TeamR-AGE. And just very recently through REAL2010, I also enforced a complete boycott of all lewd words – including DMN, SHT and WHL. I’m proud of my REAL champs for this achievement of the epilation of vulgarities in their communication. I used to toss these three words frivolously, but now, the mere sound of these words make me cringe and become instantly uncomfortable.

But that’s my conviction and I do not wish to shove it down anyone’s throat; I’d be careful not to get too legalistic. This doesn’t make me a better Christian, of course, but I think it makes me a more effective witness for Jesus. I pay special attention to the words that I use not because I am concerned about my personal reputation or because I’m a youth minister. I scrutinise my language because I am more concerned about the reputation of Jesus, whom I’m an ambassador of.

I fondly remember a particular sermon at my first Grace Retreat in 1997, that turned my life around; DF, the founder of R-AGE, preached about “Bullseye Living” and it was at the altar call that I rededicated my wretched, hypocritical and double-headed life back to Jesus. I consciously and willingly (not emotionally) decided to make Christ my bullseye that afternoon and to start to live like a real Christian. The first thing that the Spirit prompted me to change, was to cease swearing immediately.

Honestly, I don’t know how you behave when you’re out there; I don’t know if you’re the same person at home, in school and in church. A lot of you may struggle to quit this destructive and seemingly incurable habit of swearing. I’d like to offer you some advice – and the method which I practised to great effect to help me kick this awful habit.

I simply prayed and asked the Spirit to help me stop swearing. Then I simply decided not to swear anymore. And that was it – an instantaneous decision that resulted in an instantaneous change – cold turkey, if you know what I mean. I returned to school after that June vacation and left all my baggage and bad habits buried at the foot of the cross.

If I, someone with a comprehensive knowledge of destructive vulgarity in all languages, could overcome swearing overnight, then surely you can do it too. Ask the Spirit to help you and by the grace of God you will eradicate all unwholesome talk and commence to use your tongue for His glory alone. I’m praying for you!

About Joey Asher Tan

Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing; I am absolutely nothing without Christ.

Posted on May 15, 2010, in A Walk To Remember, Affirming Faithfulness, Attempted Provocation, Extraordinary Mundane, Forever Young, In Your Face, Retrospective Reflections, Simple Pleasures and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. jackie dickie

    Wow! Joey! that is a powerful message and testimony to the power of our Lord!! Keep up the good work. God bless you! Phil. 4:13

    • thanks for the encouragement, jackie. it’s really nice to know that you read my blog. (: to God be all the glory in how He has been faithful in my life. God bless you too, sister. (:

  2. Hi Joey,

    This is the first time I’m reading your article and your blog, and I must say that I’m very impressed with your conviction towards God.

    I’m a frequent user of the SHT word for ages, and did not find anything wrong with it, until the day I heard my 3-yr-old boy repeat after me with the same intensity. It was a big slap across my face, as I realised how much of a mentor I was to him. I’m his role model, his idol, so I have to set an example. Since then I’ve stopped swearing. Not only in front of my son but all the time. It was tough; sometimes I just subconsciously blurt it out, but it’s much better now.

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog, so keep it coming. :-)
    Take care Joey.
    May God bless you.

    Taju Nisa

    • hey nisa!

      wow. it’s so cool to reconnect with you on my blog. i haven’t seen you in a decade. man! you have a 3 year old already! it must be great! i can’t wait to be a father myself, but it won’t be so soon! (:

      thanks for your encouragement. it’s true, we only realise the damage of our words when we damage our loved ones. it’s great to know that your boy has motivated you to get rid of a habit that you also want to get rid off – congrats! (: i remember my 4-year-old cousin picking up “aiyo!” from my mum. it’s not vulgar, but it shows you how influential you are as an adult. (:

      thanks for reading and supporting! and thanks for sharing your story! see you around some day. (:

  3. Hey Joey! SMT here, i like ur recent post, very meaningful!

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