What Makes Bad Words Bad?

I’ve been thinking a lot about bad words lately. What makes a word bad? Is it because society says they are bad? Or is there an absolute that keeps the good words good and the bad words bad? I have thought about this for weeks and am not really sure how I feel about it.

We hear bad words every day. On TV, in the movies, at the store…everywhere. I have heard them spoken by God fearing people and by people who could care less about God.

I have been told…

  • They are just words. 
  • They are just words to better express how we feel.
  • Bad words are bad words only to the people who think they are bad. (???)
  • You say shoot instead of sh_t, so how is that any better?

Okay, so it’s true. I sometimes say shoot. So what makes that better than saying the real thing? Why is it okay to say shoot but not sh_t? And why is it okay to type the word sh_t when it has a letter missing? Why do I feel the need to do that instead of typing the whole word. I am not using it in a bad way, but talking about it in an essay.

And that brings up another question. What makes bad words okay to use to express your feelings? Is it only bad when directed at someone else?

When you use bad words to insult someone, yes, that is terrible. You should never say things to hurt another person…with or without bad words. But how about using bad language when you hurt yourself and are angry? You are just expressing yourself, right? But why isn’t it okay to just say ouch?

I don’t really have any answers to all my questions, but I do know what the scriptures say about the words I speak.

  • May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
  • Keep your  mouth free of perversity (corrupt, improper); keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Proverbs 4:24
  • …the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful in building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
  • Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. Brothers and sisters, this should not be. James 3:10
I know these scriptures don’t necessarily directly talk about bad words, but I think that when they mention perversity and corrupt talk, bad words would be included. But these scriptures also imply that gossip and slander would also be included and I know I have been guilty of that. I don’t always build up others as I should. Sometimes I can be critical, when in reality I have my open problems I should deal with. 
None of us are perfect and we will never be. We will always miss the mark. We do have God’s grace and mercy to cover us and heal us. But that doesn’t give us license to keep on doing wrong that grace may abound. We need to watch the words we say, using them to build others up, encouraging those around us. 
What are your thoughts about bad words? 

6 responses to “What Makes Bad Words Bad?”

  1. I was just talking about this with a friend the other day as well as my husband. He asked, “Who decided what word was bad and what wasn't?” I have no idea. But I do agree that wholesome talk should pass our lips and I am guilty of saying crap a lot. lol I can't say I've felt convicted for that. I do know we shouldn't be the ones to cause a brother to stumble and if what we say does that, then we've sinned. Good questions today! I'm interested in reading the comments!


  2. I think one of the ways we are made in the image of G-D is that our words contain creative power. They can cause good or ill to go out from us into the rest of creation. If a word is good- good fruit comes from it, if it is bad, bad fruit is harvested.


  3. This is Laurie by the way. I have no idea why I come up as “the optimist”. That is not the nickname I would have thought of for myself..lol 😛


  4. Hmm to me there are two types of 'bad' words. Crude ones such as sh-t and the like and ones where you take the Lord's name in vain. I guess you could say the first could be unwholesome talk but most had a real use before their meaning changed so I don't know. I try not to use them anyways, although reading or hearing them lots tends to make them rattle around in my head and try to pop out. 😡


  5. I love that, Laurie…that our words contain creative power. Good thoughts!


  6. C.L., isn't it interesting that many of the origins of many bad words had real use. So how do those words get bad??? It's weird, isn't it? I wonder if, because we hear them so much, we tend to not be as sensitive to it. I don't know… 🙂


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