How Swearing “Coarsens Our Consciousness”


My friend and I were discussing whether it "wrong" to swear. By swearing I mean saying the F word or jokes of a sexual nature. My friend's reasoning is that it shouldn't be considered immoral because these swear-words are not directed at anyone personally and.are just a human invention-that it's only considered bad because of a social construct. He agrees that using God's name in vain is immoral, but justifies other foul language as being a human invention and not inherently sinful. Is he right?

—Nirmal, UK


Dear Nirmal,

Swearing, whether using the f-word or taking God’s name in vain, is not a good practice for people who are serious about cultivating an inner spiritual life.

As a starting point I think it is important to emphasize that God does not sit in judgement of us. He is not sitting in his celestial observation room tallying up our bad deeds and good. “Oh my, Nirmal just used the f-word! Five points off his life score! Oh good, Nirmal was kind to his co-worker! Add ten points to his life score!” God is not a petty bureaucrat adding up our karma. We are God’s children. He yearns for us to return to Him. God is infinitely patient and forgiving of our shortcomings because He knows they are temporary. He knows that when we are ready to return to Him all our faults will fall away.

The reason to avoid swearing is not to avoid offending God, but because swearing coarsens our consciousness. Cultivating an inner spiritual relationship with God requires that we become ever more refined in our awareness and in our actions. Typically the way most people swear emphasizes a harsh attitude toward others and life in general. Often swearing is used to express anger and dislike. “They are just a bunch of f-ing idiots! Why the h don’t they learn to do something right!” Swearing affirms negative attitudes that the serious spiritual seeker does well to leave behind.

Sweet speech, positive thinking, kindness towards others, goodwill toward everyone, forgiveness, and humility are attitudes and actions that will help you refine your consciousness. One doesn’t have to be a plaster saint however. Using a swear word for fun or in a joke can be an expression of your playful nature. But I can’t remember encountering anyone who swears as a habit who didn’t also have a hard edge.

Cultivating inner and outer sweetness will draw God into your inner temple.

Warm regards,
Joseph (Puru) Selbie