Watch your language, please

Published 12:27 pm Saturday, August 31, 2013

by Abbie Long

Question:  I’m in my 30s. I try not to use a lot of bad language. I have a friend who is my same age, but she has no problem letting whatever fly out of her mouth whenever she wants. When we are in public together I get embarrassed about what other people, especially kids, will hear her say and then associate with me. I have asked her to keep her voice down but she says she is just talking like everybody else. I don’t want to quit going places with her so what should I do?

Answer:  Many curse words including “S—” trace back to Anglo Saxon text written throughout the 5th to 11th centuries. Ancient Romans laid the foundation for the modern day f-bomb. Swearing can alleviate pain and can be a useful substitute to physical violence. The average person incorporates as many swear words into his daily speaking as he does first person pronouns such as we, our and ourselves. Kids often learn a four-letter word before they learn the alphabet. These somewhat obscure pieces of swearing trivia describe the background behind the phenomena’s tradition and provide an explanation for its tendency to become habitual.

When a person uses profanity or displays any other bad habit at an inappropriate time, he damages his image and often limits his potential. For example, a pastor who swears during his message from the pulpit appears as hypocritical to his congregation and loses their respect. The use of profanity by a job seeker during a high level corporate interview portrays unprofessionalism and hurts his chances to land the position. Although it is never acceptable for any witness of bad language to judge or condemn the deliverer for his actions, it is the responsibility of the observers who disagree with the actions to serve as a positive influence whenever possible.

A recent study conducted by Framingham Heart, a company that has been collecting large amounts of information on subjects since 1948, provides encouragement for any who accept this responsibility. It determined that the attitude you maintain has a direct impact on your friends’ attitudes and theirs’ on yours. It goes on to describe the more friends you have who are discontent the more likely you are to become discontent. This transfer of attitude also works in the reverse for contentment despite the fact negativity was determined to be twice as infectious as happiness.

Address your current swearing dilemma by remaining focused on the influential power you have to increase the health of your friend’s bad habit rather than on the influential power she has to decrease the health of your good image. As you press forward with this initiative, remain patient and love your friend throughout the process. Keep reminding yourself a love for her does not require a love for her choice of words.

Although unbeknownst to her, any improvement to her bad habit you can facilitate will help her get that job or capitalize on some other opportunity to advance her life’s potential. Never, however, underestimate the strength of traditions, habits, and humans, including your friend, to formidably oppose change. As long as you stay strong, remain patient, continue to persevere, and never forget to pray, the positive will reign victorious over the negative.

Realize any casual observer’s judgment of you for associating with your friend is unwarranted and do not let it deter your efforts. If you detect a topic of conversation, which elicits anger within your friend, quickly divert the subject to one with mood lightening capability such as humor, animals and children. Anger often triggers swearing and when unable to be avoided all together should be negated immediately when it does arise. By forcing disruption on her thought process, you will necessitate a pause in her speech for mental readjustment. This break in conversation for thought reassembly gives any bystanders within audible range time to move past.

Is your friend correct when she says her use of bad language is “just like everybody else’s”? According to what I hear in today’s music, movies, TV, schools and average public places, my answer is yes. Just because cursing is growing in popularity and becoming more accepted as normal does not mean you have to subscribe to the trend. Influential leaders, like yourself, leave legacies through the establishment of new styles, not through the participation of existing ones.

 ABBIE LONG is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your question to askabbie@tidewaternews.