One of my favorite things about being the youngest in a group is hearing about “kids these days.” I tend to enjoy a good social science experiment so I don’t write it off to crotchety old women, but rather compare their observations to my experience.
A recent complaint centered around foul language and its frequent use in society. The women in my group felt most sensitive about the use of the Lord’s name and the frequency in which they heard it used as an expression of frustration or even disbelief. I have to agree that our casual approach in our culture has crept into language. Just last night KLM told me an outrageous story about a man wearing a shirt (in public, with his 8-year-old son in tow) that dropped the F*bomb in an ignorant fashion.
So I ponder: why the increased use? How do many younger generations become insensitive to words that used to make others blush? My hypothesis centers around the large amount of noise in our society, which leads to individuals simply not being heard.
As the mother of 2 kids who have impaired hearing, I know the frustration that comes from being ignored, intentional and otherwise (they are toddlers, so selective hearing is also the cause). More than once I’ve stomped my feet when my words fly past them unnoticed. My family resource people tell me that often background noise causes part of this; we need to make sure the TV is off and limit other sources of interference. This works fine at home, but we don’t always have control of those variables in the real world.
I wonder if individuals who use offensive words are verbally stomping their feet, kicking and screaming. Foul language meets a need: to add emphasis. People are trying to show that they mean it. When someone says “Jesus, that was fun!” what they mean is “We had a really, really good time.” Their feelings lack language to express the depth. And because they feel something strongly, they want it heard. “We had a nice time” gets glossed over in our culture because we rarely stop to really explore what another person thinks or feels. We care too little if someone had a good time. But they feel it and they want to share about it and a popular tool is to use words that aren’t fair representations of their emotions, but it’s familiar and easily available.
I don’t think it’s fair to ask others not to use language that others finds offensive without putting in the hard work of hearing what they have to say. Perhaps flagrant words appear frequently because they become habit; but perhaps they became habit because the person was habitually ignored.
Like most societal trends, instead of pointing out the ways in which someone lives opposite our standards and sticking a label of blame upon them, we could benefit – dare I suggest even rectify? – by asking what put them in that position in the first place. Yes, perhaps it’s a choice or preference. Or it could be their reaction to something much deeper, much more systemic. Perhaps the energy we put forth in judgment could be better used toward understanding.