Will Smith’s grandmother once caught him writing a rap song with cursing in it. Her disappointment was apparent, and she simply said, “Curse words are for people too ignorant to express themselves by any other means.”
Awesome quote. In fact, it’s why the Fresh Prince’s music was nearly void of any cursing.
But people – even smart people – do it anyway. Of course, there are also some really smart (and well-respected) people who don’t curse. So clearly, it’s optional.
It’s very common when I walk into a room for someone to “catch themselves” cursing – dropping and f-bomb or some other profanity (isn’t that an interesting descriptive word of what it is – why does society label it as profane?). They quickly recover and usually say, “Oh, sorry Chaps/Reverend/Sir… didn’t see you there.”
My response? “Oh don’t worry about me. I’m not offended in the least. I mean, if you don’t want to be a person of integrity, well, that’s completely your choice.”
That’s when it gets awkward. In fact, they always ask for an explanation. I mean, integrity – particularly in a public venue (even it’s just in front of their friends), is very important to most people.
“If I had my kids with me, would you curse? What if I had a reporter from Navy Times with me? What about if your grandmother was here?”
The answers are always no, no and maybe (hey, not everyone got Granny Smith!”
“Interesting,” and we ponder it together.
“Integrity, in a word, is consistency. Specifically, it is a consistency of actions, values, methods, measures and/or principles. It is related to the word (it’s base) integer, which means ‘to be whole and undivided.’ It means being who you are, wherever you are. (While we’re here – doing the right thing when no one is looking is not integrity. It simply requires discipline.)”
“So, if someone curses in one venue, but not in another, they are fractured in their behavior, which means they are not someone of integrity. So like I said, knock yourself out. I’m not upset… just disappointed because I think you’re smarter than that.” I finish with Granny Smith’s quote from so many years ago and call it a day.
So why do so many leaders (and, sad to say, Chaplains) do it? I wish I could say. Perhaps it’s a need to “fit in” – which equates to an unrecognized peer pressure. Perhaps it’s because they think they are above the need to “walk the walk.” Perhaps they just don’t care
Regardless of the reason, as someone who doesn’t curse, I frequently hear about others who do. It’s a conversation the person would never have with those other caregivers or leaders. But the message is clear – and it usually revolves around lack of respect and disappointment. Fun to hang out with? Sure. Someone to go to with serious problems? Usually not… because if they don’t walk the walk with the little things… what will they do with the big ones?
And for those who want to defend the opposing line – I’m not saying people won’t approach or trust them. I am, however, saying that people won’t approach or trust them… as much. And for every engagement, there are clearly many missed ones. Needlessly missed. But go ahead… knock yourself, Mr. or Mrs. Fractured.