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Freedom of Speech and Cursing

by Izzy Kalman (September 2004)

One of my weaknesses is that I am not a quick thinker. This is quite a drawback for me when I am asked questions at my seminars. I often regret my answers, and later a better answer hits me, and I feel like kicking myself for not having known what to say at the right time.

I am a firm believer in the wisdom and morality of freedom of speech. At my seminars, I demonstrate that freedom of speech should apply to cursing. Some people, though, have been so strongly conditioned against cursing that they have a hard time accepting what I teach even after they observe it demonstrated so successfully.

I invite a volunteer to play student and I am the teacher. The student is to curse me for having failed her on a test. The first time, I refuse to tolerate the cursing and demand an aplogy. Instead of apologizing, the student typically continues cursing me until I blow my stack and send her to the principal. The student ends up hating me and she no longer wants to learn from me. I have lost a student.

Then I start over again, and this time I do nothing to stop her from cursing me. I only discuss with her why she failed and offer to help her do better in school. She almost immediately stops cursing me, and we get to the true issue, which is why she failed and how she can do better. Instead of losing a student, I end up with one who has a better attitude towards education.

Two audience members obviously had difficulty accepting this. One said that he sets limits on cursing. When I asked him how he does it, he couldn’t give me a clear answer. I assume this means that he punishes kids if they go beyond his limits for cursing, whatever those limits may be. Another man said that the third of the Ten Commandments forbids us to blaspheme with God’s name.

This was close to the end of the seminar and I was running out of time. There was another important topic I wanted to cover, so I hastily gave a couple of replies about how we are punishing our kids because of ancient superstitions, and impatiently added that no one is required to accept anything I teach at my seminars. I finished the seminar with a lousy feeling, knowing I had done a poor job with this.

This is what I wish I would have explained. It is perfectly okay for you to believe that cursing and blaspheming are terrible behaviors that offend God. If this is your belief, don’t curse or blaspheme. But did God commission you to be His personal agent to punish others for not doing what is written in the Bible? Where in the Bible are you instructed to punish others for doing things He considers offensive? In fact, the Bible tells us repeatedly that we should not judge (except for those individuals who are specifically appointed to serve as judges). Someone else’s behavior may be immoral, but judging them and punishing them for it is likely to be even more immoral than whatever they are doing.

If you want to teach people how to behave morally, the best way to do it is by acting morally yourself. When people like you and respect you for your moral behavior, they are likely to follow in your footsteps. But if you judge them and punish them, they will hate you and want to continue doing the very behavior you are trying to extinguish.

Furthermore, if God disapproves of cursing and blaspheming in His name, do you really think He needs our help to punish those who do it? Feel free to show others where in the Bible God prohibits cursing and blaspheming. But it is not our business to punish others for Him.

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