Rule #7 on Being Lovely: Stop cursing. Be vigilant and intelligent about what comes out of your mouth. Give respect and you get respect.
Young Molly used to curse. A lot.
This may be surprising to those who know Molly-Today. Or even Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years.
So, I think about this rule and I remember my days in high school, where my career in using profanity began. I remember how it made me feel heard and powerful in my adolescent years.
What an alluring feeling.
Perhaps I have an addictive personality, because once I started cursing, I did it all the time. So much so that I couldn’t even tell when I had done it. These expletives creatively seeped into all parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, etc…
And these speech patterns persisted, almost unknowingly, until a close friend gently called me out. Did I realize how I sounded?
I remember, in this moment, how my train of thought completely stopped. I’m sure I responded with something defensive, that brushed the issue aside. But after our phone call was over, I realized that I couldn’t even remember saying these choice words.
But I knew that I had.
Did I realize how I sounded?
Had I realized that my brain automatically filled space with words I’d grown accustomed to using? Did I realize that my mind had become a series of basic knee jerk reactions to what was going on around me?
I recall in that moment feeling acutely disappointed in how much I didn’t pay attention to what I said, and decided to give myself a challenge: to stop cursing entirely.
I replaced my expletives with words that started similarly, but had innocuous meanings: “Sh…sugarlumps!” (Special thanks to Mom for that one!) “F…fiiiiine!” “God…bless it.”
Sure, I still slipped up every so often.
But soon enough, I was cognizant of what was coming out of my mouth. And it became fun to catch myself, providing random words in their place. This challenge brought me to see the magic of Rule #2, as I became more present to each moment.
This challenge helped me to control my reactions across the board, and in a way, to remain calm in times of stress. I no longer even felt the urge to respond in anger. I no longer felt the need to think of people in terms of such strong negativity.
Where once I felt powerful uttering senseless words, I actually derived a sense of power by calmly responding to someone attempting to get a rise out of me.
Because, as is always the case: our example becomes their permission.
I learned that the language and tones we use when speaking to each other are incredibly important. Because the way we speak to others is the example we give for how others may speak to us.
I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t allow words to hold power over or against us. Typically, this is followed by the idea that we should just say whatever we want, whenever we want. That “It’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse.” I will address this sentiment in a later rule, but for now I would like to discuss the internal angle here.
I would challenge anyone pushing this concept to understand why choosing not to say certain words is a powerful statement, in and of itself. And how choosing not to say certain words forces us to level up, in terms of our own emotional intelligence.
Because Rule #7 is about examining why we use the words we use.
Are we using our words to emphasize a point? If so, why not find more descriptive words to paint the full picture of our story, stance, or statement? Why not create a tone geared toward educating and/or informing, rather than attacking and/or defending?
Are we using these words to express anger? If so, how can we work on the impulse to get a better handle on our negative emotions, instead of entertaining the impulse to lash out? What methods can we use to mitigate our stresses?
Are we using these words to describe someone else? Are we using these words to hurt someone else? Are we using these words to tear someone down?
Rule #7 is about examining the intentions behind all of the words in our inventory, not just the expletives.
But Molly, why learn new words to portray extreme hurt or anger, when a solid “F*ck You” could convey this emotion in a fraction of the time?
Well, I am so glad you asked!
My answer is this: when we take the time to understand the intricacies of our own emotions, not only can we share with others how they may be violating our boundaries, we also help others to develop their own emotional quotient.
Just look at how many words we could use to label exactly which emotions we are feeling! Think about how comforting it is to have exactly how we are feeling validated with a correct label.
Why limit ourselves to the first tier, with only six descriptors? Why even limit ourselves to the second tier words, when we could dive deeper into our own minds?
For example, maybe your urge is to label someone derogatorily, but what really happened was they made you feel “provoked,” “disrespected,” or “overwhelmed.” Instead of honoring the urge to dismiss these specific feelings with a quick and biting remark, we should understand how and why their actions may have caused us to feel a certain way. And we should calmly let them know this.
In this way, practicing Rule #7 guides us to honor Rules #5 & #6.
Maybe we understand that we might feel “content,” but we want to feel “confident?” Or though we feel “angry” at times, we actually feel “jealous” and not “betrayed?”
In this way, practicing Rule #7 guides us to honor Rules #1 & #3.
Simply knowing how you really feel to your core is the ultimate calm. And achieving this serenity does not mean you never feel negative or positive emotions. It just means you don’t allow these emotions to unseat you.
Think of Rumplestiltskin: once we can accurately name what we are feeling, we can start to understand and control our responses to these feelings.
How many times have we mislabeled what we were feeling because we didn’t have the word for it? How many times have we been offered advice for the wrong emotion, because we didn’t have the word to express exactly what we were going through? How many times have we felt frustrated when others simplified our feelings to the exact wrong conclusion?
This rule is about the inward growth that comes from elevating our lexicon.
Think back to Rule #4, to the story about my mental health struggles. How isolating it was, to feel like I could only describe my mental pain as “sad,” or “bad,” or “angry,” or “fearful?”
None of those words fit right. And none of those words do our own individual journeys any justice.
It astounds me just how many of the words in the third tier of this chart resonate with how I felt for so long. Is it any wonder that my own journey towards serenity was put on hold?
Finally refusing the impulse to brush these feelings off with a simple profanity, actually allowed me the space to grow into these new words.
Once I forced myself to eliminate the first-tier impulses of my vocabulary, my thoughts and speech became more descriptive. I found that I had been using profanity as a crutch in conversation in an effort to emphasize a description, rather than finding the actual word to describe it. This effort had certainly backfired.
When we remove the habit of the same old words we always use to convey ourselves, we help others to understand us. We might also help others to understand themselves.
So, Rule #7 is about controlling your response when the world around you tests your peace of mind.
This rule is about understanding that not everything or everyone deserves a reaction out of you.
This rule is about training your mind to react with a purpose.
This rule is about learning how to properly identify what we are feeling, in an effort to rise above the patterns into which we have conditioned ourselves.
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are reasons you use profane or powerful language?
What methods do you employ to prevent yourself from using profanity at the wrong times, or in the wrong situations?
How often do you use these words, rather than finding the true descriptor to convey your thoughts or emotions?
How often do you identify your feelings as those emotions listed in the third tier?