Editorial: The Coarsening of Everyday Speech

You can notice it everywhere. The common language of the average person is becoming increasingly more coarse, profane, and obscene. Modern authors seem to delight in lacing their novels with vile language to give their characters a sense of “realism.” In everyday speech, obscenities abound as, with a total disregard for who might overhear or be offended, men and women choose to express themselves with what was once called “gutter language.” It has become almost impossible to listen to the news in the car, if children are present. Words that would never have been uttered publicly are now pronounced unashamedly. No subject is unmentionable, no description of sin too graphic. The Oval Office “escapades” of the previous Chief Executive saw to it that wickedness of the worst kind worked its way on to the front pages of the newspapers and into the topics of the radio talk-show hosts. Walk through a mall and you’ll hear pre-teenage girls use the same kind of language the Psalmist used when he said, “O my God, I trust in Thee.” However, they are not speaking TO Him, or even ABOUT Him. The word “God” and the exclamation “O my God” has become a rather meaningless interjection, to be used when meeting someone unexpectedly or noticing that they are using a bright new nail polish or seeing that they are wearing the same outfit as the speaker. Not only has it become almost impossible to shelter our children from this irreverence and the coarsening of everyday speech, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for the believer to escape its ubiquitous presence. It was not only what he saw, but also what he heard that daily vexed the righteous soul of Lot.

How significant that when the ungodly wished to manifest their independence from God, they referred to their speech: “Our lips are our own (we can speak as we wish): who is Lord over us? (Ps 12:4). Having no Lord in their lives, thinking themselves captains of their own souls, they intended to manifest it by their very speech.

Thankfully, the believer does have a Lord, and our link with Him and likeness to Him, into whose lips “grace is poured,” should manifest itself even in our speech. Timothy was called upon to be an example of the believers in word. Our language is to be “alway with grace, seasoned with salt.” Along with all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and malice, evil speaking is to be “put away” from the child of God. He is to “speak the truth in love.”

With our ears and minds being constantly bombarded by the language of godless men and woman, how can we ensure that our speech is free of the crudities and coarseness of the world? How can a new believer, perhaps in the habit, before he was saved, of using the Lord’s name irreverently, see to it that his language reflects his newfound faith? Our blessed Lord, who “spake as never man spake” gives us the key in Matthew 12:34: “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” When the Word of God dwells in us richly, it will control our language as well as our lives.

On that regrettable day in Peter’s life, as he stood warming himself at the fire, those around him said, “Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.” In a positive sense, does our speech gives us away? Can the world listen to our language and say, “You must be a Christian. Your speech betrays you”?