Ephesians 4:29

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

In the last two weeks, I have been studying the book of Ephesians as I prepare to go to Papua New Guinea to do the consultant check on the translation of this book into one the minority languages there.  When we came chapter 4, verse 29 jumped out to me as I recalled a discussion I had just had with one of my sons during the previous week.

I have always been proud of my son for his deep faith in Christ, his gentle nature, and his desire to be helpful to others, especially those who cannot help themselves.  Which is interesting since his desire is to join the Canadian Armed Forces.  When asked why he would choose this path, his response many times is, “So I can help defend the defenseless.”

So given his interest in the military, it is not surprising that most of the video games he plays are related to war (or special forces, etc.).  This means that many of his games are what we would call “shooter” games.  As he plays online and interacts with others though, he hears language that is quite strong.

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Now I must say that my son does not swear or use profanity, at least as far as the world standard for language use is concerned.  No, he uses the other words, what you might say are the cousins to profane words.  He will say, “Shoot”, or “Darn” which are close relatives to other words that I consider to be profanity.  But his most common word, and the one that has me most on edge, is the word “Frack!” or “Fricking!”  And these words are definitely so close to the other “F” word that is definitely a swear word, that I have had to talk many times with my son over the use of language in our house.

So I was very pleased when last week he sat down beside me and said, “How do I stop saying these words?  What can I do to change this?”  So I told him a story about my youth which he had never heard.

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I said, “When I was in Grade Six, I wanted to sound tough, just like all the other guys around me.  I figured that if I sounded tough like them, they would stop picking on me.  And it wasn’t long before I could swear a blue streak up and down like you wouldn’t believe.”

“You’re right,” he said. “I don’t believe it.  But what did you do about it, because I never hear you swear today?”

So I responded, “Well, I got what I wished for. My language became so foul that people backed away from me and left me alone.  But then I was really alone.  So I learned quickly that sounding tough repelled both my friends and those who didn’t like me.  The answer to my dilemma didn’t come until the next year, when I was in Grade Seven.”

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“It was in Grade Seven that God reached out and touched me and broke through my tough exterior and began His work in my heart. [See the post “For My Tears, Jesus Died”] And shortly after I accepted Christ as my Lord, one of my first prayers was for God to help me stop using foul language.  And you know what?  Within a matter of days, I found that I had no desire to swear anymore.  My prayer was answered.  God cleaned up my heart and then cleaned up my language.”

I know that this story was an encouragement to my son.  But then he asked a very practical question, “So when I get frustrated, like when I play these games and one of the guys on my team does something stupid and gets me killed, what should I say?”

We dialogged about this for a while and we came up with two solutions as to how to deal with situations that cause anger or frustration.  First of all, we decided that laughing at the situation is probably a much better response than speaking out of anger.  And then secondly, the way to stop using profane language is to lay down new neuropaths in our brains by using completely different words.  And hopefully the new words will be neutral, rather than negative, or even be funny.

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Again, I’d have to say I am so thankful that my son came to speak with me about this.  Even though in one month he will no longer be a teenager, still he is willing to come to his Dad and talk to him about deep issues and difficult topics.  And it showed me that he has been listening to me about my concerns of the kind of words he uses.  But most importantly, this experience has confirmed for me that my son wants the Lord to control his life, and he wants to do the things that please Him.  That’s what really counts in the long run.

It is interesting to read what Solomon wrote regarding parents and their son in Proverbs 10:1

A wise son brings joy to his father,but a foolish son grief to his mother.