Since I’m confessing I’ll start at the beginning of my swearing-saga. I said my first swear word in 7th grade. Our teacher left the classroom and this girl (who is now a grown woman and has since sent me a friend request on Facebook) began telling me how nappy she thought my hair was and how I needed a perm. FYI: When white people are talking about perms they usually mean making their hair curly, while when black people refer to perms we mean making our hair straight. Most of the black girls at my school had perms/relaxers. A relaxer is a permanent chemical solution that straightens or relaxes the curl of naturally curly hair. Anyway my parents chose to keep my kinky coif intact and some of my classmates including the aforementioned girl thought that this was a reason for ridicule.
So here I am minding my own business and this chick starts yelling at me across the classroom about my hair. So I told her to get up out of my head, cause instead of worrying about my happy-nappy behind what she should be focusing on was that tired-tacky-ponytail-extension on the top of hers, and that she might be laughing now cause I got some kinks in my kitchen, but that she wouldn’t be laughing anymore once I came over there and pulled that [INSERT POOR VOCABULARY HERE] off her head. Of course that is precisely when the teacher decided to walk back into the classroom. Long story short I got suspended for three days which was nothing compared to the punishment my folks doled out at home and I was too scared to swear for over a decade!
Then as a grown woman with grown people’s trials and tribulations, Pandora’s box was reopened and well…I found colorful language a hard habit to break. If you tuned into our New Year’s episode of Sistas in Zion Radio you know that I made it a new year’s resolution to stop swearing. I wish I could say that this is my first go at it, but *sigh* it is not. I’ve been trying for a while now and what actually made me want to stop being profane in the membrane is this experience which I am sooo embarrassed to be sharing with y’all, but will because at my swearers anonymous meetings they say sharing is caring, and a big part of recovery. So here goes.
|A child of God|
In my life I have faced what I would consider some very cuss-worthy trials and a few years ago when I was enduring several of these tribulations I happened to be on a flight. Now know this, except for the time in 7th grade and the experience I’m about to share, my swearing has been to myself or in front of close friends or family (oh, the perks of being in my inner circle.) I’m not in the habit of cussing people out, but if you were on this flight you sure wouldn’t know that.
A flight attendant thought I had an electronic device turned on and I didn’t, but kept coming to my seat to ask me turn the already-switched-off item off. After having my device checked several times and plenty of snide comments I had enough and I went off. Now when I say off I mean off, I think I called this woman everything, but a child of God. She was snapping, I was snapping and she eventually told me she would have the police waiting for me when I got off the flight.
This all happened within the first 10 minutes of a 3 hour flight, so I went to sleep, she went about her business and we didn’t say a word to each other for the next 2 hours and 50 minutes. After the plane landed as I made my way to the exit a woman put her hand on my shoulder and stopped me. She said, “excuse me are you Mormon?” My mouth fell open, I started hyperventilating and wishing I had paid attention when the flight attendant was telling us how to apply the oxygen mask and open the emergency exits. As my very loud swear-filled exchange with the flight attendant replayed in my mind I said, “Actually I’m Catholic.” Just kidding, I didn’t say that. Don’t worry my Catholic friends I wouldn’t make another religion claim me or my bad behavior. To my utmost despair, I replied, “Yes.”
|Am I a Mormon?|
I just stood there waiting for her to tell me how I was the worse Mormon she had ever met or how she was taking the missionary discussions and now because of my cuss-fest she was going to stop, but instead she pointed to her husband and said, “We are too.” As my very un-Christ-like conduct flashed before my eyes again, I thought, Jesus take the wheel! I’m serious y’all, I really was frantically praying in my head. In that moment I felt so ashamed of myself, but thankfully our God is an AWESOME God and he answered his desperate child’s plea for help.
It turned out the woman and her husband had been visiting Utah for the first time and when they saw another black person get on the plane in SLC they wondered if maybe I was LDS too, as chance would have it we were all heading home to the same city and knew some of the same LDS folks there too. Now this is the part where God testifies to me that he is real…they didn’t even hear my profanity-laced tongue lashing. I kept waiting for them to saying something about it and they never did, they just kept making pleasant conversation. We said nice to meet you and good bye and headed off in our separate directions. Then I hear, “M’am can we talk to you.” At this point not only had Jesus taken the wheel, but I think he was also doing the talking. I had a pleasant conversation with the officers after which they apologized for my unpleasant flight experience…po po say what?!?
Immediately I decided that I wanted to clean up my language, because clearly private habits could obviously become public habits and I never wanted to be in a situation again where my conduct made me ashamed to say that I was a Christian. Feeling fully chastened I told my very awesome Bishop about my flight experience and he, mostly because he has a great sense of humor, suggested that for penance I share my story with the Young Women by teaching a lesson on “being a witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places.” Which I did and yes, the Bishop decided to “visit” our class that day and yes he was loving every minute of my discomfort.
So that’s how I ended up on this journey of how to be a cuss free me. I’ve gotten everything from encouragement; my nieces, nephews and siblings counting how many days (or more often hours) I can go without swearing, to people asking me if I really think I’m going to go to hell for swearing. To that I say this, I don’t know what God’s speech barometer is set at. I don’t know which words are “ok” and which one’s will send you to hell in a hand basket. I just know this; nothing about my foul language brought me closer to Christ, no swear word I’ve ever used portrays that I am a child of God and that I believe that you are a child of God too and I will never forget that sickening feeling I felt when that woman asked me “are you Mormon?” For me, being a WITNESS of GOD at ALL times and in ALL things and in ALL places, means bye, bye Miss Potty-Mouth.
So this year I again added stop swearing to my list of new year resolutions. We asked SiZ Radio listeners to call and write in with tips for keeping resolutions this year. A tip that we received on that episode and has shaped the entire way I am approaching my resolutions this year came from Sista Kimberlee St. Clair. She said to take your resolutions in small doses such as a week at a time and then reward yourself for keeping your resolution for that small period of time. Her advice really stuck with me and so as I thought about my goals for this year I decided that what I really wanted to form were good habits. There’s this myth out there that it takes 21 days to form a habit, whether it’s true or not 21 days seemed like a good dose for me and my goals. I have all my resolutions written down and I work on one for 21 days, if I make it then I start the next one, if not I spend some more time on that goal.
On January 1st I implemented my first goal which was no swearing. At first I really had to remind myself of my goal and sometimes I had to bite my tongue and choose to say nothing at all because I didn’t have anything nice to say, but now it’s getting a little easier. In addition, the Man upstairs has been giving me an extra boost as I’ve added the goals I’m working on to my daily prayers, fasted and upped my temple attendance. And praise the Lord, I’ve made it 35 days swear-free so far, which is a far cry from last year’s roughly 30 minutes after ringing in the New Year.
For me, focusing on one thing at a time has been FANTASTIC, I wish I would have gotten this tip sooner! On January 21st I reached my 21 day milestone of not swearing and I rewarded myself with some alone time with a good book! Then on January 22nd I started my second goal, which is a health and exercise goal, I’m now doing that and still keeping up on not cussing people out. It’s only been a little over 30 days since the new year began, but I have to say it feels great to not have failed half of my goals already. In the past that’s how I’ve felt, I would start out with a million resolutions and feel like I didn’t accomplished any of them. So now I’ve only started two of them, but so far I’ve experienced success by focusing on my resolutions in small doses and only adding another to my plate when I’ve made substantial progress on the ones before me. So thanks Kimberlee, and brothas and sistas I know I’ve got 330 more days to go, but I’m feeling pretty good right now, so feel free to cut me off in traffic!
How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Any tips for putting the kibosh on cussing?
Jesus Loves Me This I Know,