"The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it." - George Washington
If you ever meet my father, the first things you will notice are his strong european accent, and a succession of unnecessary F-bombs. In a ten minute conversation with him you will count as many as eight f-words, often used in conjunction with numerous other swear words, and usually equating to more than one swear word per minute. Washington's man of sense and character would truly detest my father, but to me, hearing his profanity is as normal as reading the Sunday paper.
For anyone who has read my articles, it should henceforth be apparent why I swear as much as I do. Since adolescence I have accepted swearing as a part of who I am; even in its contrast with my claim that I am a Christian. Today however, I find myself in my mid-30's, I am a father and a husband, and I have a duty to be more gentlemanly than ever, so swearing has become an unacceptable part of my character. Does this mean that I have suddenly become a man of outstanding sense and character? I doubt it, but the path to speaking like a gentleman is an arduous one, and it can never be without its failings.
What doesn't work.
Once I decided to stop swearing, I hopped onto the interwebs and studied every technique I could find. I found most of them to be ineffective, as they all called for a presence of mind that most of us simply do not have. Things like Use Alternative Words and Think Positively make sense in theory, but if we are capable of controlling ourselves in each moment - as these techniques require us to do - then swearing wouldn't be a problem in the first place.
Those of us who swear a lot do so unconsciously. We get carried away with a certain way of being and it causes us to release from our mouths that which is in our hearts, all without ever filtering it through our mind. It can be anger, frustration, insecurity, or a desire for self-expression, but whatever it is, it's something we are not in control of, and that lack of control is a sure sign of personal weakness.
After considering all the available techniques, I discovered two that I consider universally effective.
The hard way is to practice constant meditation, bringing yourself to a zen-like state of consciousness. In this state you are aware of your every thought, your every word, and your every movement. Living life this way ensures a thoughtful introversion that may not stop you from swearing internally, but can certainly stop you from vocalising your impurity. Being aware of what you say before you say it allows you to filter your speech, and eventually your thoughts, but it requires a stupid amount of practice.
The Evil Box.
When I told my wife that I wanted to stop swearing, and that I would try using a swear jar to do so, she smiled ear-to-ear and said,
"Awesome! I can shop at Gucci with it!"
The swear jar is meant to be a punishment, so while it would please me greatly to see my wife wearing pimped-out jeans, the visualisation was hardly an incentive not to swear.
Enter the pain/pleasure principle.
The suggestion is that we associate pain or pleasure with all that we do. If you find something pleasurable, you will be far more likely to do it. The opposite applies when you find something to be painful. This principle comes in natural forms (like you enjoy spending time with your family for whatever reason, or you hate watching musicals for whatever reason), but it can also be fabricated in many ways, and it can be used as a tool for self-manipulation.
Endless studies on human motivation have found that money is not a great motivator. To be effective, the swear jar must be felt on a personal level. You need to make it so that you would rather not swear than put a single dollar into it. It helps to associate the jar with something evil, or with something you hate.
Say for example you want to quit smoking, but it's a struggle because smoking gives you pleasure. If you were to punch yourself in the nuts every time you have a cigarette, it would associate more pain than pleasure with smoking, and would make you less likely to do it. The swear jar needs to be like punching yourself in the nuts.
In my case, I chose to donate all of the money to an evil organisation. I made a shortlist of organisations that the devil himself would take pride in owning. Here are the runners-up:
- The National Secular Society - Atheist Alliance International - American Atheists - GLAAD - The Freedom from Religion Foundation
When I started using The Evil Box, it initially increased my swearing, because each time I let out a 'shit', and realised I had just donated a dollar to a body I despise, I followed it with a 'FUCKING FUCK YOU!!!'. But it didn't take long to stop, as my vicious vocalisations morphed into aggressive mumblings, and eventually became silence.
I am now three weeks into it, and the tail-end of the chart has not changed. I still swear around twice a day, and to avoid donating any more money than I have to, I have imposed a two-per-day tolerance. If I exceed it, the tolerance will also be donated, but thus far I have maintained my discipline.
While I may never be the gentleman that George Washington was, my speech has improved immeasurably. In the absence of swear words, I have had to discover new and gentler ways to express myself. As our speech influences our emotions, not swearing has made me calmer, more well-mannered, and much less likely to anger. I also find myself far more conscious of my thoughts. In fact, not swearing is one of the greatest things I have ever accomplished.
My only regret through all of this is with my chosen organisation. I wish OH HOW I WISH that I had chosen somebody else. Any of the others on my shortlist would have achieved the same result, but noooOOoo, I had to go to the extreme, and my regret is overwhelming.
It is with blood on my hands, and with blackness in my soul, that I will be donating $75 to the fucking degenerateslowlife dickheadschild-sacrificing slutbags persons of questionable character at Planned Parenthood.
Now I have to find a way to earn it back.