“Ask a Priest: Could I Say a Nasty Word Without Sinning?”

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Q: This is going to be an odd question, but bear with me. I don’t swear. At all. Never have. Never will. A lot of my friends think this is fascinating. My one friend in particular really wants to hear me say the f-word just once. He wants that to be his birthday present. My question is, if I did say it just for his amusement on his birthday, would that be a sin or since my intention isn’t to use it for its meaning or in a negative way, would it be OK? Thanks. – A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s admirable that you guard your speech so well. “If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also” (James 3:2).

You have obviously made an impact on your friends — for the better. Your comportment is probably a breath of fresh air for them.

As to your specific question: Ask a Priest is here to encourage people to be saints, not to lower their standards.

If I were in your shoes, I’d give your friend a better birthday gift: I’d refuse to say that nasty word. That would be an even more powerful witness to him.

You might even want to be creative and give him a gift worthy of his having been created in the image and likeness of God: Choose a verse from the Bible that has some sort of meaning in the context of your friendship with him. For example: “God has called you and he will not fail you…” (1 Thessalonians 5:24) or “Put your whole heart’s trust in the Lord; lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

My hunch — and I hope I’m wrong on this — is that if you give in to this birthday request, it won’t be the last such request made on you. Beware of friends who want to drag you down to their level. It might be worthwhile to reflect about why a friend would even want you to do something like this.

It’s better to guard the grace that God has obviously given you. Use your words – all of them – for his glory. If only more young women followed your example!

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