GOOD MORNING! The other day I was speaking with a friend who tended to punctuate his speech with earthy, coarse words. I said to him, "You are such a good neshama (soul) and such an elevated, educated person. Such words do not reflect who you really are." He thought for a moment and said, "You're right. I'll stop using them."
One of the distinguishing features of human beings from other species is that we can talk. And one of the distinguishing features amongst human beings is how we use the gift of speech. Do we speak in an elevated manner or in a crass manner? They way we speak says a lot about us - who we are, how we perceive ourselves, who we identify with.
The Bible teaches that human beings were created in the image of G-d (Genesis 1:27). Since G-d has no corporeal image, the Torah is telling us that we were created in a spiritual image of the Almighty - that we can emulate the Almighty in doing kindness and that we can use speech to perfect this world.
Many times people are not aware of how they speak. Use of curse words demeans the speaker who, after all, should look upon him/herself as a holy individual created in the image of the Almighty! Also, people need to be aware of how they use speech when talking with someone or about someone. Loshon hora (literally, "evil speech") is derogatory speech and is forbidden by Biblical law even when it's true - unless there is a compelling requirement to share the information. Loshon hora is the fuel for hatred, jealousy and contention. It can break an engagement, end a marriage, destroy a partnership, ruin a life. However, proper speech can bring harmony and build relationships. Words can hurt, words can heal.
10 PRACTICAL GUIDELINES FOR
Do not express damaging or derogatory information about someone that might cause him physical, psychological or financial harm, even if it is true and deserved.
Promote people's well being. When in doubt, don't speak out.
Humor is great, but make sure jokes aren't at someone else's expense.
Be kind to yourself. Speaking badly even about yourself is unethical.
Don't listen to gossip. If you can't change the direction of the conversation, it is advisable to leave.
If you inadvertently hear damaging information, you should believe that it is NOT true.
Always give others the benefit of the doubt and focus on the positive.
Words once spoken can't be erased. Think before you speak, especially if you are angry, hurt or jealous.
Use kind and supportive words with your children and spouse whenever possible. Harsh words can cause irreparable harm as can speaking derogatorily to others about the ones you love most.
It is not only permitted, but required, to warn a person about potential harm - for example, that a potential business partner has a repeated record of embezzlement.