I have never been very good at either making or keeping New Years resolutions. I am never ready with my resolutions after a busy holiday season and I quickly forget what I finally did decide upon as the year rolls on. Over the years, I have had much better luck trying to make changes over Lent. A span of 40 days seems much more manageable to me than an entire year. In high school, I gave up drinking soda for Lent and then when I went to drink some at Easter, I found that I no longer liked the taste. I had only intended to give up the soda for 40 days, but it has ended up being a permanent change for me. Lately, though, I haven’t made any resolutions for Lent because I kept forgetting until it was too late.
This year, I was as unprepared as ever.
I was sitting behind the organ at church on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, when I suddenly realized that I hadn’t even thought about what I wanted to do for Lent this year. I thought about giving up chocolate, but I was afraid I would turn into a grumpy, angry mommy. I wouldn’t want to scare my poor children! Then sudden inspiration struck me. I should give up my bad habit of swearing! How hard could that be? After all, it’s not like I was giving up sex like Josh Hartnett’s character in the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights.
To give you some background information, I decided to start using the bad language while I was in middle school. I wanted to prove that I wasn’t a goody two-shoes (even though I really was). As with so many of my schemes from this time in my life, it didn’t work out very well. Everyone in school still thought that I was a teacher’s pet and a boring, good girl. I just also happened to have filthy language to go along with my precise grammar. Over time, it has become a habit that I have struggled to break, especially once I had children. I really don’t want them to pick up my bad language. So far, I have been lucky that the worst I have heard them repeat is “What the heck?”
I left church after the Ash Wednesday service feeling very happy with my decision to stop swearing.
Then as soon as I walked in the door to my house, I tripped over a snow boot and you can guess what kinds of words came out of my mouth. That was my first hint that giving up swearing wasn’t going to be as easy as giving up soda. Over the next few days, I discovered just how pervasive my bad language had gotten. Any time that I got scared, surprised, frustrated, or angry, my initial reaction was to curse. I also hadn’t realized how many phrases I routinely use that involve bad language. Over time, I had gotten pretty good about cleaning up my language around my children, but anytime I was alone or talking with other adults, my potty mouth just took over.
The positive side is that at least I was now noticing every time I was using bad language. However, I was feeling a bit like the Knights who say “Ni” because I would curse at myself when I caught myself cursing. I was very frustrated that I couldn’t just decide to stop swearing and be done with it. Instead, I have just had to keep on being mindful of my language and slowly trying to improve it. I have tried replacing the swear words with milder language, but that doesn’t seem to work for me in every situation. There are definitely times when it is better for me to just keep my mouth shut.
Overall, I am glad that I decided to give up swearing for Lent, even though I haven’t been completely successful. I feel like the period of 40 days was short enough for me to focus and remember my goal and made it seem like something I could really do. I don’t think that my language will ever be completely free of bad language, but at least I will be able to consciously choose to use swear words instead of just reflexively using them without thinking.