Is profanity bad for our health?

In terms of health concerns, swearing is pretty small potatoes. But it doesn’t take many potatoes to create a pile that, over time, becomes too onerous to handle.


PETALUMA, CA, Aug. 17, 2015 – Ask anyone if they think the occasional swear word is bad for their health and they’d likely say no. Ask these same people if they think a regular dose of anger, cynicism or hopelessness is a good idea and you’d likely get the opposite answer. And yet, when you consider that these are the very qualities of thought that often provoke such outbursts, it becomes clear there’s little, if any, difference.

For many, if not most, this is still not that big of a deal, and plenty of others – even a few medical researchers – who would agree.

“Several studies have found that swearing is [actually] a healthy practice that encourages emotional strength,” reports Distractify. “Swearing is a harmless emotional release which could make you feel stronger,” says the Daily Mail.

In terms of health concerns, this is pretty small potatoes. But it doesn’t take many potatoes – regardless of their size – to create a pile that, over time, becomes too onerous to deal with.

With all due respect to medical studies or even the opinion of others, at least in this instance, we’re probably better off relying on our own intuition to tell us what is and isn’t good for our health – that gut feeling that reminds us that the thoughts we entertain and, by association, the manner in which these thoughts are expressed are at least as important as the food we eat and the amount of exercise we get.

“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man,” it says in the Bible, “but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”

Of course, there are lots of folks who would argue, “I’ve been swearing all my life, and I don’t appear to be any worse for the wear.” Even so, like the heel of a boot that should be replaced well before it falls off, there’s something to be said for keeping our mental treads intact in order to prevent our having to deal with the inevitable consequences.

There’s also something to be said for the benefit such mental discipline affords the casual bystander who might otherwise be offended by another’s course language. All that anger and cynicism laying at the root of even an offhand expletive can be contagious and is best kept under quarantine.

I remember when I was in fifth grade thinking that in order to maintain my status with what I considered to be a fairly cool group of classmates, it was essential that I adopt an increasingly profane manner of conversation. As it turned out, not only did I begin losing the respect of those who thought I was just being ridiculous, I also ended up hurting the feelings of those I was only trying to impress. After that (thankfully) brief episode, I pretty much swore off swearing.

“The pent-up elements of mortal mind need no terrible detonation to free them,” writes Mary Baker Eddy, a woman who spent years studying the impact our thoughts have on our health. “Envy, rivalry, hate need no temporary indulgence that they be destroyed through suffering; they should be stifled from lack of air and freedom.”

While on the surface this may sound like only those with a penchant for positive thinking would be capable of such restraint, Eddy recognized that it wasn’t mere human will but our innate, if latent, capacity to yield to the will of an all-good divine Mind or God that was the key to success. “Let unselfishness, goodness, mercy, justice, health, holiness, love – the kingdom of heaven – reign within us,” she writes, “and sin, disease, and death will diminish until they finally disappear.”

Some might say I’m being puritanical. It does seem, however, that with all the attention paid to maintaining our health, it would be in our best interest to consider the effect our day-to-day, moment-by-moment thoughts and actions may be having on our physical well-being, not to mention our ability to change course.

After all, a little less cynicism and a little more love never hurt anyone.

Eric Nelson writes each week on the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Read similar columns at and follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.

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