McKay Hatch, 14, said, “I’ve cussed before; I’m not going to lie to you, but I try not to cuss any more.” He understands why his friends use foul language. “They just want to fit in like everybody else and they don’t know how. They figure if they cuss maybe it’s an easy way to do that.” One day in junior high he decided he would stop cussing, as his parents had taught him, and he told his friends, “I don’t cuss. If you want to hang out with me, you don’t cuss.” Two years later, he formed a 50-member club in South Pasadena High School and soon had an impact on his hometown of 25,000, just 8 miles north of Los Angeles.
The first week in March 2008 was declared by the city council to be “No Cussing Week.” South Pasadena’s mayor said, “It provides us a reminder to be more civil, to elevate the level of discourse.” No one was likely to be arrested, but they could have been reminded of a higher standard, at least for a few days. McKay considered getting his city to be a cuss-free zone to be his greatest achievement. He hopes other cities will follow suit and thinks there may be less violence if they do.
What an exceptional young man! While his peers are trying to fit in by cussing, he dared to be different. While movies that win Oscar Awards continue to bombard “mature” audiences with blue language, here’s a 14-year-old boy who wants to challenge us all to clean it up. He shows a far different kind of maturity. In the same time frame when Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton utter words on morning television which have to be censored, this kid gathers members for his No Cussing Club. His club has a website and 10,000 members at last count.
While there is a danger of Pharsaic self-righteousness sneaking into what McKay is doing, there is also a lot of good. Surely it reminds us of Paul’s words to the Ephesians. In the end of chapter 4, he calls for “wholesome talk,” and “only what is helpful for building others up” (4:29). He begins chapter 5 calling for the imitation of God and Christ in our love and forgiveness (5:1-2). Then come his powerful words of 5:4-5, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
In the week ahead, why not take McKay’s challenge? Go one full week without cussing! Instead of foul language or anything that sounds like it, be very deliberate to express gratitude. How? When you’re about to say the wrong thing, catch yourself, and think of something for which you can be grateful. Then speak that thanks out loud. It might take the sting out of your anger or frustration. It might even help you imitate God and Christ. You may never get a whole city to be cuss-free, but you can get yourself and perhaps your family to live in that zone. For a week? For a month? For a life?
Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey. All rights reserved.