My boss is loud and boisterous. The employees who report to him, myself included, walk on eggshells around him. He has a habit of shouting, "Jesus Christ!" whenever things don't go his way or when something annoys him. I find this offensive and just hate when he says this. It happens several times a day. I've considered saying something to him, but I don't think he'd stop and it might make my job more difficult for me. Do you think I'm being too sensitive? Should I just ignore his comments or take a chance and say something?
-- P., via email
I love questions about cursing. Perhaps this is because it's one of the few sins we have a realistic shot at curtailing, or perhaps because I once suffered from the same sin as your boss. My pal, Father Tom Hartman, helped me break my JC cursing habit. I'd just hit one of those irritating things-are-not-working-smoothly moments and exclaimed, "Jesus Christ!!" Tommy let me calm down a little, then said lovingly but firmly, "You are using what I believe to be one of God's names in a disrespectful way, and it offends me." That was it. I knew he was right.
Having a friend means many things, but it certainly means knowing what hurts your friend and never doing it. Your boss is not your friend, but you do have a spiritual obligation to call his violation of the Second or Third Commandment of the Big 10 (depending how you count them) and the prohibition against cursing in Leviticus 19:12.
The seriousness of taking God's name in vain by using it as a curse is profound. Such epithets, like all swearing, debase our language and add to the crudeness and rudeness of our social interaction. They also send a message that something holy can be used to express anger rather than love, frustration rather than forgiveness, and damnation rather than divinity.
Speaking of damnation, the "GD'' curse is equally bad and certainly as common in the curse-o-sphere. Asking God to damn something or someone just because he, she or it has incurred your own personal wrath is foolish, arrogant and in the deepest sense, obscene.
So, back to your dilemma: What should you do to de-cursify your boss? Given your description of him, I agree that confronting him directly probably would make your work life unbearable. However, you ought to consider the wisdom of continuing to work where you do now.
If your boss is just "loud and boisterous," that's one thing, but if he's a foul-mouthed bully, that's another thing entirely. His cursing might be the least of your problems at work. In the meantime, perhaps you might consider writing him an anonymous letter that might read something like this:
"Dear boss, I feel the need to share with you the fact that your behavior has created a hostile work environment for me. Your repeated use of the holy name Jesus Christ as a curse is not merely disrespectful, but it also saddens and hurts me and is an affront to my religious beliefs. I don't use the word blasphemy often, but what you're doing is blasphemous and unnecessary.
"I would deeply appreciate it if you could respect my feelings enough to avoid such language in the workplace. I love my work, and I'm sorry that I don't feel secure enough to speak to you directly because I'm afraid of you and your temper. You also should know that many other employees have the same fears.
"I'm certain that a gentler, more supportive attitude on your part would both improve productivity and make employees feel better appreciated at work. I'm one of those people. I hope you can read this letter in the constructive spirit in which it was sent.
"Thank you, one of your loyal employees."
Such a letter might not help, but as my grandmother always said, "It couldn't hurt." Remember that the Bible teaches us to have the courage to morally correct our neighbor for his or her sin, or their sin becomes ours. (Leviticus 19:17)
Of course, there also are many execrable curses that don't include God's name but also debase our language and our souls. You're liable to be considered a prude for objecting to speech that's just a series of F-bombs with a few actual words thrown in as verbal glue. Words deserve the opportunity to enlighten, not degrade us. That may be why God's first act of revelation was to say, "Let there be light." Cursing is linguistic violence. It dims the light of God in our world.