When I was a kid I was told not to swear or call people names. As I grew up, the message changed: name calling seemed okay and swearing taboo. The fact is that name calling is worse than swearing. Here’s why.
A Repeated Message
As my two youngest kids were growing up it was challenging to give them consistent messages. With their parents in two different households with two different world views, keeping a strong, overarching message was difficult.
One was on swearing. When my kids were younger swearing was not allowed. At the same time name calling (calling people names like idiot, stupid, etc), were not only allowed in one home, but used. Trying to instill an understanding of why this is bad, while at the same time not stepping on toes wasn’t easy.
To them, not swearing made sense; these were grown up words. But using words like stupid and idiot – those are words they hear all the time from all kinds of people. It was a hard message to get across.
But name calling is worse than swearing. Let’s look at both.
The Reason for Swearing
Depending on how you grew up, swearing may have been taboo. It may even seem sinful. If it’s something that bothers you, then by all means refrain, but let’s look at why people do it.
Swearing helps people deal with stress. Several studies have shown that swearing relieves stress and pain for participants. Now before you get upset at that information realize that’s simply data. It’s like saying the sky is blue. It tells you why people do it, not whether or not it’s inappropriate.
The question then becomes is it wrong? Before we answer that, let’s take a look at two views of human potential to understand better why name calling is worse than swearing.
Fixed vs. Growth
Dr. Carol Dweck has become well-known the world over for her research into fixed vs. growth mindsets. What she found is that people look at the world from one of two perspectives – fixed in which someone’s abilities are pre-defined and growth in which someone’s abilities are able to be learned and improved.
In other words, there were those who saw someone smart or skilled in an area and thought they were lucky to be born smart or talented. On the other side there were those who would see those same people as average people like anyone else who worked hard to improve their knowledge and skill.
What she found is that those with a growth mindset were more successful. They saw that they had infinite potential to become whatever they wanted. They weren’t stuck as one defined thing, but instead were able to become whatever they wanted.
In short her research showed a truth about labels and it helps demonstrate why name calling is worse than swearing.
When we use labels, we predefine people. This person is dumb. That person is an idiot. This person is a dork. We see people as pre-defined and unable to change. What’s more, we define the entirety of a person by possibly one action.
If someone makes a mistake, calling them an idiot brands them by one mistake. If someone fails to win a game, calling them a loser brands them by one loss. One action can begin to define their whole personality, which is one of many reasons why we need to focus on actions when we talk about people and not labels.
This is why name calling is worse than swearing. Swearing can simply be directed into the ether or at an inanimate object. Swearing can even have positive benefits like stress or pain relief.
But name calling is damaging. It begins to define people and damages their self worth. Even if it’s directed at people that aren’t in the room, it makes us lazy; we begin to dismiss people. Instead of hearing what someone has to say and judging their ideas on their own merit, we dismiss them as a this or a that. We begin to judge people and build animosity toward them when we’re avoiding dealing with real issues within ourselves.
Name Calling Is Worse than Swearing
We shouldn’t call people names. Period. If you do, find a way to channel that energy into more positives approaches. There is simply no good reason to call people names. It is a form of verbal abuse and lazy mental rationalizing and should be removed from your vocabulary.
As to swearing, is it wrong? This is subjective. First let’s look at few ways in which swearing is harmful:
- Belittling Others: If you are swearing to belittle others either through name calling or just general vitriol, that’s damaging. Then again, that’s not the swearing, but the fact that you are belittling others.
- Wrong Environment: Being discourteous at work or in the wrong group with the wrong language or setting a bad example for kids can cause a lot of problems. It’s always best to avoid swearing in the wrong environment.
- Anger on Steroids: If your swearing is accompanied by high levels of anger that frighten those around you, this isn’t healthy for you or them and may point to some unresolved pain you need to deal with.
As to swearing in general circumstances, that’s something you need to decide for yourself, but I want to make one thing abundantly clear: if you don’t swear but have no problem with calling people names, you’re doing it wrong. Name calling is worse than swearing. We need to stop normalizing it. If you want a happier life for yourself and those around you, get rid of it today.