No. 439


Have you ever heard someone say, "Get your mind out of the gutter?" I have. Many times. In fact, some people have said that to me, after I had told a dirty or off-color story. This was many years ago, but somewhere along the way I leaned better and stopped. Not long after I got in the "motivation" business, I was invited to speak to the West Little Rock Rotary Club and a few days after my presentation, an older gentleman by the name of D.A. Sparks, who is now deceased, said to me, "Jim, you make a good talk but it's not necessary to tell an off-color story." This has stuck with me all these years and I not only took his advice, I also quit using any profanity at all. It took a little time, but finally with God's help, I was able to do it. If I said even a four-letter word now, it would be like someone dropping a hammer on my head.

Thanks mostly to the media who are exercising their Ôfree speech' but not Ôpersonal responsibility' rights, we have gutter language and profanity being used as commonly as someone asking the time of day. You may or may not see anything wrong with that, but I do, and a lot of other people agree with me. Several months ago I got a very meaningful e-mail from the principal of the Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Tennessee. He was asking for permission to use one of my columns in the school's student handbook. The title of this particular column was "Language is a Factor in Success." He said many students used profanity in their regular conversations without giving it any thought at all. It has just become a part of their culture.

I might add, this is true in many, many other high schools as well, and it matters little what part of the country you care to name. The regular use of profanity has also dipped down into Middle and Junior High Schools as well. Now, let me pause here and ask you this question. Is this good and acceptable, and something we want to see continue and even get worse? If you agree with me that "Language" is indeed a key factor in a person's success and wish to do something about it, allow me to share these thoughts with you.

First, I am going to be so bold as to say, "A person with class doesn't use profanity." This comment is in no way meant to imply that a person who uses profanity cannot be a fine person, achieve outstanding success, be the kindest and most thoughtful person you can imagine. But having "class" is a little bit different in that this person's vocabulary is a little bit better and they don't need four-letter words to express themselves. I have many good friends and family members who use profanity and I am certainly not judging or condemning them. I will say that if they knew how it sounded to others, they wouldn't do it. In most cases it's just a habit, but it's a habit that can be broken and replaced by something better.

During the fall of the year I watch a good number of college football games on television. There is one particular announcer who used to be a coach, who really irritates me. In the course of the game he will use one particular four-letter word a number of times. I might add, he is the only one of the three announcers on the broadcast team who does this. Even though he may use profanity in his private life on a regular basis, I don't guess he ever stops to realize there are thousands and thousands of impressionable young men listening to him, that he is influencing. On the other hand, I can name any number of other announcers who never use profanity and are very careful about the example they set for others. To say it simply, these people have class.ÊÊÊ

As you consider these thoughts, I hope you understand that I am not a preacher and that I am not putting anyone down. Like you, I just care about our precious young people and the direction our country is headed in this important area of life. The use of our language is the one thing we cannot hide. As soon as we open our mouth and begin to speak, we proclaim to others where we stand on the cultural and social pyramid. If you agree with me and believe we need to teach our young people "Language is a Factor in Success," let's do our best to set a good example for them.Ê

When I received a copy of this past year's Cleveland High School Student Handbook, my column had been printed on the back cover. At least most parents and students will see it and hopefully will take time to read it. Who knows, maybe a few will even learn to speak without the use of profanity and along with a lot of other important qualities, become a person who has real class. Feel free to contact me if you too, would like to use this column. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)