Breaking a habit-before it starts

Originally Appeared in : 9716-8/3/17

There are a lot of words uttered in our home daily. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering there are eight mouths that, at times, could be uttering words simultaneously. 


Jason HalcombeAs this sentence is being typed, in fact, I can hear six different mouths uttering words from three different rooms: One shouting about “dressing up like a pin-sess in da costume bucket,” one shouting “ow” as a Transformer receives a blast from a Boba Fett blaster, one singing “Edelweiss” to another cooing, one talking about battle-tested abbots and one standing in front of me complaining that his brother “poked a hole in my leg, see?”


I saw said hole, and reassured Jesse that he would be fine and to go back and play.


As you can see, we hear a lot of words.


Most of the time they are good words like, “Thank you,” “You’re welcome,” or “I love you.”


Occasionally, though, the words trend downward from good, to bad to “You must have heard that from your father.”


My dad always said that using bad words was a sign of a lack of intelligence, or an unwillingness to look for something better to say. That speech normally came not long after he had returned from a failed attempt to repair a car or make headway on building his airplane. So I’m guessing they were as much pep talks to himself as they were advice to my siblings or myself.


Prior to getting married, I could make a sailor blush. I’m not proud of it. I was a sound guy for a wannabe rock band, and I allowed myself to succumb to the convenience of making poor word choices (What a polite way to say cursing). My hope, however, has been to want more for my children, and so I have encouraged them to make better word choices than their father.


It’s worked for the most part. Outside of one incident on a swing, another from a toilet seat and one debatable incident at the kitchen table, the biggest word violations have lingered around common phrases like “bully bully,” “shut up” and “hate.”


As Noah prepared for his first venture into college life (A community college. As part of the Move On When Ready Program. We have to be careful not to freak out his mother that he’s growing up, so let’s not talk about it anymore, okay?) I explained that people on college campuses are a little less refined with their word choices, especially in the shop setting Noah was heading into, but not to let that influence his own word choices at school or at home.


I wasn’t sure if my speech was well-received or not, until Magan retold a recent exchange between some of Noah’s classmates. 


One of Noah’s friends had noticed Noah cringe following the utterance of a curse word, so he apologized and cut back his cursing considerably. And about a week or two later, another student started cursing and Noah’s friend spoke up saying, “Stop it. He doesn’t like it.”


Only one word came to mind after hearing that story: pride.


Noah had unintentionally impacted his friends for the better simply by making it clear that he wasn’t cool with their choice of words. He was living the example suggested in 1 Timothy 4:12 to “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”


This doesn’t mean that he will never fall prey to using the wrong words, but it does mean he’s on a much better trajectory than his father, or his father before him. The real test, of course, will come when he has to change the brake pads and the calipers “just won’t let loose.”


Jason Halcombe has five sons and a daughter. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.


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