“Oops, sorry, I didn’t know you were here! If I had known, I wouldn’t have said that!” My manager patted me on the back and walked away leaving me looking awkwardly at my fellow co-worker.
My manager had just let out a string of expletives after finding out she had to work an extra weekend shift. While working all weekend is never fun, in my personal opinion, it didn’t warrant the words she had just loudly shared with everyone in hearing range. However, I kept those thoughts silently to myself.
My co-worker looked at me awkwardly. “Because you never swear, now we all feel rude when we do.” She sighed and walked away following the manager outside.
I was in high school and working as a cashier part-time at a local pharmacy. The employees there were a mix of people of varying ages, backgrounds, and life-stages, but they all shared something in common: bad language. Lots of it. And, as a kid who grew up in a house where swearing was never acceptable, it made me uncomfortable. But, I never said anything about it. I was grateful to have the job and the last thing I was going to do was tell my boss she shouldn’t be using certain words.
But, something interesting happened, after working there for a few weeks, I noticed more and more of my co-workers apologizing for their language just like my manager had done. At first, this confused me, because I had never mentioned my discomfort. But, I eventually realized that they noticed I never swore, which made them more aware of when they did. It dawned on me, that until I showed up at work one day, they were completely desensitized to foul language because everyone around them was using it on a regular basis.
While I never intended to make my co-workers feel rude, my lack of swearing shifted their perspective and reminded them that not everyone swears. I had, if only for a moment, pulled back their heavy curtain of desensitization.
People Are Watching and Listening
Becoming desensitized isn’t always a bad thing. It can serve us in many ways. If we get up every morning at 5:00 a.m., our bodies will soon become desensitized to waking up early. If we start eating kale every day, we will eventually become desensitized to its taste. If we work out on a regular basis, we will become desensitized to the pain we put our bodies through. You get the point. Desensitizing ourselves can be a very healthy thing. But, it can be very dangerous too.
My co-workers’ desensitization to swearing was an eye-opening experience for me because I saw how one person can change the view of a whole group, even without doing anything. I was hardly heroic for simply not swearing at work. In fact, it took me no effort at all not to swear. But, my lack of swearing, though seemingly small, led an entire group of people to question their own use of foul language, or, at the very least, make them more aware of it.
As Christians, we often think we must use our words and actions to compel people into changing. And, while this is definitely true, I think it is often overlooked how powerful our quiet refusals can be. Telling someone not to swear or simply never swearing yourself are actually two very different things. And, chances are, the people in our lives will respond in very different ways to each one.
Desensitized to Porn
This world has very quickly become completely desensitized to many things it shouldn’t. Pornography is one of them. There are constant images on television, social media, billboards, magazines, and everywhere else that would have scandalized our grandparents. And, whether we like it or not, by being constantly shown suggestive images, we are slowly becoming desensitized, even if that isn’t our intention. Most of us don’t mean to gawk at the magazines placed in front of us at checkout counters or purposefully watch a commercial with racy imagery. We can’t control most of these things. But, we can control how we respond to it. And your response might just be enough to start breaking through the levels of desensitization that your friends and peers find themselves in.
When faced with these images throughout our day, we must remain scandalized by them. Most of us, when we hear the word “scandalized,” think of someone causing a loud scene. But, that doesn’t need to be the case. The definition of scandalized means “to be shocked or horrified.” To be shocked by something doesn’t mean we need to throw a big fit and draw attention to ourselves. We can, and should, be scandalized quietly, in our own hearts and minds.
So, the next time you’re watching a movie and a suggestive scene comes on, consider quietly excusing yourself or covering your eyes. Or while you’re waiting in line at the store, maybe flip some of those magazines over to their back cover. Perhaps the next time you’re in the car and a song with questionable lyrics comes on, turn down the volume or change the song. Your friends and peers might notice or they might not. Either way, by taking small actions such as these, you’re setting a standard for yourself and those around you, while also guarding your mind and soul.
Saint Paul of the Cross reminds us of our duty to avoid such times of temptation saying,
“Therefore act prudently, avoid all dangerous intercourse, watch over your eyes, your heart, and all your affections; be very modest, be circumspect in all your actions, by night as well as by day; love holy modesty.”
Guard Yourself Against Temptation
So often we are reminded to avoid the “big” temptations such as watching pornography or participating in unchaste behavior, but we are not always reminded of the virtue in avoiding the littlest of temptations in the first place. If we guard ourselves against these little temptations and continue to be scandalized at all suggestive imagery or language, then we are doing ourselves a huge service. If we allow ourselves to participate in seemingly harmless actions, such as watching a movie with vulgar language or sexual imagery, we are allowing our brains to learn that this sort of thing is acceptable. This in turn, then opens the door for even worse things, such as pornography, to become the new norm.
This is exactly what Saint Mark the Ascetic is talking about when he says:
“Guard your mind, and you will not be harassed by temptations. But if you fail to guard it, accept patiently whatever trial comes.”
We all know pornography is sinful, but what led us toward it in the first place? What desensitizes us to the point of convincing us that pornography isn’t such a scandalous thing after all?
We all know the popular fable of the frog who is so comfortable in warm water that he doesn’t have time to escape before it boils. When you allow yourself to be constantly exposed to any sort of sexual imagery willingly, you’re putting yourself in that warm water that will soon boil over, leaving you without much time to escape.
While it may seem silly to you to leave the room or cover your eyes and ears, it’s really not. By doing so, you’re protecting yourself but also throwing out a silent message to everyone else who is with you saying: “I don’t want to participate in this”. This is what Covenant Eyes does for us behind the scenes as well.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
As we all know, our actions do speak louder than our words, and sometimes the loudest action we can provide is to simply not participate in what everyone else is. With this in mind, I encourage you to examine your life and see where you have become desensitized to things you shouldn’t. Once you’ve identified those things, make a point to become aware of them and no longer allow them to be acceptable in your life. You might be surprised how eye-opening it is and also how much it easier it will be to avoid the larger temptations, once you’ve conquered the smaller ones.
Covenant Eyes: Screen Accountability™
Be the best version of you.
Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability is designed to help you live with integrity on your devices by sharing your activity with a trusted friend.
Audience: Adults and supervised minors
Resource Type: Software
Cost: $15.99 / month.