Swearing as a Response to Pain

by: Deborah Chaves

Did you know that swearing can actually be beneficial? Dr. Mary C. Neal, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and author of “To Heaven and Back” thinks so. After drowning, going to Heaven and coming back, she  breaks her ankle in a skiing accident while out in a remote area where there is no immediate help. Dr. Neal decides the only way out is to hike out and says the two hour trip back was “accompanied by a lifetime’s worth of cursing.” Her account of the cursing is described here: “As an interesting side note, I had recently read a study by Stephens, Atkins and Kingston in which they evaluated swearing as a response to pain (NeuroReport, August 5, 2009; volume 20, issue 12; 1056-60). In the study, two sets of data were collected based on how long volunteers were able to keep their arm submersed in ice water, a known pain stimulator, while either a commonplace word to describe a table or shouting the profanity of their choice. The authors found that volunteers had a significantly greater pain tolerance when using the profanity of their choice. As I hiked the distance to our car, I performed my own personal experiment. I tried yelling words like “snow” and “tree” or yelling different profanities. In the end, I agreed wholeheartedly with the results of Stephens’ study.”

18 thoughts on “Swearing as a Response to Pain

  1. Well, I agree with this Christian Dr. I sure have had some spells of cursing when pain especially emotional pain was gaining control of my being. Why? it helped, I really do not know. But, it has at times helped me to strengthen my mind to know that I needed to focused on positive and not negative. It was cathartic like cutting the trouble out and heal from the situations or people.

    1. It sure is hard to say “snow” or “tree” when you walk by a piece of furniture and hit your little toe, isn’t it? Do you believe God is more concerned about your pain, then He is about what you just said?

      1. I believe He is concerned about both our pain and our words. From the account of the ordeal Dr. Neal gave, those swear words may have made the difference between enduring the two hour trip back on the broken ankle or not making that trip at all. In her book she says this about her belief which seems to relate: “I believe God will see me through and carry me when I cannot walk.”

  2. And, on physical pain…my friend had knee replacement surgery…they said when the therapy started after surgery it was very painful and they yelled profanity…they shocked themselves as this language was not commonplace for them!

  3. I can understand that there are times when EXPLETIVES NOT DELETED seem to be the only expressions that can be used effectively to describe a dire situation, condition or excruciatingly painful experience. If the situation is PROFANE then profanity seems to identify it alleviate some of the trauma of the situation. If according to the web dictionary, one meaning of profane is ” To treat with irreverence:
    2. To put to an improper, unworthy, or degrading use; abuse.” then excruciating pain or tragic or abusive situations or episodes should properly be regarded and treated as profane.

    1. You got that right, t….when I think of snow or tree I think of pleasant things. And, a toe in pain needs words that fit!!!!

    1. Sara,
      Does your point here go with the scripture in Luke, chapter 6 verse 45? “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

      1. t, a great reference, I believe. I would think a flow of litany of profanity for any reason might need a spiritual heart monitor for a few days. Review of the results, and if needed, treatment.

        A word here or there to treat pain may be like morphine to a disease. We would not use morphine daily, hopefully, without a serious cause. For the Word also says, ‘every idle/careless word spoken you will have to account for on judgment day that will come to all. Matthew 12:36 NIV “…will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”

        We need to know ourselves!!!! Don’t you all think?

  4. Although rather unusual but not not unnecessary in the Scriptures.. Refer to Malachi 2: 1-8, God’s stern and profane sounding admonition to the disloyal priests. And also in another place the Lord God says, ” I will spread dung on their faces that they may eat their own dung and drink their own urine……” Pretty harsh!! But God is a just God.

      1. That’s a good point, Sara.
        And it seems to me that sometimes a curse word describes the something or someone’s action or behavior perfectly.

  5. HMMM. In Searching the Scriptures it seems the Lord God Swore quite a bit when HE was angry and in wrath about sin in HIS children.. Look at these Scriptures.:

    Ps. 95:11Therefore I SWORE IN MY WRATH, “They shall not enter my rest.”

    Heb. 4:3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.

    Heb. 3:11 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared in My wrath and in My anger, ‘They shall never enter MY rest.'” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.

  6. In that same book by Dr. Mary Neal she writes of an incident, an encounter with a glorious being, an angel or perhaps, the Lord , in a golden field of light. What the “angel” shared with her is both amazing and provocative. First of all He told her to rejoice always even in the midst of horrendous circumstances. Paul tell us that in his epistle…to rejoice always, again and again.
    Then He told her that we are each given the privilege and opportunity to come to earth for different reasons. Some are sent to earth to help others. Some are sent to develop the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, self-control and faithfulness.
    In reading this chapter, I came to look at what the angel told her as it’s being like our prenatal spirit making a CONTRACT with the Lord before being assigned a body and being born on earth. She explains it like this:
    “It’s like God creates the outline for our life’s design; then we discuss it with our ‘personal planning angel’. Within this plan are branch points at which we can choose to exit and return to God or we may be re-directed to another task”
    This is a stunning revelation and makes one contemplate that since we and God have contracted to fulfill a special mission here on earth we may seek more diligently what our agreement, compact or contract with the Lord God is that we may be certain to fulfill it.
    I am thinking that an excellent illustration of this is that CHRIST the Second Person of the Trinity contracted with
    the Father before the beginning of time that He would be born on earth as Jesus Christ the Son of Mary to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. They made their contract and Jesus Christ fulfilled it exactly and to the highest and faultless degree. That is what God means for every soul that has contracted
    with Him before being clothed in flesh and being born on this earth.

  7. “…return to God or we may be re-directed to another task.” Dr. Mary Neal…this rings a bell in my mind since I am a task orientated person. When I begin a task adrenaline flows, when I see the end coming adrenaline stops. The project many be outstanding and will continue to be but it leaves me and I want a new task….for me without a task it is sad. Sad girl without a divinely directed task. Maybe I better looking in my viewing glass and find my next mission.
    I must say Dr. Neal is most interesting in the prescriptions she gives. Interesting to me, how, she is a Dr., a surgeon, I believe and she continues with her spiritual surgical work. Beautiful!

  8. Sara, I know that to be true about your spiritual perspective…and task orientation. As in the Scripture
    in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint;they perish spiritually.. but happy is he that follows the commands of God.”

  9. “…making a CONTRACT” … as Mg writes above …sounds legal and binding and not something lightly to be entered into as there will be consequences if it is breached. So I am thinking that if we have this pre-natal contract than we must have a deep knowing inside what the requirements are and our conscience must be a barometer to guide us.

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