I’m not a big sports fan. I know that comes as quite a surprise to people and many wish to revoke my Man Card, but it’s true. I wasn’t in high school, either. Going to a football game back then for me was all about the social aspect. I knew there was a game going on, because I had to pay to get through the gate, but that was about all I knew. I wandered around goofing off with my friends, hid under the bleachers kissing girls, or sat in the stands disturbing those who were trying to pay attention to the game.

Some people took the game quite seriously. Dean was one of those devoted individuals who cheered and supported their team. I figured I supported them by paying the price of admission, and only cheered when everyone else seemed to be while I wondered what we were cheering about with such enthusiasm.

Many of us in the choir sat in the stands together, at times, socializing and picking on band members. At one game, Dean was standing on the seat, screaming at whatever was happening on the field. I’m sure the course of events was not going in our favor by his reaction. Whatever it was, it was truly getting on my friend’s nerves and had him all agitated. My dad gets this way when he watches football and the doctors have forbidden him from sitting through a game because of his heart.

Now, before I go any further with my story, I think some background information may be in order. You see, Dean was a very religious person, the son of a music minister at a Southern Baptist church. He was even planning on going into the ministry himself when he finished his studies. He was a committed Christian who held strongly to his beliefs. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with his beliefs, but as a person, he was fun to hang around. We knew his personal code and didn’t try to push him out of his good boy behavior. We just did all the fun stuff when he wasn’t around.

So, let’s zip back to my ill-spent youth and our story. I’m sitting in the stands, trying to score and having more success than our football team, and something must have not gone right on the field. I know this because suddenly Dean stomps his foot in rage, jarring those of us sitting down, and screams, “Cussword!”

I lost it. I couldn’t help it. I was laughing so hard I almost fell out of y seat. Cussword? Really? I asked him if he wanted me to drop the f-bomb for him, but he refused. He stared at me, confused; not understanding what I thought was so funny.

“I don’t cuss,” he said, trying to focus back on the game.

“You just did. You just didn’t use the right word.”

He used what Teri’s mom would have called a substitute. It wasn’t the exact word, but it had the same meaning. It wasn’t so much the word that was said that made it wrong, but the emotion that came out of the heart. It was a cover up.

Words are words. We use them to express what’s really inside of us. At times, we try to use words to cover up actions. We believe that if we substitute it with something less abrasive, people will ignore the reality of what’s inside. I’m not going to soften who I am. I don’t believe in being politically correct. I also don’t believe sprinkling sugar over what is basically crap will make it more palatable. You can put a tuxedo on a serial killer, but he’s still a murderer. What’s inside a person will eventually bust through the costumed exterior.

I haven’t thought of Dean in years. Last I heard, he did go into the ministry, had his own church and married a sweet lady I knew and began a family. He followed his heart and went after his dreams. Hopefully, he loosened up a little bit.

Substitutes are similar to imitations. They’re not real and aren’t there enough artificial people in the world? Don’t be afraid of being who you are and chasing your dreams. Don’t hide yourself under what society would cover you with to blend into their comfort zone. There’s nothing wrong with you! Unless, of course, you’re a serial killer, then you’re pretty screwed up. Otherwise, be real with yourself and those around you. And every once in awhile just let that cussword slip out. I promise it won’t be what sends you to hell.

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