JJ asked:

I study in engineering college and currently in a collegiate club. Our club is the only place (what I feel) to learn something new exciting and technical. While doing work everyday my club mates use cuss words as frustation is normal for us. I have controlled this since I have joined the club and I know I can control it further as I don’t really like to use such abusive words against anyone. But Now I have reached the limit and cant bear further for God’s sake as I really get frustated when I hear such words. Please tell me a way to deal with this situation other than the solution of leaving the club (if any).

Answer by Gideon Smith-Jones

Cuss words (I’ll use your term) are best reserved for when you hit your thumb with a hammer or when your best friend betrays you. (Word for word, that’s what my old public schoolmaster Mr Carrick used to say.)

A lightning bolt won’t come down from the sky to incinerate you if you say, ‘Damn!’ or even use the ‘F’ or ‘C’ words occasionally.

On the other hand, you could argue that bad language is a form of violence, most frequently sexual violence. Violence violates. You feel violated, even when the ‘cuss’ words are not directed towards you, and I understand that. But how to deal with it?

A colleague once gave me some good advice that applies to any situation you find difficult to bear. ‘Put up with it, change it, or leave.’ You don’t want to leave. So what are the chances of changing your clubmates’ ingrained habits? I wish you luck if you want to go down that road. Challenge them each time. Make yourself really annoying. Maybe, if you’re lucky, they will kick you out and at least you won’t have to say that you crawled away with your tail between your legs.

So that leaves just one option. Put up with it. If you are looking for philosophic inspiration read the Stoics. Accept the world as it is — the things you don’t have the power to change — but don’t let that force you to deviate from your own path of virtue. You feel the mental pain every time, but it is your choice whether to mind it.