The tradition of handshaking may soon come to an end. Our grandchildren may not know the concept and question why we ever did it. With COVID 19 and the rise of germ awareness in general over the last few years, alternatives are starting to appear. Even before COVID 19, the fist bump became popular among young and old alike. I have also seen the elbow touch as a personal greeting of late. Even my dad got in on the fist bump a few years before he passed. It seemed a little strange to me at the time to see him use it, but he was a hip dude, at least in that regard. I am sure he was being mindful of germs in his attempt to change his life-long handshaking habit for the new gesture.
Did you ever stop to wonder how the handshake got started in the first place? The history of the handshake, according to History.com, has existed for a long time, as a symbol of peace. Even though its origin is a bit fuzzy, one popular theory is that it began to convey peaceful intentions. By extending the empty right hand, it showed the other person they were not holding a weapon. It goes even farther to suggest the whole arm was involved with the grasp closer to the forearm and the shaking motion was to dislodge any knives or daggers that could have been hidden up the sleeve.
Over the last several decades, it has become common place to greet someone with a handshake, whether that be at the brotherly fellowship in church or a formal business meeting in the corporate world. It was so popular that the History site also claims there have been lessons on how to shake properly, with just the right balance of firm, yet not too forceful. I remember a time when a female boss of mine a few years back told me to always shake with a firm hand and look the person in the eye; she went on to reiterate the importance of doing this was particularly true when greeting a man in the corporate world. I never forgot that. Although I already shook with a firm grasp due to encountering weak shakes at church, which I affectionately called the limp fish, something I did not like. For this reason, some people regard the handshake as the first impression barometer of sorts. If someone’s shake was not firm enough one might question their assertiveness or confidence.
Now, with everything that is going on, even Christians have had to stop the practice of handshaking as a welcoming greeting. In Paul’s day, in I Corinthians 16:20, we see him tell the Corinthians to greet each other in Christian love, or a holy kiss. A kiss on the cheek was a common greeting. That is better than how Tibet greets one another, according to Afar Magazine, in an article about how people greet each other around the world, one sticks out their tongue. I am sure they had their reasons, which probably was like the original handshake, and both ‘stuck’ to become a common greeting in each area respectfully. We certainly have some strange traditions and most of us have never stopped to ask where they come from or why we still do them. I guess the elbow touch, or some other form of greeting will derive from the COVID era and generations to come will not have a clue how it got started as it becomes common place among their generation. Something to think about as we begin new habits. What kinds of habits are we forming that we would be okay with handing down to the next generation? May we all be mindful of the legacies we are leaving.