There are hundreds, if not thousands of different cultures and religious beliefs around the world. Each and every one of these have their own set of traditions and habits that they follow, based on their scriptures and/or cultural and societal habits. But in a lot of cases, some of these traditions can conflict with those of other cultures and religions.
Although this should be fine, and everyone should simply adopt a modus operandi of live and let live, it continues to surprise and fascinate me how some people appear offended or even insulted, when someone does something different than what they do. Although this would make sense if you did something heinous like blowing your nose with a holy scripture or something, I’m talking about the little things…
Flashback to an incident that happened last year when I visited my parents in New Brunswick. My mother happens to be French Catholic and as such, I have the habit of attending a church service with her whenever I visit. I am appreciative of all people’s faith, so it’s always a pleasure to be able to share in the experience with my mother.
One of the Catholic church’s traditions during a typical service is to turn and wish peace and well-being upon your neighbours in a practice referred to as “Passing the Peace.” This is usually done by shaking peoples’ hands while saying “Peace be with you.” From my understanding, it’s a practice that’s observed by a number of Christian sects and churches.
This is an interesting topic, considering the advent of social distancing and most people trying to avoid physical contact with others. For the most part, and considering the nature of my job, I don’t avoid shaking hands as a rule but I do tend to restrict physical contact with total strangers to an extent. My mother is very much the same, and has long discontinued the practice of shaking hands and simply says “Peace be with you” and moving on.
For most people, there’s nothing wrong with this. But some people always seem to see the negative in a situation. During this particular service, my mother and I were seated behind some people who took some… liberties with their time within the church. The woman took her shoes off and appeared to be picking at her feet throughout most of the service.
I’m not here to judge. I wasn’t THERE to judge. Especially in a church whose holy Bible reads, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” But perhaps shaking your hands after you’ve been picking the light knows what from the crevices in your feet is NOT in my best interest. So when the time came for Passing the Peace, I respectfully bowed to the woman while saying “Peace be with you.” The look of utter shock and judgement on that woman’s face caught me completely by surprise.
Now to my mother’s credit, she makes a point of telling people that she doesn’t shake hands. Pretty clear cut. But in my case, I don’t know if it was my refusal to stick out my hand, the woman’s embarrassment because she HAD stuck out her hand or the bow, but I had somehow rubbed her the wrong way. To the point where she felt it necessary to approach me after the service to say that it was customary to follow the church’s customs when visiting.
Here’s the joke: I grew up in the Catholic church. Up until my teens, when I started making my own way, I followed my mother to church every week. So I knew her point of view was skewed and incorrect. Could I have corrected her? Sure. Could I have explained my religious views? Probably. Was it easier to leave her in her ignorance and walk away? It was, and you bet your keister I did!
Unless your traditions and beliefs bring harm to yourself and other people, we should all be able to share a respect for each other’s faith. They may all be different, but they should all be meant to evoke acceptance and understanding. Otherwise, what is faith for? The appropriate response from this woman would have been to ask questions and perhaps learn about our respective differences in faith. Given the way the world has evolved, haven’t we reached a point where said acceptance and understanding rule the day? Food for thought… ☯