When someone greets you how do you respond? Are you inclined to return a greeting, civil or otherwise, or just pretend the other person doesn’t exist? Do you pick and choose who gets what greeting like you pick out produce? “That one looks rotten, quick look the other way.” How do you feel if you initiate a greeting that is not reciprocated?
I am very much aware that it is a person’s prerogative to ignore whomever they want, whenever they desire, just don’t ignore ME if I’m talking to you. Seriously though, it’s one thing to have a bad day(s), be distracted, or suffer from some unforeseen issue but I’m talking about people who willingly choose to go through life with sand in their shorts. They own bitterness like a badge of honor. The olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton, who has survived some tremendous challenges is credited with saying, “The only true disability is a bad attitude.”
Being cordial, cheerful, civil, polite, respectful is a choice. That doesn’t mean you need to bounce around through life all the time like a Disney character with feather underwear but being a cold, bitter, curmudgeon won’t endear yourself to people either. A nasty first impression will require a lot of work to overcome. Wouldn’t you rather hang out with Bugs Bunny than Yosemite Sam?
A Princeton study found that most people make a first impression of a person within 7 seconds. Research also indicates that typically 11 different impressions are formed during those 7 seconds. Some studies concluded it only takes a tenth of a second to form a lasting impression. The way you greet people says a lot about you. From handshakes and howdy to head nods and hand gestures. Any, in my opinion, is far more acceptable than how animals greet each other.
Of course there are people, who for one reason or another, you may regret ever greeting them. You would like to just wish them into the cornfield. The less you know of them the better. That could fill up another whole blog.
Occasionally there are those who abuse the greeting. I once worked in an office where one particular person had the annoying habit of announcing her presence EVERY TIME she entered the room with a greeting. Now this may seem rather benign but during the course of the day she went in and out of the room many times a day. She became offended when no one responded after the third or fourth or fifteenth time. Honestly, we said hello already just thirty minutes ago, do we have to reenact that moment constantly throughout the day? It was like every time she left the room she traveled to another time dimension and we forgot she still worked there and just had to be reminded when she came back. It was exhausting.
Recently I ran into two of my favorite dogs and their owner at the lake. As I was still walking towards them I noticed from a short distance that one of the biggest unsociable culprits crossed paths with him. Not surprisingly, his greeting was rebuffed which totally irritated him. When I met up with him, he informed me that the next time he crosses paths with her, he is going to give her the one finger salute. As harsh as it may be, that of course is his choice. I countered that, if anything, I would prefer to just kill her with kindness.
A few days later while sitting on a bench overlooking the lake, I noticed her walking toward me. Remembering my promise to my trigger finger friend, I said a little prayer, “Lord if it’s your will, soften her heart and make her receptive to a greeting.” I greeted her with my usual “good morning.” Instantly, she returned my greeting with a “good morning”of her own. I about had to pick myself up off the ground. For the first time in a year, she acknowledged my greeting and returned a greeting.
More importantly, I experienced a paradigm shift. That was also the first time in more than a year, I prayed for her. Why is it, it took me so long to figure that out? I saw her as the one with the problem when I was exhibiting an issue of my own. A short time later I ran into my trigger finger friend and his wife. You’ll remember that he had his middle finger loaded and ready to fire at her. I shared with him and his wife my breakthrough encounter. He was as astonished as I was. His wife however, scolded him that he needs to put his poor attitude away and be more polite and civil. “See, see, I told you to be nice” she reminded him. Good advice for us all to remember to live by.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2