Spurned During the Sign of Peace

Has this happened to you? You put out your hand to shake someone else’s at the Sign of Peace and get the cold shoulder–or worse.

I would never have expected something like that to happen, especially at a weekday Mass, but it did. Anyway, I wrote about my experience and what I’m doing about it in a short post for my blog, which you can find here: reflections911.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/spurned-at-church

Has anybody else had to handle this problem?

If this was someone you knew, or if you saw her shaking hands with everyone else and she just refused yours, then maybe I would “get” why you are so bothered by this. As it is, I can see being taken aback but I don’t get why you are “deeply hurt” over this.

You note yourself she may be a germaphobe. She may also have some mental condition that causes her to not react well or appropriately to someone reaching out to touch her. There are many conditions, from anxiety to autism to germaphobia to being an abuse survivor, the list goes on and on, that could result in this. I’ve met people with one of these conditions who would probably react in exactly the same way to an outstretched hand.

I have also noted in my travels that some people from other countries and cultures do not shake hands at the sign of peace - they bow or use the upraised hand but do not touch - and if you extend a hand to them they may recoil from it.

I would have just waved a little sign of peace at her and moved on. I don’t see why you would take it personally.

I’m trying to get the picture right.

During the sign of peace, this young lady turned around, hid behind her crossed forearms, looked away, and shivered in utter disgust?

That doesn’t strike me as rude, it strikes me as a little imbalanced. This person either has an extreme agenda against the sign of peace, or else doesn’t have all her lightbulbs lighting up. Or both, I suppose.

As for me, I’ve never had a “bad” experience during the sign of peace, and I interpret yours as being an extreme one that might be relevant more to describing an extremely idiosyncratic person that on anything spiritual.

I was hurt because from the expression on her face she acted like I was garbage. She could have just said, “No, thank you.” Surely she must have realized what she was doing.

Again, if she has a mental condition, she may not react or process information in the same way as you do. You seem to be assuming she meant to be rude or hurtful. I doubt that’s the case. People on the autism spectrum are often thought to be rude but their behavior is because of their condition - they don’t perceive social situations like we do. People with extreme anxiety or phobia are just terrified and that is all they are thinking. They are not thinking about the feelings of the other person, they are focusing on not freaking out and running out of the church.

Encounters like this make me wish to some extent that the Church would not set up these situations where people expect to interact in a touchy-feely way with others at the Mass. It creates a set of expectations between total strangers, and the potential for hurt feelings when the encounter does not go “as expected”.

You are assuming this is all about you.

Sounds to me like a person with a mental issue of some kind. You are assuming that ‘surely’ they could have done X or acted in way Y. Surely they could just say no thank you or stand there or whatever.

No, that is an assumption about what you would do and how a normal person would act.

A person with mental illness, phobias, a disorder, or some other mental handicap would not act like you, may not be in control of themselves at all, may not be capable of acting the way you want them to act or expect them to act.

I think you need to step back from this being about you. You are projecting motives onto this person-- that she was disgusted with you, that she snubbed you, she thought you were garbage. that’s all you, not her.

Ask yourself what’s going on with you that you are reacting to her actions by personalizing and internalizing them instead of saying “wow, that’s a person with some real issues and it probably took everything inside of them just to come to mass today… i’ll say an extra prayer for them.”

Okay, let me get this straight:

Treat someone like garbage–get your behavior defended
Take offense at someone treating you like garbage–get your behavior criticized

Have I got it right? Because it sure sounds to me like this is what you are doing.

I can’t belive nobody is getting the point of this thread. It isn’t about me. My first question was an inquiry asking if this had happened to anybody else.

That is what the thread is about, not so much my own personal experience. I was asking if anybody else had experienced this and what they did about it.

Could we please lay off the comments about how you think I should have reacted?

You put this topic up for discussion and now you are taking my discussion comments personally. Were you just expecting everyone to agree with your feelings here and sympathize?

You need to step way back from this and take a look at what you are doing and how you are making this “all about you”, including now on this thread.

Peace out.

I have tried to make it clear that this thread is not about me. It is an inquiry wondering if anybody else has had a similar experience.

I took your comments personally because you were discussing my personal behavior. I don’t see how that isn’t personal.

Yes it has happened to me. I just move on.

Some people just don’t like their personal bubble penetrated, or don’t like being touched. One lady who’s an occasional at the monastery puts her hands together and bows with a smile but does not offer a hand. I just assume she doesn’t want to be touched (maybe has an immune system condition?). Recently a man gave me a dirty “who do you think you are” look when I put out my hand. Don’t want to shake hands? No problem, I just move on to the next person.

I figure they own whatever issue bugs them, not I. Whether they have an weak immune system, a mental disorder, just don’t like being touched… it doesn’t really matter.

I have occasionally been the one to refuse a hand, usually when I’m getting over a bug of some sort, though I always try to make some other friendly gesture; if the person insists I just say in a low voice that I’m getting over a bad cold and don’t want to spread it around.

I figure everyone deserves respect and if they don’t like giving the sign of the peace, I respect that and don’t make a federal case out of it.

Okay, this is the kind of post I was looking for when I created the thread. Thank you.

We sit with the same crowd every week. If someone has a cold we just do a short wave and smile. Once or twice there have been people who simply hold their hands in front of them and look forward. Body language is very clear, they aren’t interested. I just chalk it up to human nature, don’t take it personal.

The ones who don’t shake, seem to not be around long…

This. Having a person refuse the sign of peace has happened to me on several occasions over the years. When it does, I just move on to the next person. I assume illness or arthritic hands usually, but don’t really give it much thought beyond that when it happens.

Sometimes, especially if I am sitting directly under a vent, I gingerly offer my own hand because I know it is very cold and I wonder if that is unpleasant for the person taking my offered hand. Usually, I try to warm it up by rubbing my hands together for a bit, though. But, that doesn’t always work well. :slight_smile:

Because I’m Byzantine and we don’t do the Sign of Peace, this specifically hasn’t happened to me, but upon leaving Liturgy one evening I held the door for a woman who was a few steps behind me. As I held it, I turned and smiled at her and she looked directly at me with just a blank expression and didn’t even say “thank you”. I said to my sister “what the heck was THAT”? My sister told me, “forget it; don’t worry about it”. And I think that’s good advice. Whether or not they have some sort of social anxiety, impairment, or maybe are just plain rude, reactions like this really aren’t about you; it’s the person doing it.

OP, this is what everyone meant earlier when they said it’s not about you, but you are making it about you. Don’t take it personally. There are lots of reasons someone doesn’t want to shake hands **that have nothing to do with you. **

There are some people who don’t like to offer the sign of peace at mass. I recommend just letting it go. Life is too short to bee miserable if you can avoid it.

I would think anyone who attends Mass regularly has had this happen.
So many reasons that are not Ill intentioned.
1). The person has mental issues with OCD, "germaphobia"
2). The person suffers from social anxieties.
3. The person does not like the sign of peace.
4). The person is dealing with hurt or anger.
5. She could culturally not like shaking hands.
6. Out of habit and unnoticed by you, you could have picked your knows, licked your fingers, sneezed into your hand

I would not assume they " don’t like you personally"

But the blog post painted a " mean lady". That did something that hurt you deeply. I found that odd.

Interestingly enough the “sign” of peace has historically been a “kiss” of peace.
Lol. Come at me or my family with your lips puckered and you will have one heck of a blog post!!

As it is I think you dwell too much on this and have uncharitably ascribed motives to her that may not be.

I don’t hold hands for the Our father. Some people I’m sure can read into that…

I’ve noticed that during our weekday Masses, most people do not shake hands during the sign of peace. Mostly, they are regulars that just nod and wave to others all over the Church. I always offer the sign of peace to those nearest me, though a weekday Mass is sparsely attended, so not many are usually close enough, and then also nod and wave to the others in my vicinity.

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