Can You Change a Life with a Greeting? – Bethel Church and Ministries

Can You Change a Life with a Greeting?


Can you change a life with a greeting…in a time that feels like a weird dystopian contagion movie (with “murder hornets” nonetheless!) in which the world is shut down and people are encouraged to stay away from each other? ABSOLUTELY! In fact, how we greet one another will be crucial with the shelter-in-place edict lifted. Let me explain….

Traditional forms of greeting have changed drastically. Close proximity is not a possibility, so physical distancing is the current reality. Ask any epidemiologist, sociologist, or student of culture how this will affect the way we relate to one another for the foreseeable future. Online connectivity has revolutionized the social marketplace. A friendly hug to show our care has morphed into a friendly wave from a distance. Handshakes are replaced with elbow bumps. High fives now resemble the synchronized “air five” from Jim and Pam of the show The Office. These are the days of the “Wuhan shake.” (If you are not sure what that is, Google it. It’s definitely worth checking out!) Welcome to the new normal.

Remember when we would gather at the church building on a Sunday morning? Seems like so long ago. In those days, the average churchgoer would greet someone with the mundane, superficial colloquialism, “How’s it going?” Most of the time, we did not ask because we didn’t want to delve into the life of our fellow man. It was often another way to say hi and resulted in an insincere, curt answer, “fine” or “good,” even if they were not actually “fine” or “good.” The world could be crashing down around us, yet to keep our private lives private and to thwart others from getting too involved emotionally, we would put up the façade to keep them at arm’s length. Some might even respond “blessed” amid deep difficulty instead of spilling the details of their tribulations, as if to be Christian is not to struggle. 

Well, now the world is crashing down all around us, and we are mandated to keep others at an arm’s length. What this has revealed is an innate desire within humanity to connect with others. The pandemic has forced the superficial smokescreen to dissipate. Greetings are more genuine in this crisis, because when people ask how you are doing now, they truly want to know. Social isolation has resulted in frustration, loneliness, despair, depression, and even suicidal thoughts, so when we ask how someone is doing, that modicum of genuine care might actually save their lives! The new greeting is “How’s your family? Everybody healthy? How are you really doing?” There is an earnestness in looking out for the well-being of others that was not there before. In days of yore, someone would rarely respond to a haphazard greeting with an honest, vulnerable answer. Now when I ask others how they are doing, I see relief because they just want someone to show care and a willingness to listen. 

The key to genuine fellowship has always been honesty and vulnerability. We are to bear one another’s burdens. Physical distancing does NOT mean human distancing. What if we can be closer to people now from six feet away than we were before this pandemic? People are starving to interact. In many ways, this is where we as Christians can be incredibly missional and show counter-cultural kindness strategically. What if we lean into this and intentionally and sincerely invest in the lives of others through how we greet them?

Here are some tips and suggestions for genuine, heartfelt, impactful greetings during a pandemic…

  • Be innocent, but shrewd. You need to show care for their health by maintaining physical distance while striving for social closeness.
  • Smile and wave and say hello. Your kindness could open up a door for deeper conversation. 
  • Demonstrate personal investment in relationship. Ask sincere questions like: “How are you hanging in there? How are you really doing? How can I be there for you during this time?”
  • Practice active, reflective listening. Paraphrase their response to communicate understanding and acceptance. This helps them know that you care and are genuinely listening, but also allows for clarity in restatement if necessary.
  • Listen for clues in their tone and watch body language. Sometimes what people don’t say is more telling than what they do say. Respond with “I can see that you feel _________. If it were me, I might feel that way too. Is that how you are feeling?”
  • Evoke vulnerability by being vulnerable. Set an example. If you share how you are struggling, they are more likely to open up.
  • Finally, the most powerful question we have that can launch into deeper, spiritual conversations is… “How can I pray for you?” Notice it is not worded as a closed-ended question, resulting in a response of “yes” or “no.” Assume everyone could use prayer. Believe it or not, you may have some people break down in tears because they are going through all kinds of inner turmoil. That question alone may draw it out and lead to an incredible gospel encounter. Try it! Sure, some may clam up, but probably 90% will respond affirmatively and appreciate the offer.

Christians, we have an opportunity to invest in people the way Jesus did when he walked this earth. Take time to pour into people, show kindness, display interest in their lives, listen, and pray with them. You might just change a life!