01 January 2012

Your Hand - A Blessing or an Offense

A correspondent wrote to tell of an odd experience she had in Massachusetts. An African gas station attendant became incensed when she handed him her money with his left hand. She was puzzled and asked him to explain what was wrong. This only made him more angry.

Several years ago, a missionary friend in Kenya told me of an experience he had with a Maasai acquaintance. Working with a group of church musicians in a training setting, he was getting their names. As my left-handed friend wrote the name of one of the Maasai men, the man expressed with a mildly surprised tone, "You are writing my name with your left hand!"

Many peoples of the world consider the left hand a shameful hand. This was true for many African tribes we came into contact with. Likewise in Arab culture, you must be careful how you use your left hand.

In some cultures, it is considered an offense to hand someone something with your left hand. This concept is alive in Middle East. This ancient concept is demonstrated by the name of the biblical Jacob's favorite son, Ben-Yamin (Benjamin), the Son of my Right Hand, indicating this favored position.

Read more about this concept of the shameful Left Hand of Cursing and the honored Right Hand of Blessing:
Gas-Pumping and Finger-Pointing Fiasco
The Right Hand Of Blessing
Across Cultures
How to Learn a Language and a Culture
Analyze and Compare Your Worldview

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