bless

God Bless You

How can I get people to stop saying “God bless you” after I sneeze?

I’m serious. Any suggestions?

I’m so sick of being blessed on a daily basis but society has made it rude not to say “bless you” after someone sneezes and so I get to hear it. All the time. What’s worse is I feel obligated to say, “Thank you” in response because, again, society has decided that it is rude not to.

I know that most people obviously aren’t saying it in a religious sense (anymore), more as a knee-jerk reaction to a sometimes startling bodily function, but I can’t seem to get over the religiosity of it.  Why can’t we follow the norms of non-English speaking cultures that wish health on someone when they sneeze? The Germans say, “Gesundheit” which means health, the Spanish say, “Salud” which means health and even the Irish say, “Sláinte” which means good health.  Why must we insert a reminder of god into every little thing we do?!

I know I’m not the first person to bring this annoyance up (you may remember Dane Cook’s when-you-die-nothing-happens joke) but why does it seem to go nowhere? Clearly, as shown by the joke, people are aware that atheists prefer not to be blessed, but how can we break the cycle of “god bless you”?

A quick read on Wikipedia will tell you that saying “God bless you” in response to a sneeze can be traced back to Pope Gregory I after he ordered “unending prayer” to ward off the bubonic plague. People thought that the sneeze was an early symptom and so they blessed everyone who sneezed in hopes that it would ward off the disease. Other theories suggest that we used to think that people’s souls were released from their bodies or their hearts would stop beating when they sneezed and a quick, “bless you” after the fact would help protect them from evil or encourage the heart to keep on keepin’ on. We know these fears to be ridiculous now, so why do we insist on repeating the phrase?

In my personal life, I have no problem letting people know that I don’t want to be blessed, but in my professional life, the issue is much more delicate. I have yet to come up with the proper response to my coworker, whom I know is just trying to be polite, as she blesses me after every sneeze.

Am I doomed to utter a thank you after every blessing I receive in the office or with a client while I silently resent their stupidity for using such an outdated phrase? Can I ever make it stop? Or, in the words of the famous David After Dentist, “Is this gonna be forever?”

 

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