Odds are, everyone has shaken someone’s hand at least once before in the past. We do it when we meet someone new, at the beginning and end of business transactions, and when we say hello to friends. Throughout the years, people have come up with a number of variations of the traditional handshake. Many people even have specific handshakes for every person or occasion of the day. But what is the real meaning of a handshake?
The handshake can be dated back as far as 5th century BC in ancient Greece. In medieval times, a knight would extend a bare hand to another knight as a mutual sign of peace and respect. This was to demonstrate that the knight did not have a weapon in his hand and meant no harm to the other person. In times before written contracts, any aspect of life could be agreed upon by shaking hands: massive agreements on land, politics etc. The hand shake meant more than just a casual greeting. By shaking hands, men (and women) gave their word that they would adhere to all the regulations and terms of the agreement that they had previously established. The simple act of clutching another man’s hand was a binding agreement. There was no need for a written contract because the men’s honor was at stake if they broke the agreement.
In this era, we have seen the advent of the “finger-crossed” mentality. I have seen this mentality a lot with children. They will come to an agreement and then the agreement is broken and one of the children will yell, “Nuh uh! I had my fingers crossed!” This does not change when these children grow up. Many people try to find the easy way out after making an agreement.
So, why does this matter? I believe the handshake has been degraded and has become near meaningless is a very strong allegory for the direction of many people in the world today. People today believe in the “by any means necessary” mentality of living. We have lost respect for other individuals and worry more about money than we do about personal honor and accountability. This is why we are forced to sign air-tight contracts and legal documents to make sure we stay in line with the agreement. If we could return to the days where we could work respectfully with each other and where our honor means more to us than other things, we could become a much better civilization.