This has always miffed me, so much so I don’t say, ‘Bless you’ when someone sneezes. Why should I? No one has actually told me a good reason to.
There are varies theories of the origins of the saying. One theory is that in the old days sneezing caused the soul to leave the body, so saying bless you would stop the devil stealing the soul. Another says it was believed that sneezing was a symptom of the Great Plague, so saying bless you was fitting for someone who was dying.
This brings me to two important points I have learned around this saying and any other common saying.
Everyone Says It
For me, the logic is we say bless you because everyone else does it. We don’t know why we say it but we say it because everyone else does.
If we look at it in a bit more detail, the words themselves come from the divine saying, ‘God bless you’. So by saying, ‘Bless you’ you are implying that you have belief in God. You might say no I don’t believe in God… well then why are you saying it?
The usual response to ‘Bless you’ is, ‘Thank you’. What are you thinking? The blessing from God? That someone is talking to you? That you sneezed and didn’t die or the Devil didn’t steal your soul?
What is even worse is when someone sneezes and they say, ‘Bless me’. You don’t say, ‘Bless you’ or ‘Bless me’ in any other scenario so why do you say it for sneezing?
This may sound like I’m being pedantic about a small thing, but actually, I’m not because it has bigger implications. Humour me for a minute and imagine you come to the same logic as me and stop saying, ‘Bless you’ when someone sneezes.
Now you can start to explore other sayings or moments which you are doing only because everyone else does it. This will help you to be more aware of yourself and the world. You will actually start being more ‘free’ as you won’t be under sheep mentality and doing or believing things because everyone else does.
Another classic example I will give you of this is when people say, ‘How are you?’. Literally, every interaction in the West starts off with, ‘Hello, how are you?’. Regardless if you are talking to your mum or a call centre agent. Granted there are scenarios where it is a genuine question but I’m sure the call centre agent couldn’t give a monkey how I am right now.
As you may have guessed I tend not to say, ‘How are you?’ unless I mean it. The reactions are sometimes quite funny because we are so programmed into that pattern I may say, ‘Hello…’ and pause and the other person automatically says, ‘I’m good thanks, how are you?’ (even though I didn’t ask the question).
Once you become aware of these things, you take control back as you are not doing things because society taught you to, but instead, you choose to.
I hope you join me and stop blessing people and instead, take stock and count your blessings.