Why do people say, “God bless you” when you sneeze? Yes, I know the story … this response to sneezing dates back to the days of the plague, when sneezing was a sign that you had caught it. People said, “God bless you” because in reality, you were going to need it. In other words, “God bless you because now you’re going to die.”
But why today? I find it irritating, to be honest. I sneeze and someone inadvertently says, “God bless you,” and then, because I am a two-to-three-times-in-a-row sneezer, the person says, “God bless you” again, and then again a third time. And each time, I must answer, “Thank you” and, “Thank you,” leaving us both feeling silly — or at least me.
Why would someone need to ask God to bless me simply for sneezing? It’s a natural bodily function, usually the result of either getting something up your nose, a reaction to pollen in the air, or a response to some strong (and usually fragrant or unpleasant) smell. I personally sneeze if sugar hits the back of my throat. It hits and I sneeze.
I also get comments on the way I sneeze. Some folks sneeze loudly and spit goes everywhere. Others sneeze into their arm or hand, although the former is preferred since, you know, germs and all getting on your hand where it can be passed on in a handshake or when touching an object. But I’m a holder-inner. I learned a long time ago as a child that if I let a sneeze out, I bite my tongue. So, rather than go through that pain, I stifle the sneeze. And of course, this leads to the predictable comment that I should let my sneeze “out” because otherwise I might do some physical damage to myself, like blow my brains out or something. Well, I’m 60 and I’m still here.
So here’s my request: don’t bless me merely for sneezing. Bless me if tragedy hits my life or if I have some kind of unsolvable problem, like I’ve lost my job or financial devastation strikes my life. But not for sneezing. I mean, seriously, why for sneezing and not for farting? Both are bodily functions, but farting is considered shameful for some reason. In fact, the next time someone farts around you, say, “God bless you,” just to see how they react.
But skip the “God bless yous” if I sneeze in front of you. I thank you, especially for not having to thank you, and I’m sure God will thank you. I’m betting he’s exhausted from having to bless everyone for doing what comes naturally.