Anton Ferdinand, John Terry, CS Lewis and shaking hands

I’m getting pretty tired of these stories about refusing to shake hands and whether footballers should be made to shake hands. A number of thoughts cross my mind.

That Anton Ferdinand doesn’t want to shake John Terry’s hand is understandable. But why not Ashley Cole? Because he defended Terry in court? To me that makes the issue less about racist comments and more about petulance.

To offer your hand to someone who has offended you doesn’t necessarily mean you their actions are ok. CS Lewis is on the money here:

forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily, in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.

To shake hands (for me) is to begin to forgive and demonstrates the ability to break out of the cycle of tit-for-tat hatred and move above onto the plane of grace and forgiveness. To move to that plane requires more courage and to be more of a ‘man’. Ferdinand may see it as weakness. For me it requires more strength.

Respect. The whole sorry incident and the abuse that goes on with some footballers involves  a lack of respect. Bloated egos, salaries and their insecurities result in a need to destroy others and ‘put them off their game’ with words. Perhaps they should shut their mouths and let their performance on the field do the talking? The Olympics demonstrated athletes who compete against each other but can also show incredible admiration and respect for each other. I love how in rugby the teams applaud each other off the pitch. Some footballers could learn a lot.

We hear a lot of debate in football about who are the leaders on the pitch. All this silliness over handshakes is a good opportunity to find out.

And perhaps to remember that good leadership requires good character.

But perhaps the issue of insecurity and how that works out is also important. It’s hard to respect others if your identity is in the wrong place.


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