MachetetiquetteMachete is my new word for a behavior I’ve observed on the roadways of Panama. I combined two words which are defined below with the help of Merriam-Webster:

   – Machete: a large, heavy knife that is used for cutting plants and as a weapon.
   – Etiquette: the rules indicating the proper and polite way to behave.

Panamanians seem to have rules indicating the proper and polite way to carry a machete. A machete has a handle. Most of us carry things by their handles. Not so for the Panamanian and his machete. Here are some carrying positions I’ve observed:

  • Held by the blade, point and sharp edge towards the carrier – handle down
  • Held by the blade near the handle (sometimes wrapped with cloth) – handle facing out
  • Held by the handle, but upside down and facing back
When a Panamanian is holding a machete in the normal position they’re usually using it. I haven’t had the chance to ask, but I’m pretty sure that’s the point. There is a way to carry a machete that says, “I’m just carrying this. I’m not
intending to use it.” All of the holds I’ve described above recognize that a machete could be used as either a tool … or a weapon. They signal non-aggression.

Words have a lot in common with machetes. They can be helpful tools or harmful weapons and we need to be conscious of how we carry them. The careless use of words can signal aggression when none is intended. As we continue to think about how to improve our welcome, let’s put our words into the mix. I have no negative circumstances in mind, but offer the encouragement the Apostle Paul gave the church at Colossae:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5–6