Kissing on the Lips?

by Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,


Is it all right for family members to say goodbye with a short kiss on the lips? My father’s family does this, and it’s always made me feel uncomfortable. My daughter-in-laws family also has a custom of giving one another a short kiss on the lips when they say goodbye. So, my four year old grandson has been taught to do this. He always wants to give me a short kiss on the lips when I tell him goodbye. One day, I asked him to kiss me on my cheek instead, and it hurt his feelings. He told me he didn’t love me anymore and to never touch him again. Kissing him on the lips is very uncomfortable for me, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Plus, my daughter-in-law and her family take it as an insult that I don’t want to kiss him on the lips when we say goodbye.


Dear Bill, according to the Bible there is no prohibition against kissing anyone on the lips. Nevertheless, we must keep the Bible definition of kissing in line with the context and culture of the time. A kiss in Bible days was much like the type of kiss that we see in the Arab world today. The one being kissed turns his/her cheek and lets the one kissing give them a “peck” on one cheek and then the other. The roles then are reversed.


This type of kissing is still uncomfortable for me even though I have travelled extensively through the Middle East and kissed a lot of cheeks. If you are not careful, it is possible to miss the cheek and connect lips to lips. That is an awful experience.


The Bible mentions at least five types of kisses.


First, the time-honored kiss of greeting or good-by on both cheeks.

Exodus 4:27: The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him.


Second, the kiss of seduction by a prostitute in seeking her prey.

Song of Solomon 7:10-23: Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent…
She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:

“Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
she seduced him with her smooth talk.
All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,…

little knowing it will cost him his life.


Third, the kiss on the lips between married people.


Genesis 29:11: Then, Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.

Song of Solomon 1:2: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.


Fourth, the dastardly, passionate, lovers’ kiss that Judas used to betray Jesus.

Matthew 26:49: Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Judas took the normal word for “kiss” and intensified it with a Greek prefix “kata” that describes the lovers kiss between a passionate husband and wife having sex. That is why Jesus said with great sadness in Mark 14, “Did you have to betray me with a passionate lover’s kiss?” The Greek word would describe a kiss on the lips.


Finally, the kiss of greeting, on the cheeks, among Christian brothers and sisters.

Romans 16:16: Greet one another with a holy kiss.


Bill, I mentioned your letter to a newly, remarried woman who inherited two delightful, loving and well-behaved step-daughters. The seven and ten-year old have fallen in love with their new “mom.” In fact, it was not long in their relationship that the seven-year-old crawled into her lap and asked, “Is it OK if we call you, “Mommy.” The kids are expressing just how special it is to have two mothers while most of their friends have only one!

Step-mom related to me that they had a problem with lip kissing in their new formed family. Biological mom liked to kiss the girls on the lips to say, “good-bye.” Biological dad always kissed the girls “good-by” on the cheek.

When the seven-year old began observing dad kissing their new step-mom on the lips, she got really upset. She didn’t like this at all; in fact, she would cry at length whenever new mom and dad kissed. She wanted dad to kiss her on the lips, too. He refused. His custom was to kiss the girls on the cheek.

Finally, after several weeks of tension, the real issue spilled out. The seven-year-old reasoned that people who were kissed on the lips were loved more than those who were only kissed on the cheek. She was afraid that dad loved new mom more than he loved her. Deep down she harbored the fear that dad was going to leave them behind for the new wife.


I asked how they handled the problem. Did he start kissing daughters on the lips like biological mom, or perhaps did he stop kissing mom on the lips?


“Neither,” new step-mom told me. “We began to teach the children that there is more than one kind of love and how to express it. Love between sisters was one kind of love. Love between parents and their children was another kind of love. Married love was love of another dimension. In married love kisses on the lips were all right. Kissing on the cheek is most appropriate between sisters or between parents and children. The appropriate expression of love might look different in different relationships.

In this case the real issue was fear that dad loved new wife more than he loved his girls and was going to leave them. Kissing on the lips was the presenting problem. The real issue lay much deeper in the soul.


By the way, it important to remember the deep significance of family traditions. In some families, a quick kiss on the lips might be appropriate among all of the relatives.


Now, Bill, let me come to the bottom line in your case.


I would suggest that you restore relationships with all of the family by going ahead and kissing your grandson on the lips. Kissing on the lips is obviously one of their family traditions. I suggest that the relationships with your family are worth more than an uncomfortable moment for you.

Besides, kissing your grandson on the lips may be the presenting problem. However, the real issue just may have more to do with fear, insecurity and rejection.


I hope these thoughts helps.


Let me know how it all turns out.

Love, Roger



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