(If you need to know what this is all about, start with the first post in the series and click through the succeeding links. Also, as posts are added links will be placed in that first post to each one.)
Today, I want to…
Hug Someone Worth Holding
What’s A Hug?
“Hugging is natural, organic, naturally sweet, free of pesticides, and preservatives. Hugging contains no artificial ingredients. It’s 100% wholesome. No calories, no caffeine, no nicotine.
“Hugging is nearly perfect. There are no removable parts, batteries to wear out, no periodic checkups. It consumes little energy, while yielding a lot. It’s inflation-proof. It’s nonfattening. There are no monthly payments. No insurance requirements. It’s theft-proof, nontaxable, nonpolluting, and fully refundable. And it costs very little.
“Hugging is healthy. It assists the body’s immune system, it cures depression, it reduces stress, it induces sleep, it invigorates, it rejuvenates, and it has no unpleasant side effects.
“Hugging is no less than a miracle drug” (borrowed from poofcat.com).
No wonder we want to hug someone worth holding today. What could be better? The problem is we’re just not used to it. In our American culture, we shake hands, making sure to keep everyone at arms length. Even in cultures that greet with hugs and kisses, they can become perfunctory and pointless. But, sincere, safe, wanted hugs are some of God’s best medicine for us.
Hugs are Good For You
Search the internet for benefits to hugging. You’ll find out hugs can decrease your heart rate. They can lower your blood pressure. Hugs can increase oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Hugs have been connected to better heart health. Hugs increase endorphin levels—the feel good hormones that give us a sense of happiness and well-being, plus they relieve pain. Hugs decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
A hug can say, “I love you.” A hug can say, “I accept you.” A hug can say, “You’re wanted.” A hug can say,“You’re special.” A hug says, “We’re together.” A hug says, “We’re friends.” A hug provides a connection that nothing else does.
No doubt, different hugs say different things. There is the romantic hug for your husband or wife that lingers and caresses. There is the paternal hug for your children that turns into holding them on your lap. There is the cross-gender, I need to be appropriate, one arm around the shoulder hug. There is the quick hug that says, “We’re friends, but nothing more.” There is the “I haven’t seen you in forever” hug. There is the “I’m here for you” hug that hangs on until the one in need lets go. There’s the “weep with those who weep” hug that also provides a shoulder to cry on.
Hugs are important, life-saving even. Virginia Satir, American author and psychotherapist said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Look at a marriage that is falling apart and I guarantee you, you won’t see many hugs—if any. 12 hugs a day may not save a marriage on the rocks, but 0 hugs a day can sure toss it off the cliff. Look at isolated, rebellious kids and I doubt you’ll find hugging parents. (I know there are exceptions to every rule and someone will no doubt bring up the question of “which came first?”, but the fact remains, you won’t see much hugging there.) Find a prostitute, and I’m betting you find a girl who didn’t get many safe, loving hugs from her father. She’s still searching for that connection.
Why Do So Many Avoid Hugging?
But for all this, we often push away from hugs. Why?
Certainly, some have been hugged inappropriately and so physical touch scares us. Some have learned from traumatic childhood experiences that hugs are a violation and so they set up walls of protection against that happening again. My heart breaks for those of you in this situation. I pray that you can find people who can embrace you in arms of safety and help you grow in positive relationships.
For most, the trauma is not that extreme. However, a hug is still dangerous. I once heard the hug and kiss of European and Eastern greetings came about as a means of showing vulnerability. To hug someone was to come close enough as to be defenseless. If they wielded a knife, they could kill you. (I’m told the American handshake accomplished the same thing as you thrust forward your empty gun hand in a gesture of trust.) I doubt many of us are afraid of knife wielding huggers, but the hug does represent vulnerability. We are opening ourselves up to others to touch us, hold us, feel us, meet us. They can see and feel our blemishes. They can tell if we are trembling. They can feel our heart beat. Do we really want to let someone get that close? Many of us say, “No.” And we lose the great benefits of that kind of trust.
Perhaps the number one reason we fear the hug is the potential for rejection. We see a friend, hold our arms outstretched to show vulnerability, connection, trust and they give us a high five or grab the hand for a shake. Or worse, they stand there looking at us like we have our clothes on backward or have a booger hanging out of our nose. Rejection. A hug may be great, but a rejection’s negative affects seem much worse. So, we abstain from the benefits of a hug in order to avoid the pain of rejection.
Perhaps you can reshape what is happening in that moment of seeming rejection. I’m sure there are some stuck up, self-centered, pharisaical people who reject you as a person and therefore don’t want you touching them in a hug. Do you really care what that kind of person thinks of you? However, those folks are few and far between. The folks who avoid the hugs usually aren’t rejecting you. Rather, they are expressing their own struggles. Respect their need for space because an unwanted, unsafe hug doesn’t provide great benefits. Instead of pouting in your own rejection, pray for whatever causes them to turn from the hug.
Get your daily quota
Everyone needs a hug. Make sure you get permission first. Make sure your being appropriate (guys, I hope you know I’m talking to you, this isn’t your free ticket to cop a feel). Get out there and give hugs. That’s right, give hugs. I didn’t say get hugs because a true hug is about giving to others, not taking from them. So go give your quota of hugs.
They’re free. They’re fun. They’re healthy. They’re easy. Why not find someone and give them a hug right now.
I think I will.
(Come back next Wednesday when we discuss “Buying Something Worth Treasuring.”)