Hugs are healthy, whodda thunk?

I will start out by saying I’m just not a hugger. It’s not that I’m somehow neurotic, anti-social, snobby or anything obsessive, just never did. I’ve been taking grief about that for years. Yea, I guess that I am somewhat conditioned. I spent 20 years in the corporate world. Hugging is not an acceptable part of corporate culture, or military where I spent 29 years. A firm hand-shake and steely eyed look in the eyes was considered to be entirely proper and sufficiently familiar.

Not so much in church culture, heck it’s even a quickly referred to topic in seminary. So apparently it’s a generally practiced gesture. My perspective is why would some sweet little lady want an ugly, gnarly ape like me putting my arms around her? Granted it’s become acceptable with guys in the church, but frankly my angle on that is that most guys would also prefer not. Yes, we should be family, more familiar with each other in a church environment. Certainly in those times of emotional distress physical comfort is often more therapeutic than anything I could say to that person, but for the vast majority of time not, in my opinion how you want to go. As I said it’s never a statement on the other person, it’s more about me thinking why would this person want this big, ugly guy that close? I have no problem with pats on the back, shoulder squeeze, physical contact is sometimes helpful in a bad situation. Non threatening touch often helps people come back to reality. So I don’t have some touch phobia. In a way I just have a problem with what I see are gratuitous gestures.

I guess I just have a bashful outlook on hugging, there are way too many that have what borders on hysteria towards it. There are way too may out there who are sure that everyone is somehow out to abuse them, I just really don’t want to give someone like that any impetus to irrationally lash out at me.

Having said this, turns out that hugs, physical contact in general (and you know what I mean so don’t be getting all hysterical, weird and phobic on me), is very healthy, for both parties. The caveat in the article is the positive effects … only happen when “you trust and love the other person, if not, hugs can raise stress and anxiety levels.”  If OK, then by all means. Since you don’t get Concordia Plan Services newsletter (Winter 2016 Vol 32 Nu 4), which is quoting a U.S. News and World report article. There have been other studies. I don’t have the reference right at hand, but it seems to have a vitally important impact on new-born babies. Hospitals go out of their way to put babies in contact with their mothers as much and as quickly as possible. Babies who went without physical contact, seemed to have physical problems, even dying. It seems to have a very positive physical impact for the baby. There are hospitals who recruit people to come in and sit with babies who can’t otherwise be held by their mother. So yes, it’s important. Within the limits of reason, trust and physical safety.

Anyway, the study shows that hugs are good for both, that there is a release of a hormone called Oxytocin that is released and promotes feelings of trust and bonding, it also influences mood and behavior. The article goes on to list other positive affects; lowers blood pressure, can reduce depression, bolsters immune system and builds up pain tolerance. Yes, it is an issue of commonsense, as always with all of God’s creation, it always seems to an issue of moderation, using the brains God gave you.

In conclusion, if I’ve somehow offended anyone, there was never any offense intended, if anything it was to spare you. However in view of the research and since it would seem to benefit both of us, I would certainly welcome the opportunity. I just hope it doesn’t end up being an issue for you.

2 thoughts on “Hugs are healthy, whodda thunk?

  1. Cheryll Smith

    I grew up in and austere family where hugging was not encouraged. I have become a hugging person as an adult. I know what it is to experience the pain of loneliness and self deprecating feelings from trying to remember the last time I was hugged. I have experienced depression and anxiety from lack of a simple hug, God has made me more aware of how important this kind act can be. I know what this expression of caring can mean to turn around feelings of depression and lies from the evil one that we are not loved. It is a selfless act of kindness. It confirms your Christian relationship within the body as a sister, brother, teacher, pastor, mother, father. It is an act of selfless love prompted by the Holy Spirit. It is agape without words. God bless you in sharing a hug as part of your ministry. Amen.

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