The redemption of hugging

The redemption of hugging

A few days ago I blogged about an incredible revelation I had while walking my dog. That post was one of my most popular ever! Thanks for the great feedback! I’ve been trying the Sadie Experiment for about a week now, and I already have some observable outcomes to report on.

First, just like Sadie, people LOVE to be enthusiastically greeted. They love being told that you’re happy to see them, especially when it is true. It is possible to overdo it, of course, but a genuine, enthusiastic greeting seems to make everyone smile.

Second, the energy produced in the enthusiastic greeting appears to be returned. In groups, it seems to multiply exponentially. This really drives home to me how emotions tend to be mirrored among people. Greeting people like Eeyore will not usually elicit an enthusiastic response. Apathetic greetings won’t typically engender interest from others. Enthusiastic greetings are your best bet to get an enthusiastic response.

On Thursday mornings there is a ladies Bible study at the church building. I love these ladies and how supportive they’ve been during our attempts to get our niece. This week, as the ladies arrived, I focused on my appreciation for them as I welcomed them. After two or three of them were in the hall with me, the level of enthusiasm was high enough to get the attention of the ladies already in the classroom. Before too long, there were eight or so of us in the hallway making all kinds of racket as we greeted each other.

Third, the greeting is not the destination. This is where the parallels between greeting dogs and greeting humans start to separate. After I greet Sadie for a bit, I push her aside and go on with my business. With humans, though, the greeting is probably the lest substantive part of the interaction. I’ve also noticed a tendency for people that are greeted enthusiastically to respond with body language that suggests they are either receptive of or desirous of… A HUG!!!!

You should know about me that I’m not much of a hugger. I’ve traveled enough to know that sometimes hugs are appropriate and sometimes they aren’t… and I don’t know which is which. Then there’s the whole technique of it. Which arm goes up, which goes down. Do you turn the head to the left or the right. If you zig and the other person zags, you could end up with a full-on mouth kiss. To avoid all the potential for issues, I’ve tended to just avoid hugs.

However, in the midst of our Thursday morning greeting I found myself faced with ladies that not only expected a hug, they were going to take one whether I was willing or not. After being hugged by two, I looked up and saw all the other ladies looking back at me. I had to think quick… should I let the awkwardness overcome me and sneak back to my office or should I just hug everyone. Throwing caution and awkwardness to the wind, I announced “Hugs for everyone!” and proceded hug everyone there.

After we moved into the classroom, where I joined for a few minutes to update them on Madeleine, I informed them that I’m not much of a hugger. The response of one of our sweet ladies has transformed me into a hugger for life.

Pay attention, the lesson starts here.

One of the ladies responded, “You don’t know what it’s like to live alone. You see people every day, but when you hug one of us widows it may be the only human touch we’ve received all week.” Doesn’t that just cut you straight to the heart?!

Challenge: If you have widows/singles/orphans in your churches or neighborhoods, give them a hug when you see them. Not in a creepy way, of course, but in a way that reminds them that they have value, that they’re loved, and that the image of God shines through them still.

10 Responses to The redemption of hugging

  1. Brad says:

    Test Comment

  2. says:

    Brad, thank you so much for this insight into you and the importance of touch. We in the CofC have been (are) afraid of touch between the sexes (or within the sexes) because it might be misunderstood. Now, with your blog, widows are acceptable to you, but what about widowers (Dean Wyatt) who miss the friendly hug in the morning, noon and evening from their loved one…what about the person who is married to a non-hugger…or the ones who just are huggers or those who and don’t understand reticence or notice awkwardness, but need to reach out, or need to be noticed…The French have it right, I think…a light hug with light kisses on each cheek when greeting friends…or ‘will be’ friends as our French guests greeted us at the airiport. Whatever culture, it’s a gesture of expressing love, honor, respect…all Christian values. Yes? When we lived in France, that custom was hard to get used to, but soon became valued and looked forward to, especially from our French Christian family. It transcended the language/cultural barriers and made us feel welcomed and that they looked forward to seeing us, as we them. Teen aged girls giving Harry,even when we had just arrived, two kisses in greeting was the accepted norm. “Greet each other with a holy kiss” was encouraged 2100 years ago. No? And why? Because we show/receive love among our “family” and build relationships that way, just as in our physical family.
    It’s cool to read how you are growing in self-knowledge and expanding your horizons!
    Love you

    • Anonymous says:

      Janet – Thank you so much for commenting!

      First, my admonition to hug widows was not intended to be gender exclusive. In fact, Dean was on my mind as I wrote part of this. As far as the rest of the folks, I definitely advocate expressing culturally appropriate forms of affection. Kissing is cool in many European countries.

      Second, I love the way you ask reaffirming questions as you go. No? Yes?

      Third, thanks for the compliments. We love you, too!

  3. […] The Redemption of Hugging. Confessed nonhugger Brad Palmore with a story that has changed him into a hugger! […]

  4. brian says:

    cool, someone told me there is a book comparing people’s faith to dogs and cats. good thoughts

    • Anonymous says:

      Brian – Thanks for stopping by the blog! Someone mentioned that book to us at HSBS. I’ve also found the comparison accurate for windows vs. mac computers. Wrote Apple and email about it and got an interview with Apple’s marketing department about it.

  5. Jpoyner49 says:

    You KNOW I love this post, Brad! If you hadn’t written anything, I’d still love it just for the picture!! 🙂 But I whole-heartedly buy into the worth of hugs. I’m a hugger. I enjoy giving and getting hugs. It is true the human touch means so much to all of us and much encouragement can be conveyed just with the squeeze of a shoulder. Our last preacher student was REALLY an enthusiastic hugger, as was his little sweet wife. He’s gone on to another congregation, and Anrew who replaced him, is NO hugger. But I’m still trying to teach him! 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it’s only fair to share that AFTER I committed to hugging more I contracted a serious sinus infection that led to a pretty bad case of bronchitis. Not giving up on the hugging, but am taking it as affirmation that people are pretty icky and have lots of germs.

  6. Sarah S. says:

    I missed your post about Sadie (I’ll have to catch up) but I wholeheartedly agree. I read a book about that years ago that has stuck with me but I haven’t put it into practice like I should. It said, in short: love out loud. If you are happy to see someone, make a racket about it. Yes, touch, hug, greet. I do this with my family (mainly b/c it is SO much fun to embarrass my kids! 🙂 ) but I fail to be a loud, raucous greeter like I should be even when I am truly happy to see someone. I’m not much of a hugger, either, but I should change that. Humans starve without touch.

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