“Would you like a hug?” is a question I often find myself asking with some trepidation. Thankfully it is normally right before hearing an affirmative answer, and then opening my arms wide and wrapping them around another person. I’m a somewhat awkward, socially anxious, deeply introverted woman with a history that would probably negate the desire to make physical contact with another person in many others, but for me, hugging is my version of a handshake.
I love to embrace people and hold them tight – to feel a connection that a simple handshake doesn’t give, I hold on as long as they allow, not letting go until I feel their own grip on me ease. While I cannot speak for everyone, for me there is not one iota of sexuality attached to a hug – a hug is simply a greeting, a way of showing someone that you have seen them, a way of showing that you care about them as a person. A hug can truly be healing; it can be one of the gentlest forms of kindness. For me, a hug is the most sincere form of comfort, a lovely way to be greeted.
I remember laughing to myself a couple of years ago when a local news station ran an article on “Cuddle Therapists”, it seemed so silly, seeing people standing around at a group session, embracing strangers for a predetermined amount of minutes – but in hindsight, I’d say that it makes a lot of sense. More and more research seems to be showing the healing power of touch, there are articles claiming that a 30 second hug can release hormones that cause us to feel good, lower blood pressure, and lower loneliness.
We need contact with other humans, most of us crave connection of some sort or another – isn’t that why social media has become such a booming industry? Humans long to connect to other creatures, animal or human, to find those kindred spirits who share the same loves and hates as they do, to talk about the things that we think about and care about. I have even found that in the Bible the word “embrace” is used multiple times when talking about greeting one another!
With our busy schedules and sometimes lonely lives, human interaction is often largely impersonal – handshakes after a business meeting, maybe a short, shallow, and stilted chat over a quick coffee. People don’t routinely offer a hug anymore, it is seen as inappropriate contact, or old fashioned – maybe this is because in the oversexualised world we live in, they fear the action being misinterpreted, or maybe they just don’t want to get that close, to become too attached or involved?
Not long ago I was standing in the street of our local township when an elderly lady approached me, I had given her a smile and greeted her a few minutes before. She came up to me and said “Could I please have a hug and a kiss on my cheek?”. Her quiet and uncertain words melted my heart; I could not help but wonder how lonely she must have felt to approach a stranger on the street to ask for a cuddle and a kiss. Of course I gave her a cuddle and a kiss on her cheek, and conversed with her for a few minutes before she moved off and continued about her business.
A hug is such a beautiful way to show someone you care, or to offer comfort to someone who may be feeling low. It can give as much joy to the giver, as it gives to the receiver – I certainly experienced a great feeling of warmth after hugging the lady in the above experience.
Personally, I know that I crave acceptance and love; I have felt that way since I was just a young child, always searching for someone who could actually see me, someone who would connect on an emotional level and care. When I feel particularly sad and alone, someone wrapping their arms around me and holding me tight feels so comforting, more than I could do credit to with words. Hugging is the glue that often holds my life together, it helps me to know that I am not alone, that someone has looked at me and seen me. Sometimes, all you need, the only medicine that will work, is a heartfelt hug.
A long time ago, I saw a quote about hugs that has etched itself into my heart, it read “One day, someone will hug you so tight that all your broken pieces will stick back together” – what a lovely sentiment, what a lovely encouragement to go and embrace someone!