Who would have thought, even a generation ago, that natural displays of affection like a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a pat on the back, a reassuring hand on the shoulder, or a squeeze of the hand would run so contrary to social norms? Such simple and innocent demonstrations of love are now practically taboo. How sad!
Meanwhile, doctors, psychologists, and sociologists have proven through scientific research that affection is beneficial to our health and overall well-being. When people know they’re loved, they’re happier and feel more secure.
“Four hugs a day will help you survive the blues,” says social scientist Dr. Virginia Satir, “but a dozen are better. Our pores are places for messages of love. Being able to have physical contact is very important.”
“In the four minutes when friends or strangers exchange greetings, the power of touching is dynamic,” says Leonard Zunin, M.D., in From Contact.1 “Every time you pat someone on the arm or shoulder, you are sending a psychic message such as ‘I like you,’ ‘I agree with what you’re saying,’ ‘You have done well,’ or ‘All is well—don’t worry.’ If you back off from someone’s touch, the hands-off gesture is as strong as any words.
“Touch will bring you closer (physically and emotionally), so loosen up, warm up, touch more, try not to shrink back. The power of touch lies in its being generously proffered. Be the first to offer contact and you’ll not often be rejected,” Zunin concludes.
And you don’t have to be a doctor or social scientist to recognize affection’s positive effects. A hairdresser shares this beauty secret: “Some of my customers come mostly for a little love. Sometimes when I arrive at work in the morning, a few elderly women are lined up outside my door looking as if they’d just come from a beauty parlor. Some of them come twice a week for shampoos and sets they don’t need. I know they are there more for physical and human contact than for the hairdo.” The hairdresser listens sympathetically and shows the women affection by taking time to massage their scalps as she applies the shampoo. Frequent squeezes on the shoulders and neck also tell the women someone cares. The women look radiant and somehow younger as they leave. Love has left its beauty mark.—S.S.
Why God made hugs
Everyone was meant to share
God’s all-abiding love and care;
He saw that we would need to know
A way to let these feelings show.
So God made hugs—a special sign,
And symbol of His love divine,
A circle of our open arms
To hold in love and keep out harm.
One simple hug can do its part
To warm and cheer another’s heart.
A hug’s a bit of heaven above
That signifies His perfect love.—Jill Wolf
Greet one another with a kiss of love.—Apostle Peter2
The Greek word splagchnon and its derivatives are often translated in the New Testament as “love,” and it is used in several ways in the New Testament as a term for complete caring, and also as a term for deep love.
It is used in the Gospels when Jesus was “moved with compassion” to heal a leper3 and when He saw that the people were like weary, scattered sheep that had no shepherd.4 It’s used where Paul expresses his love to friends,
“God is my record how greatly I long after you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.”5 And also in his admonition to the Colossians: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.”6—Joseph Reader