people hugging

Human Touch

2 Corinthians 13:12, “Greet each other with a holy kiss.

People Need Human Contact

There are five references to a “holy kiss” in the New Testament. I know the idea of a “holy kiss” freaks out Americans, myself included, yet most Americans are comfortable with a hug as part of a greeting or farewell. And the European tradition of air-kissing each cheek when formally greeting someone has long been practiced. 

Every culture has its own approach to personal contact during a greeting or farewell. “The traditional Māori greeting, the hongi (pronounced hɒŋi) is performed by two people pressing their noses together; some include, at the same time, the touching of foreheads.” –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hongi

By nature I’m not a hugger. Over the years I’ve learned from my wife and her family how to hug but I’m still a bit clumsy. This seemly insignificant deficiency of mine proved to be a problem during my ministry in Romania. 

I Kiss Your Hand

I was in Romania shortly after that country’s independence from the Soviet Union and the “old ways” were in full force. When formally introduced to a woman I was expected to air-kiss both cheeks. That was too much. Thankfully, a friend taught me to say “Îți sărut mâna”, meaning, “I kiss your hand.” This statement was an acceptable formal greeting. Yeah!

The Power of Touch

There’s a fascinating article in The Atlantic, titled, “Can We Touch,” which highlights the medical and psychological benefits from platonic, human touch. For example:

From a small initial study the psychologist Tiffany Field published an article in the journal Pediatrics in 1986, which showed that just ten days of “body stroking and passive movements of the limbs” for less than an hour led babies to grow 47 percent faster. They averaged fewer days in the hospital and accrued $3,000 less in medical bills. The effect has been replicated multiple times.

Tiffany Field has published similar findings about the benefits of touch in full-term infants, and then children and pregnant women, adults with chronic pain, and people in retirement homes. Studies that involved as little as 15 daily minutes found that touch alone, even devoid of the other supportive qualities it usually signifies, seems to have myriad benefits.    

Be a Hugger

So, what’s my point? With Thanksgiving and Christian nearly here, we’re entering a time when we will be meeting, greeting, and farewelling (?) lots of people. As Christians, we should always offer to hug anyone. People will let you know if they don’t want a hug. However, it seems that many people are desperate for human touch, and hugging someone might make their day and cure their cold!
( read the article 😉 )

Photo by Erika Giraud on Unsplash

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