I’m a hugger — or at least, I used to be. Lately, I’ve realized that although I’m still more of a hugger versus handshakes when it comes to greetings, I’ve slowly withdrawn from deep hugs. I didn’t know I’d done that until a good friend gave me a bear hug the other day and it filled me up like I’d just taken a big breath of air after being underwater for too long.
This surprised me.
But it shouldn’t have… I’ve always believed in a good hug. In fact, when my husband and I were going through some marital problems in our early years, I told him one day that as I prayed, I felt like the Holy Spirit told me, “Three hugs a day keeps strife away.” He thought that was funny at the time but obliged me. We started hugging intentionally — not a quick glad-to-see-you-hug, but a let-your-hearts-get-in-sync-slow-hug. To his surprise (and mine), he told me later that week, “Wow, this really works.” The strife between us became much less.
There’s just something about a hug.
When we first start pastoring, there was a young girl who attended our church that was always a little stand-offish when it came to my “greeting” hugs. I made it a little game to try and get her to hug me. She would wrinkle her face and try to wriggle out of my arms but I’d laugh and tell her I loved her and hug her anyway. Years later when my son was in a bad car accident and in a hospital 8 hours from home, I got a letter from this sweet girl who was now graduated from high school. I had moved into a hotel while he was recovering and hadn’t been home in six weeks. Her note simply said: “I miss our hugs.” She didn’t know it at the time, but she had sent me a hug-in-a-card and it meant the world to me at that moment.
Do you remember the story of the prodigal son? It’s one of my favorites for many reasons, but especially because of the Father’s reaction to his wayward son. When the son figured out how foolish he’d been, the Bible says he returned home. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Jesus didn’t say the Father waited for the son to grovel at his feet and beg for forgiveness. No, the Father did just the opposite — he ran and hugged his child.
Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
There are words that go unsaid and yet speak volumes through the simple act of a hug. Scientists have proven that hugs boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. I believe it. And I believe God created us this way.
So if I see you and hug you, just know I probably need to GIVE a hug because I’ve learned this truth: [Tweet “You can’t give a hug without getting one in return.”]