This article first appeared here: http://jasmijn31.thoughts.com/posts/the-freedom-to-hug and was amended.
Ok! Ok! I admit without any sense of shame, remorse or guilt that I AM A HUGGER! I love handing out hugs, and on days like today, I wish the people I want to give a hug were large and soft teddies, because teddies have no hang-ups receiving a hug from anyone, and because it feels so good to hold one! They always feel so soft, and yes, I also admit that holding one does make me feel like I’m being comforted. It’s not that I would actually look for a teddy in my daughter’s room to hug it for the sake of finding comfort when she’s not there or when I’m alone at home. However, I found myself feeling that way when I do hold a large teddy in my arms, although I realize that a teddy really is supposed to be just a thing – a toy meant for kids or a decoration in a child’s room, and not a pacifier for an adult. It’d be interesting to hear the opinion of an expert in psychology about this, but anyway, the point I’m trying to get across is that the freedom to hug anyone whenever and wherever I wanted to would’ve made it so much easier for me to express myself.
So what is it that stops huggers like myself from just going to someone and giving him/her a hug whenever we feel like it? Actually, there is more than just one restriction on this freedom, and I will list some of them below:
- Respect For the Person
I’ve heard from many people that they don’t like to be hugged. Various reasons may exist for this refusal, for example, some people have a phobia for germs, so they don’t like being hugged by somebody for fear that they’d accumulate a cold, flu, pneumonia, or some other disease, because they don’t know with whom the person associated themselves earlier that day.
There are people who just don’t like physical contact at all, so they don’t give out hugs, neither do they like to receive them.
I also know a minister who wouldn’t let any female member of his congregation hug him, and the reason he’s given will be discussed later in this article. However, although I think this is a bit far-fetched, I respect his view, and so should anyone who is a hugger, because you simply can and should not make another person feel forced or obliged to receive your hug when there’s a possibility that the person doesn’t like to be hugged! The reason is that you’re actually invading the private and personal space of someone else, and if you know he/she doesn’t like to be hugged but you embrace him/her just to prove a point, it proves that you have no respect or regard for another person’s feelings, views or personal preferences. Shame on you!
- Hugs Can Solicit Actions Harmful to Existing Relationships
Hugs can give rise to feelings such as physical attraction and may even solicit sexual thoughts and desires, which is not a bad thing in itself if the two persons engaging in the hug are both free or in a serious relationship with each other, but which is indeed a bad thing if it happens between two persons who are in a committed relationship with someone else.
Now, we all know how many ministers have fallen just by engaging in extra-marital affairs, and this was also the reason given by the minister to which I referred in the previous paragraph for his policy not to hug any female member of his congregation.
My opinion on the matter is that not all hugs between two people ALWAYS solicit sexual thoughts and/or desires. Many times, a hug stems from a person’s spontaneous reaction which does not necessarily have something to do with physical attraction. It can, for example, not be said that someone who is glad to see a friend or a minister whom she hasn’t seen in quite a while feels sexually attracted to him or that he’ll feel sexually attracted to her if she literally leaps towards him with her arms wide open and embraces him. She may do it simply because she’s glad to see him. In my humble opinion, which I don’t intend to force down anyone else’s throat, it’s quite an absurd and gross generalisation to say that all hugs by members of the opposite sex will or does solicit sexual desires! However, by saying this, I’m not denying the fact that it has happened in the past that a hug led to other things which had a drastic and harmful effect on people’s personal lives and/or careers due to the violation and even the termination of marriages and other relationships.
- The Sick World We Live in
We all know that this world is filled with sick people who can appear to give an innocent hug to someone else, but who have hidden agendas because of the depravity of their minds. I classify child rapists and -molesters in this category!
Due to these incidents, schools often implement a no-touching policy between teachers and children. It’s actually sad that children’s need to be touched (hugged) have to make room for no-touching policies due to the existence of sick people! Isn’t it? However, I understand the ratio behind it.
- Fear of Rejection
Many people who like to hug others often don’t do so because they fear being rejected by a prospective recipient. Very often, this fear of rejection is the end result of instances of rejection in the past.
- Environmental Circumstances
Many times, people don’t want to hug other people as an expression of love or comfort simply because it’s too hot.
I’m sure that everyone who smells like sweat during a very hot summer day or after long hours of work in the sun can feel very self-conscious about the way he/she feels and smells, so he/she frankly tells you, “I’m not going to hug you because I’m sweaty and dirty.” To me, it’s not nice hugging a person who’s all sticky because of sweat anyway, so I appreciate it if another hugger tells me this.
In conclusion, I have to add that, due to following these restrictions, I found myself feeling stupid on more than one occasion, because I don’t know exactly how to handle it when I find myself in a situation where I know that someone needs to be comforted and/or consoled, but I cannot express my empathy or love with a hug! Nevertheless, I remain with the person to let him/her know that I’m there, because sometimes just being there for someone can mean so much more than the speaking of many words.
I have drawn the conclusion that a hug is a comforting tool which should always be used with absolute caution and wisdom.