Early one morning, I rolled out of bed and shambled into the kitchen for a cup of tea. While I waited by the stove, staring at the teapot, my husband wrapped his arms around me and gave me an enormous bear hug. What a simple, yet powerful, way to share an expression of affection and appreciation. It’s an extension of a cultivated relationship that doesn’t need introduction or explanation. But, how do we share the gift of touch with acquaintances, church members or coworkers?
As Christian women, and born nurturers, we’d love to hug everyone we meet, but discretion is needed to avoid misunderstandings. Here are a few practical tips to consider.
Relationships thrive with trust and trust may require permission before we approach someone’s space. Most people we know fall under the category of acquaintance. Sometimes, it’s hard to decide between a handshake and a hug; one can be too formal and the other assuming. A touch on the shoulder or pat on the back communicates warmth without making you or the other person feel uncomfortable.
Meeting New People in Church
Most western churches encourage their congregations to greet each other during a Sunday morning service. This is not the time to hug strangers. When you hug someone without permission or without an existing relationship it may appear intrusive. It’s not about self-gratification, but it’s about creating a safe and welcoming atmosphere for a visitor. Instead, shake their hand and let your smile communicate hospitality.
Interacting with Coworkers
In a professional setting, touch demands extreme scrutiny. A gray area can develop when there’s familiarity. Coworkers can spend many hours together and as a result relationships build. We may value their skills and contributions, but physical touch between genders and varying values can create problems. In these situations, remember that touch isn’t limited to physical contact. We can touch a person’s hearts with affirming words and positive attitude. An apology, for example, touches hearts in a miraculous way and heals estranged business relationships.
Gender Specific Boundaries
If a man approaches you with open arms don’t panic. Offer a side hug. Extend your right hand toward him and then slip your arm under his left arm as you pivot to the left. You’ll be facing the same direction as your greeter. It’s a warm greeting, but you’ve politely set boundaries.
The Power of Touch
As born again followers of Jesus Christ, we were touched with supernatural power through the Holy Spirit.
…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (New American Standard Bible, Acts 1:8).
God touched our lives intimate and profoundly so we could touch others.
Share the Gift
Lately, I’m more aware about the gift of touch. Dementia has robbed my father of traditional communication, but touch is still a clear language. Perhaps this holiday season you can offer the perfect gift that transcends age and languages…the gift of touch.
Have a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving.
New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.