Editor's Note: June 29th is National Hug Holiday so get your hug on!
As a Marriage and Family Therapy major in college, the power of physical touch was talked about often in several different courses. Scientific findings reveal that the neurological chemicals oxytocin and serotonin are released by our bodies when we experience healthy touch from someone else (hugs, hand holding or an arm around your shoulder, etc.). Touch is so vital to human health that brain development is impaired and social ability is greatly impacted when babies and children are deprived of it.
As a mom, I have witnessed the power of physical touch when a crying baby just needs to be held, an injured toddler finds comfort on mommy’s lap, or an older child feels loved by the power of a hug. Touch makes us feel connected to another human; touch binds us together.
Even though both appropriate and inappropriate touch exist, the fact that our culture has become sex-obsessed creates a growing resistance to what was once normal, healthy touch. However, in other cultures it is common to see people greeting one another with a kiss on the cheek or holding hands as they walk along the road.
As author, Tiffany Field explains in her book, Touch, a lack of healthy touch among students and adults is creating many issues at the core level and could explain sexual promiscuity and teenage pregnancy, even eating disorders and addictive behaviours. She also points out that in cultures where healthy physical touch is prevalent, adult physical aggression is low. The implication to our own society is clear—the lack of appropriate touch is contributing to feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness, as well as the increase in inappropriate touch.
People are desperate to feel loved, valued, connected. It’s one thing to see this with our eyes, and personally experience the power of touch, but does God’s word give any direction on this topic? Absolutely!
THE TOUCHY TRUTH
In the Old Testament, David and Jonathan, Jacob and Esau, the prodigal son and his father, and the bride and groom in Song of Solomon are just a few biblical examples of physical touch. The New Testament is equally filled with exhortations to and examples of people reaching out to one another, such as commands to greet one another with a holy kiss, laying hands on those we pray for and commission in ministry, and our ultimate example, Jesus physically touching those he healed, even though his words alone held the power.
Scripture teaches that touch can be a holy, healing balm. Science reveals the physiological impact touch has on our nervous system. Relationships emphasize that appropriate touch creates a feeling of connectedness.
HEALTHY WAYS TO REACH OUT
Here are some safe, appropriate avenues to connectedness:
Shake or hold someone’s hand when you meet.
Offer a hug in a greeting or departure.
Place your hand on theirs when someone shares their pain with you.
Place your arm around or hand on someone’s shoulder when you pray together.
If you have small children, hold them, hug them and cuddle with them to build connectedness.
If you are married, look for opportunities to physically reach out with hugs, hand-holding and kisses.
Armed with this knowledge of our need and the damage of it not being met, the teaching and examples in God’s Word, and some healthy expressions, let’s begin to reach out to one another, communicating safety and empathy. The power of touch is ours to give.
Author’s note: There are extenuating circumstances in which touch does not feel safe. If physical trauma or sexual abuse is part of your history, we encourage you to seek the help of a professional counselor. Also, when reaching out to a new friend or acquaintance, ask for permission or pay attention to non-verbal cues to gauge their physical-touch comfort level.
Meet the Author!
Heather McAnear is a wife, mom, author and speaker with a passion for sharing God's truth to help women understand their uniquely beautiful design and how to use it for God's glory! She loves teaching young married couples with her husband, homeschooling their three children, traveling the world, enjoying good chocolate and long conversations in coffee shops. CRBC has been her church home for two decades and she is thrilled to be part of the Women's Ministry team, helping women connect with each other and grow in their walk with Jesus!