The Importance of Hugging

As children we are showered with love and affection. We receive sweet words of encouragement as we learn a new skill, kind glances as we fumble with complicated items; plenty of kisses, and of course, lots of hugs. From the cradling of a new born baby to the long hug goodbye on the first day of school, a proper (but not by any means only type of) childhood is one where the child is made to feel loved and wanted. Its most potent symbol is the hug; a total embrace of another human being. The hug is about sharing warmth and affection in the most positively intimate way; heart to heart as two beats synchronise into one.

Katie M. Berggren, Dancing Mom & Baby, 2009.

As we grow up, hugs become more sporadic, seldom, and unexpected. We hug our parents less, not because we don’t want to be loved (we desperately do) but because we may want it from others now; and we hug our friends less because, especially with boys, it is not cool, and we need to appear somewhat detached, independent and non-chalant in the face of what others think and feel. In our highly individualised and competitive world, we seem to idolise a type of person who has no need for others. These proto-capitalists appear strong, but deep down, are likely quite alone and in need of a good hug.

There is certain spiritual nourishment that comes from holding another person in our arms. When we invite someone to share that special place against our chest, we express out a belief so deep we feel it in our flesh and bones: “I am here for you”.

Even for a moment, in the embrace of a hug, we are no longer isolated, individualised, separate and alone. We think we suck, that we are unlovable, that all our terrible qualities discount our good ones, and then someone comes along and does the unthinkable, they open their arms and take us in, and tell us something in a language beyond words “you are worthy of being loved”.

Hugs do what words cannot. Hugs do not judge, opine, criticise, analyse, rebuke or undermine. In the language of touch rather than sound, hugs remind us that no matter what we’ve done, no matter how we feel, we are worthy of the compassion and touch of another human, and that is something beautiful.

We should all hug more. Of course, we could just tell each other that we are worthy of love and affection, but hugs reach beyond words and make real the promise that is latent in every statement of positive encouragement: you deserve to be loved, and the proof is written here in open arms.

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