When was the last time that you heard them say? Mother or father, I love you, and when was the last time, that they heard you say, daughter or son, I love you? ~ Stevie Wonder, These Three Words
About a month ago, I wrote the following as part of my comment on the blog post of one of my favorite readers, 29tolife:
But the ever-wise Mandy Pants, who always finds ways to break things down for me, once told me that my thoughts on cuddling and hugs were absolutely ridiculous. She said that while she understood where I was coming from, humans need to be touched. So I was missing out on basic human interaction that was needed to survive by limiting this type of interaction and that was why it had become even more intimate to me. Her theory – if you limit something you’re supposed to have, any version of it will then be overwhelming for you. Like how a vegetarian would get sick if she all of a sudden decided to eat a drumstick after years of not eating meat. But that if you began to enjoy it, you’d realize just how much you needed it in your life.
And in the midst of all that went down in Newtown, CT, in China, in Indiana, and in Los Angeles in the past week, (not to mention Chicago, New Orleans, and Baltimore every week) those words kept coming back to me. They kept replaying in my head… just how important it was to make sure we all knew that we were loved. Like Stevie asked, when was the last time they heard you say it?
But while saying “I love you” is great and needed, there’s also no denying the power of a hug. I’ve seen the strongest dudes break down and cry because someone gave them a meaningful and sincere hug. I’ve seen the biggest smile curl up on a woman’s face after witnessing someone give her a nice, long bear hug at the end of her day. Heck, I’ve even noticed what hugs do to me, which is why I avoided them for the longest time.
You see, the thing about hugs is that when you receive one (and not a raggedy half-arsed church hug with the pat on the back, a REAL hug), you can’t help but let your guard down and allow yourself to be vulnerable, even if just for a brief moment. It may not last long, but in the 5 to 10 seconds it takes to physically show someone you care, that person is allowed to take in that energy and just FEEL the love.
I know this may sound hokey and mushy, but it’s true. Why is it that most people’s instinct is to give someone a hug when something tragic occurs or even to excitedly hug someone when you haven’t seen them in awhile? It’s because as humans, we need that physical reassurance. We need person to person contact. We crave it. We long for it. We search for it… even when we don’t realize it.
But sadly, we’ve grown up in a society that demeans emotions. We laugh at people when they cry. We judge people when they need time to recover. We even look at people funny when they get very expressive in church (don’t lie – either you do now or you did). And guess what – we also withhold those powerful hugs. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re afraid to let too many people in or what? But we’ve definitely made it so that a hug is something that rarely happens, and when it does – it’s so quick and impersonal, it loses its impact. I’ll admit, I’ve even been in situations where I desperately wanted to hug someone because of something they told me, and I didn’t – because I didn’t know how he or she would take it. What kind of craziness is that?
All of this brings me back to the excerpt above. MandyPants was so right: humans need to be touched. So while I know it’s not always as simple as I’m making it seem and there are certainly, certainly mental health concerns we also need to begin to address in our country, I would still like to implore you to give someone a hug today. You never know what that will mean for them.