Greet one another with an holy kiss. 2 Corinthians 13:12
Maybe I should move to Latin America, Southern Europe, or else maybe hang more with the country club set because I like cheek kisses (or the air kiss) and will go down on the record as being pro-hug. Maybe it’s reaction to living amongst generally stoic New Englanders, but all in all I think Mormons are getting pretty stiff. Don’t blame it all on the H1N1 flu scare either because it’s been this way for awhile now. (Small public health note if you are sick with anything, respect the power of the microbes, take one for the team, stay home, and please don’t touch me.)
To me it seems like we don’t even shake hands anymore. Okay, maybe the bishop or stake president or those with some stewardship over the body of saints still keep it up. The rest of us keep a good 3 to 5 foot distance, hands at our sides. A nod of acknowledgment. Is it a result of our growing distance from the kinship model in our households, is it our ever privacy loving, virtual, isolationist ways, or some manifestation of a new civil liberty—the right to be alone and unfettered?
I am an affectionate one. I like touch, maybe it’s just the crazy artist in me that is fascinated by textures and needs sensory input. I am after all known to frequently stroke my children, kiss them, wrestle them, and even nibble them. When I am really comfortable with people, I do loosen up on the traditional American conventions of personal space. While my natural propensity is toward being more affectionate. I find myself restraining, bowing to the unspoken mores of the status quo, for fear of coming off as flirtatious or invasive.
I am a believer in touch. There are so many studies proving it’s benefits to growth, healing, and psychological health. I wrote a big paper on it in graduate school. I’ll walk it down the line for you, the 30 page paper in 3 sentences or less. Touch creates connection. Connection builds empathy. Empathy yields more moral behaviors. (Moral meaning behaviors that help people rather than harm people).
In truth, touch builds positive affect and attachment. There is a classic example in social psychology, where librarians briefly brushed a persons’s hand when passing back their library card. The results were that the people liked both the librarian and the library more than those who weren’t touched. So maybe this could help improve ward bonding and desire to be in the church building. Maybe it could subconsciously affect activity, boost our numbers?
Oh how the social scientist in me would love to experiment. Challenge everyone to increase their brotherly affections and crunch the numbers with some good statistical modelling, factoring in vacations, sickness, & sluggish speakers. I wonder if we could get some statistically significant correlations? I bet I could get a bounce in the numbers.
Mr. Mehlbach, my HS history teacher believed in this too- every class period after the bell rang he would walk the through rows and shake hands with and talk to every student. He called it “bonding time”. He firmly believed that whatever instructional time was lost, was less valuable than that personal connection, benefit that came out of that time.
Don’t we all want better mental health and less meanness and crime? No I am not saying you need to plant one on your home teachers or that we must bring back 18th century England’s hand kissing. You can dish out a pat, a bump, a good old 80’s high-five, pace yourself, find your comfort zone.
Note- important caveat: context, brevity, setting, and delivery are all important for touch to be perceived as supportive, non-threatening, non-sexual, and non-harassing. I am not looking for discussion on inappropriate touch–that’s a topic for another day.
Some prophetic words on the subject, President Monson said this:
Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.” We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us.
So people all over the ward join hands, start a love train…
Un abrazo? Donner un bec?
So weigh in are you touchy or not? How do you like to be greeted? What do you think of our cultural (American) ways? Have you seen a change over time? What do you see as the role of touch in everyday living?