What the Ward Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love…

nkissbwGreet 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?

 

About Leslie

(Art Director) In her pre-diapering days, Leslie earned an MS in Marriage and Family Studies from BYU. This entitled her to mold the minds of impressionable college students in rambling six-hour lecture courses and travel the world as child life specialist. She now passes the seasons in a quaint Massachusetts town with her husband, Allen, and three young sons. She spends her days encouraging play, championing global causes, and whipping up a mean R2D2 cake. She savors her nights, stealing away to her studio to paint.

67 thoughts on “What the Ward Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love…

  1. Not. But don’t get me wrong there. I totally believe in it. Every single living thing in the mammal world needs it scientifically, physically, and psychologicaly to live and grow up healthy. If it is not there, there are problems down the line….even in animals. However. I don’t want any part of it. I’m picky about who I let hug me. But generally, I want no part of it. I have a friend who almost insists on ‘mauling’ me when she sees me. I usually steer clear. If people in the church start giving out kisses on each cheek, even air ones, I’m going to have to quit.

    LOL and :)

  2. I served a mission in South America and I LOVED their way of greeting each other — a kiss on the cheek. I keep trying to convince my friends that we should be “kissing friends” and greet each other that way, but they all look at me like I’m weird. There are so many times that I see someone at church or in any other setting that I haven’t seen in a while that I feel like I want to greet with a hug, but I always hold back because I feel like THEY don’t want to be hugged. But I agree Leslie, there needs to be more touching. Sometimes you just need a hug.

  3. lucy- yes- laughing Although maybe we should try the libarary card trick with a hymnal and see if we could break you down-

    andrea- see I knew we could be friends- I think when you have lived somewhere where it is the cultural norm it becomes very second nature to you,

  4. I’ve had so many awkward situations where I thought someone was going for the kiss but they really just wanted the shake hug, etc. Germany has some really sweet traditions, but I can never seem to remember at which level I am with people. Were we just at a shake? Or a shake hug? Or a cheek to cheek hug? Or a full-on hug? Or the three Swiss cheek kisses?

    I love the last, but you can’t force it on people, I know, because I’ve tried. In general though, I find physicality with just anyone besides my close friends and family to be so awkward. However, as a young single adult living away from family and without many opportunities for dating in my area, I find myself craving a little cuddling, which is so much better than hugs in greeting which just make me nervous.

  5. Michelle- I do find it fascinating how some many cultures have so much hierarchy/levels of intimacy to their greetings, touch. I wonder why we are so reserved?

  6. I’m a hugger not a fighter. And fortunately for me that’s still kosher in my ward. I’m also about a firm handshake if that’s all you’ve got.

    Generally you can tell who’s comfortable with physical affection and who’s not, but unless someone visibly recoils I’ll at least try to get away w/ a pat on the back or the arm. It’s good for the soul.

    (I do have a great story about turning the wrong cheek whilst giving bisous to a young child in France once as a missionary. Still makes me smile.)

    Hugs–

  7. I served in France as well, and loved the air or cheek kisses – we never knew if it would be two, three or four kisses we would receive.

    I’m a hugger, and have taught my kids to give their friends hugs when they say goodbye – a little neighbor girl was so stiff and taken back by a simple hug from a friend – it made me a little sad. Our ward is very friendly, but sometimes I sense a lack of warmth that comes from a hug. I long for a good friend who doesn’t shy away from a little warmth.

  8. I’m a toucher, definitely. I came from a physically affectionate family, and I think I’ve passed it on to my kids. I had people laugh at me when they were babies, because I couldn’t just hold one of my babies–I would cuddle and kiss and hug them constantly.

    Apparently I’m not normal, though–one of my critique friends going over a manuscript told me I needed to stop having the mother hug and kiss her son so much. She said it didn’t feel natural. I laughed, because that’s exactly how I behave with my kids. I did take a bit of it out in the end because I know not everyone is that physically affectionate.

  9. CJC – We definitely set the tone for what is comfortable for our children. I can appreciate the how many kisses- you never know- it always caught me off guard as a child abroad.

    annette- laughing at the take out the hugging and kissing, I find especially in our culture it is viewed more speciously.

  10. I grew up in a very non-touchy family. They’ve loosened up a lot now, but I remember starting middle school and observing that it was “cool” to hug your girl friends (or guy friends, if you were lucky enough to have them). I was leery of it for a long time, but by the time I graduated I was no longer an “awkward hugger.”

    Since then, I’ve continually seen how important physical contact is, and I plan on showering my children with it.

  11. The home I grew up in was not affectionate. I remember as a preteen craving it, trying to hug my parents good night and getting stiff boards in return. When I married into a ‘kiss on the cheek’ family it was awkward. My grandmother always kissed me on the cheek but it was endured. Now I had this whole family of in-laws that did it. Kisses were for romancing, not family.

    Many years have gone by and now I live in a Latino branch. I cannot count the number of times I happily kiss and am kissed on the cheek on a given Sunday – and I love it!! My fellow Anglo (white) church sisters think I’m a little looney to have so fully bought into this part of the Latino culture, but I love different cultures so kissing as a part of their culture has helped me loosen up about it.

    When I went to visit old friends recently and I wanted to kiss them on the cheek they didn’t know how to react to me. But I love and miss them, that’s my new way of showing it, it takes some adjusting for the people who knew the old me.

    And for the record- Our Latin ward has problems with unity just as much as others. Latins are passionate – to both extremes :)

  12. My husband always tells me I wasn’t hugged enough as a child. And he’s right. I’m not as comfortable with physical contact from people as he is. But I think deep down what it stems from is that I question their authenticity. And funnily enough, hugs from people in the ward I feel are genuine (maybe because it is not the expected norm) and I find myself cringing at the obligatory handshake. (I know, I’m too complicated for my own good.) My parents were uncomfortable huggers, and they’ve gotten better over time, but it is still awkward for me at times because I’m not completely sure if they really want to be doing it or not. It’s my own insecurity about how they feel about me. I’ll tell you what feels really good though, is someone who gives you a *real* *genuine* “I’m happy to see you” or “sad to see you go” hug. You can just feel how they feel; like it leaps from their body to yours. They are the best. And a great for a little ego boost. We are huggers and smoochers in my own family, though. I never wanted my children to feel or imagine that my feelings for them were in any way ambiguous or vague. My kids love hugs and are not afraid to give them (just because & for no reason) either. I love that.

  13. lindsay and jendoop- glad to see you have recovered from hugging awkwardness.

    jenny- it is interesting to see how it lingers across generations. I love your description of those really sincere hugs- I have a friend who has a talent for that and yes- nothing is better!

  14. i participate in 12 step programs who used to give hugs at every available turn. Now it is very rare, no one even wants to shake hands. I think it is a part of healing, too.

    i visited the mennonite church with a friend several times, they to the cheek kiss thing – and i thot it was a good thing. i saw the women having very tight relationships with each other also.

    In the church I grew up in, very little touch at all. But there is an incredible bond with the women who work at the church with each other.

    My mom was a very huggee person when we were kids, but i think sometimes it wasn’t easy. she’s not so much now

  15. Loved your blog! I also believe that touch is very important. I once had a friend remark on my ‘touching fetish”. She said it was fun to observe how “sensory” I was. For me, touch is the way I connect with people. I think my kids have inherited this trait. I often worry about my son on his mission thinking, ” is he getting hugged by anyone?” Two years without much physical connection seems kind of bleak. While patting someone on the arm or hugging someone seems perfectly natural and appropriate to me, I know many others do not feel the same and I try to restrain myself when I sense that someone is not a “hugger”. I maintain that we would all be a little happier if we got hugged a little more.

  16. I am also a recovering awkward hugger. I served my mission in Europe and got used to a much closer personal space and plenty of hugs/air kisses. It was a little weird to adjust when I got back. I try to be more physically affectionate with my kids than my parents are, but I’m not sure I’m very affectionate with other adults. I like the idea, but it’s just not in me yet.

    I noticed this recently because we got a new home teacher who is from Europe. He’s lived in the US for a few years, but I’ve noticed his body language is very different from other men in our ward (he’s young–about the same age as my husband and I). After each visit he asks if he can hug each of us, including my children and me. It was a little unusual at first, since in church culture we often want to put a lot of distance between people of the opposite sex. I’ve noticed that in Sunday School he’s also not afraid to sit right next to people or to do things like touch their arm to make a point. Everyone thinks he’s a friendly, outgoing person, and I think part of it is the fact that he’s not afraid of people’s space like so many others tend to be. Reaching out to people is not just an abstract/spiritual concept.

  17. traci- it is interesting to see how touch is a part of various religious groups and services and traditions

    just s- guess i am not the only sensory person out there

    foxy J- great thoughts- I actually wanted to add another quote to the post- but I cut for length and tangentialness) I think it was by Elder Jay Jensen (?) about that very thing. How arms of safety, arms are frequently used in the scriptures etc but how they also have physical implications in our care, service and worship

  18. I’m a very touchy person. I remember holding hands with my girlfriends when we were small girls, always hugging and smooching on my family, and always going in for a squeeze with my current friends (some of who probably avoid me because of it!)

    It’s just my upbringing, I guess. It’s the way things always were, and I cannot imagine my life without it.

  19. Funny post. One of my really good friends has told me on several occasions that she knows I’m “a hugger” but she’s not really a fan of touching. Oops! You wouldn’t have to make a change in citizenship to be in a hugging/kissing ward–move to Hawaii where cheek kisses and hugs are a must at every gathering of saints.

    Or move to my ward. . . I’ll hug ya!

  20. I’ve lived in Paris for the last three years and NOT as a missionary, which means that I get allllll of the bises (cheek kisses) and not just a certain few like missionaries do, what with the arms-length rules. While it’s nice, by the end of church I feel like my face is covered in other people’s greasiness.

    Also, bises are really pretty impersonal, and there’s really not much physical contact; typically NO contact other than the cheek itself. I find myself often craving an actual, honest-to-goodness hug, but then, I grew up in a very physically demonstrative family and even now, being single (and living 6000 miles away), my family makes a point to give me that life-saving touch whenever I’m around them.

    I understand the feeling that we ought to have more physical contact at church, although whenever I’m back visiting my parents’ ward, I get hugs from those with whom I’ve developed actual friendships and handshakes from those who are merely in the “ward family.” Oh, and when I’m with friends in the US, I tend to forget and give them bises anyway, and they just go with it. I say, if you want to change the way you physically interact with friends, just do it; most people will adapt and it’ll become part of your routine.

    (Really, though, if you want Americans at large to change, we’d have live in much closer communities than most of us do – *particularly* in the West. We won’t be generally comfortable with tons of physical contact until we get out of our cars and squish on to public transport and live stacked on top of each other in small apartments. Even at church, families spread out over entire pews rather than sitting close to other families. We live surrounded by space, and so we maintain that space in personal interactions as well.)

  21. I’m a hugger by nature and if people reach to hug me I’m fine with it. But I’ve been in the South my whole life and grew up in branches/wards where hugging was/is how most women greet each other. Once I get to know people and they seem fine with it, we usually hug and no one thinks twice about it.

  22. I am a Huge hugger and kisser of my children. I have tried to explain to my 14-year old son that my lips actually crave touching his cheek before he leaves in the morning- I literally cannot hold my babies without kissing their little heads. Once I was at a meeting with a lady whom I had only just met. She was dealing with her 2-year old so I offerred to hold her baby. We were continuing to chat when I realized that I was nuzzling and kissing the top of the baby’s head like he was my own! I didn’t even notice until I saw her looking at me like I was personally infecting her child with a virulent flu. I was a little embarrassed but just laughed it off explaining that I don’t even realize I’m doing it.

    I am always putting my hand on an arm, I just feel like it makes my conversations more personal and real but have noticed that some, men especially are noticeably surprised by it. I certainly am not interested in making sexual overtones! just being friendly. Too bad that like any good thing, it can be misconstrued or used as an excuse for those who may have more carnal desires. :) I sound like a touchaholic, but I promise, if you knew me you would find me very normal!

  23. I grew up in an undemonstartive family, it feels awkward still to say I love you aloud. It wasn’t until I went to college that I discovered the world of touch as a way to show affection and friendship. That time in my life was so freeing! Then on my mission I felt so alone because I was rarely touched by anyone other than my companion.

    Now that I’m married I still find myself craving that closeness with others. My husband is very affectionate so it sounds funny that I still feel like I’m missing that connection.

  24. Paula- any excuse for Hawaii works for me…

    Zannah- great thoughts on our American distance- we very much like our space, it is refelcted in so many aspects of our lives.

    Amy- Oh- I do miss warm southern ways! (but not the humidity!)

    Christine- Maybe if you say you’re European no one will misconstrue? :> I can’t help but nuzzle babies!

  25. So the other day in church I was totally thinking about this, when there were plenty of seats open next to us and instead a woman went and pulled a chair out of the chair rack — in the middle of sacrament — and noisily set it down. I was all, c’mon, lets be friends! Pals! Compadres!

    And yes, we were back rowin’ it.

  26. I didn’t read all the comments so I don’t know if it’s been said but- move to the south. We’re huggers. :)

  27. Even if we don’t do the touching, do we help others “feel the love of God in their lives everyday?” (RS Pres before Sister Beck, I believe)
    A sister moved into our ward a few years ago, and everytime she would say goodbye, she would add “Love you!”
    It’s amazing how it blessed so many people in our ward as those of us who knew her started to express that love to others, and so on. One sister called me up after we had briefly visited, to tell me how much she had appreciated my unexpected expression of love.
    It needs to be a sincere expression — but it’s amazing how much your love for all of Heavenly Father’s children grows as you learn to feel & express it.
    Thank you for the reminder to pass His love along — be it in hugs, hellos, “Love you’s,” or in sitting next to those who sit alone! We all need a healthy dose of Heavenly Father’s love everyday!

  28. I am not a huggy person, and I prefer not to be touched. Don’t hug me, don’t kiss me–fist bump is okay.

    And I do hug and kiss my daughter a lot, but hugging anyone besides my husband and kid takes a lot of effort and I just don’t like it! It’s in the DNA.

  29. Bean- I think it’s still natural to want to feel connection other people in variety of ways.

    Natalie- yes- people taking seats in sacrament have never had to fight for a seat on a foreign train or ferry– anythign less than a 2 foot distance seems like encroaching.

    Lo- can you send some of it north of the mason-dixon line?

    FnF- great reminder- I love affection in all it’s forms-verbal, physical etc. I am a verbal lover too!

  30. i never thought i’d run across good old mr. melbach on the segullah blog… by the time i made it to his ap history class [a few years after you, leslie… -ps, hello!-] his handshake routine had devolved into throwing shoes at the back wall of the classroom, which, though strange, i think has nothing to do with my squirminess when someone tries to embrace or kiss me.

  31. jes- How are you? What Mr. Mehlbach abandoned his bonding ritual, man life will never be the same, he did occasionally through shoes for emphasis is my day! I will forever stake my claim hurdling desks and AV carts in his class. Maybe had his riutal not been abandoned you’d be less squeamish?

  32. Leslie, if I could reach through the computer screen and hug you, I would! You have a very affectionate persona. I loved the comment about the librarian making contact with peoples’ hands–this past Sunday, I was trying to touch hands as I passed the sacrament tray to people, and I was having those very same thoughts; we need to touch more and let people know that we don’t think they’re untouchable/repulsive/scary/germ-ridden/etc. but rather, I like you, when I’m near you I feel happy/safe/you’re my friend. I served a mission in South America, and love the hugging, kissing, touching. New England is very ‘pious,’ but we need to lighten up a little here! Bring on the love!

  33. I love to be touched and kissed–especially by children. I love the spontaneity of it. It seams to me that when they touch me–they are always “giving” (and they are so pure and innocent in their gifts and needs). That’s how I want to be–I want to “give” with each touch, hug or kiss. God stuff, Leslie–maybe we should move to Hawaii where they do the cheek-kiss thing! Love it!

  34. Jenny- You’re great- I can hear your ward members now Has Sister W been touching you? You’re a native- set the example! Lead out in your ward!

    I figure since I am “out” now –this serves as blanket explanantion for my ward (even if they don’t read segullah)

    Merry Michelle- yes chidlren are good at that I love it when they hug and kiss me or grab my hand- It is such a hey- I ma happy to see you I like you thing!

  35. Let me add that I use my intuition as a valuable tool. I do not condone hugging or kissing as a general rule–some people emit scary karma, and in those cases I can’t do more than shake hands. That’s touch though, still, and there is no lingering when I’m not comfortable. A lingering hand shake is a cultural way of saying I especially like you; not just I’m not afraid of you. So I think we too, have levels of cultural affection; they’re just not so universal.

  36. I served a mission in Ecuador. I distinctly remember being initially uncomfortable with the “kiss kiss” during greetings/goodbyes. After a while it became totally normal! (Although the Elders would make fun of us) When I came home, I also distinctly remember feeling that the members of my home ward were very stiff, formal and would all stand 4 feet away when talking! Eventually I got used to it again. I guess it’s a “when in Rome do as the Romans do” kind of thing.

  37. jenny- uh yes- I have a wierd vibe alert radar that is keen- I am distant with people i am leery of or have yet to feel a certain level of bond or trust with.

    annie- what I want to know is who decided the rules for rome?

  38. I am affectionate, I smother my kids often, I hug my friends, once you’ve been in my home I am likely to hug you the next time I see you. I also kiss on the cheek, but it’s more of a cultural thing for me (Italian, Hawaiian)… I don’t know what it is Les but I think you are right. I love the quote you shared of Pres. Monson quoting Shakespeare. So true.

    What I want to know is when I will get the chance to hug you? Lol.

  39. I served a mission in Sydney, where many of the members are transplants from New Zealand. The Aussies kiss one cheek, the Maoris kiss two, the white Kiwis, well, I could never figure out which way they would go. I also could never figure out which cheek to kiss first. (I was a missionary, so this is strictly a women only practice!) A few times I was afraid I was going to plant one on somebody’s lips. I loved the tradition, but it takes some getting used to.

    Maybe it isn’t church at all, but an American thing?

  40. I too served a mission in France and loved all the kissing. Every time you moved areas though you had to find out how many kisses it was in that town. The only real problems with that of course were the priesthood who figured it would be fun to bise a sister. Every ward there was at least one of them! Strange men in the street too! I was grabbed several times by men in the street for a kiss, they would then walk away as if nothing had happened.

    Being in England we have our stiff upper lip to consider. I have always thought Americans were more affectionate than the British in general so you can imagine life over here.

    My family were not an affectionate family in any way. I never remember once ever being hugged or kissed by my parents. However, I cannot keep my hands off my children. Touch is important to me, but I have to feel comfortable with the person. I do hug and kiss all of my close friends and relatives now, and everyone I visit teach, and various people at church depending on the day. I am also in that group which cuddles their friends children too.

    Funny disjointed world we live in. In general I think people want affection. We all want to be loved.

  41. Oh and to answer your questions, I love to be greeted with a hug. Love it. Warms me right up. The role of touch should be to bond us to one another, but I suppose our culture draws the line at close friends and family. Of course aren’t we all family?

  42. Leslie, I loved this post because it reminded me of the sweet hugs I got from my Polish relatives last year. I was the first American relative to return to this little Polish village in over 100 years. An absolutely adorable Polish priest took me to visit some of my relatives. They didn’t speak English and my Polish is pathetic, but we sure communicated with smiles and hugs. Perhaps there is something to the DNA comment. I just know I felt much more at home in Poland. My relatives and most of the people I met were passionate, dramatic, funny, and HUGGY. All my life I’ve felt like I was from a different planet in the United States, but I felt totally like soul sisters with the Polish women.

    My youngest child was the only one who gave me hugs almost every day until the day he left the nest and I sure miss those daily hugs! I also visit teach an elderly widow whom I dearly love and I’m very careful to ALWAYS give her a hug when I see her because humans need hugs (as the research suggests)!

  43. lei- we must link up- guarnteed hugs!

    nan-it’s definitely more American than anythgin but still there are certian American circles where you kiss in greeting- i.e. my non member relatives always kiss hello and goodbye but not my member relatives???

    Kay- so I am not born to be British eh?

    Kathryn- hugs can be a powerful communicator beyond language- i used to hug many parents and children when i was on medical missions- way easier than my non- existant Arabic, Berber, Russian, Swahili, etc.

  44. LAUGHING!!!!
    The funny thing is, I JUST said to Chris, two weeks ago, “NO ONE in this ward shakes hands. EVER!”
    I don’t think I need kisses and hugs from everyone, but I love a firm handshake.
    Great post, you make me laugh!!!

  45. I tend to go either way, depending on what I perceive is the norm . . . but I enjoy hugs, cheek kisses, and holding hands very much. Some people in our ward are huggy/kissy and I love it. Even with those who aren’t, I still find myself patting an arm or touching a shoulder.

    I always love having cheek kissing ethnic friends. I wish it were more common amongst Americans!

  46. Laura- so it isn’t just me- maybe even all us transplants are becoming the like natives- taking on new england stoicism!

    anon- I wonder if people lose their ethnic cheek kissing ways over time?

  47. No huggie, no touchie. I don’t like it. My family was pretty physical growing up, but I just never cared for it. I’m too much of a cat person, I guess.

    I hug people when I know it’s expected, but I do not feel comfortable doing it. UnIess it’s my child. I think that was one of the strange things about having a child–suddenly I wanted to touch another human all the time. I’ve had to learn to touch my husband (it has nothing to with s-e-x.) It’s one of his love languages. Now I’m pretty good at holding hands or just touching him when he’s nearby. But I really had to force myself at the beginning. I still don’t like being touched by others, though.

    People in Texas seem to be into the handshake a lot. Being a woman who has never gone on a mission or lived in the corporate world, I find a handshake to be weird and unnatural. But women here always shake hands when meeting and it’s really taken me by surprise. The nice thing about handshakes, though, is it keeps the hugs at bay.

  48. I have a few friends that I have converted to huggers…but they only hug me. I am all about touch. It is completely a part of who I am. There is an adorable older southern woman in our ward that is a convert and she kisses EVERYONE on the lips…I love her for it, but it totally freaks most people in our ward out. I am definitely from European blood lines, bring on the kisses, the cuddles, maybe a butt tap during a good volleyball match! It has a way of brightening my day and making me feel welcome and loved!

  49. I prefer good firm handshakes to hugs when it’s someone I don’t know well. If you’re a good friend or family, I’m okay with hugs. I kiss my kids but not on the cheek and it bothers me when I see other families kiss on the lips when it isn’t their spouse.

    If someone were to try the European custom of cheek kissing with me, I’d probably go along with it, but I might avoid them later.

    Just the way I am, whether it’s culture, upbringing, or genetics.

  50. One of the comments reminded me of how important it is to be sensitive to people who DON’T feel comfortable hugging! We visit a sister from Asia who, after a few visits, we discovered felt uncomfortable hugging — not in her cultural comfort zone.
    I guess it’s about learning about cultures — and maybe body language (like the hug lean vs the handshake!).

  51. jennie- you are added to the do not contact list-you’re good to make husbandly accomodations.

    Nicole- it is funy what older peopel can get away with-LOL- and yes – good friends (only) in a volleyball match can swat me one!

    hermit mom- I think handshakes are standard protocol!

    FNF- our cultures do have very different cultural boundaries

  52. I like the connection of touch: touching a hand, giving a “holy” (love the scripture you cite) kiss on the cheek, giving a hug. I’ve had these same thoughts about LDS physical standoffishness.

    We’re on the east coast, too, and whenever we gather with neighbors, nonLDS friends, or even work colleagues, everyone greets with a handshake and (usually, if you know each other fairly well) a kiss on the cheek. And it took me a while to learn how to do it gracefully and without my trademark nervous laugh since I didn’t grow up with those social kissing skills!

    It’s too bad that with our ward family we aren’t more connected in that way. It’s a different laying on of hands but it can be healing in its own way.

  53. I loved the cheek kissing on my mission in Brasil and had a real hard time adjusting back.

    Now that you’ve brought it up though, I think I shook hands with two people on Sunday. That’s it.

    So my goal this week will be to shake at least ten hands. And then I’ll increase it every week. Maybe that would help me get to know people in this ward. I’ve lived here for four months and I can name maybe four people.

  54. annie- You are making me laugh with your social kissing skills. I am interested in the fact that most of the ordinances in our church involve touch.

    Giggles- way to take it into action- do get your numbers form the ward clerk and see if you can single-handed improve attendance!

  55. interesting topic. I hated hugs as a teen/young adult, but now I can deal with them. I think not hugging was actually a part of my showing my independence. My parents are big huggers with their children. Nothing inappropriate at all, but it was always expected. That was my problem. If we left the house, we had to give mom a hug goodbye. Not optional. I think she has a real fear of one of us dying and she wants the last thing she said/did with us to be loving. To this day she will not end a phone conversation w/o saying “I love you.” My problem with the hugging is that it was expected, not spontaneous. I distinctly remember one day, I think I was married. I was at my parent’s and mom had some people over to do work in the yard. I needed to run to the store. I told her goodbye and that I would be back in a few minutes. She said, “Don’t I get a hug?” I tried to blow her off and said I’d only be gone a few minutes. Right there in front of the workers she broke down sobbing because I wouldn’t give her a hug. Typing this out reminded me of another incident when I was a teenager when I finally said I didn’t want to kiss her goodnight. I got chewed out by my dad amidst mom’s tears of rejection.

    So yeah, I guess I have issues. lol. I am not, however a stand-offish mom or wife. Every school day with my kids starts with a snuggle on the couch. I love to touch dh even when we are just sitting next to each other. Its even better if he is touching my feet. I will easily hug relatives or friends I have not seen for a long time, but not if I just saw them yesterday. I don’t mind giving hugs to the old ladies at church. I am learning to give hugs to the YW because I serve there.

    As for hand shaking, I usually have no problem. But sometimes I have to go wash my hands immediately afterwards depending on whose hand I have just shared germs with.

    Oh, we have a Samoan and a Spanish ward in our stake. I have become used to hugging those sisters because their facial expressions are always consistant with the “I am genuinely happy to see you” sentiment.

  56. At one point in my teenage years, my dad decided that our family needed to become more affectionate, so he said that we were going to start a new tradition in our family of everybody hugging everybody else after the family prayer. Everybody was expected to participate, and everyone did.. in their own way. My brother just below me was less demonstrative, so his hugs were more aloof in nature, but he still hugged. Some of us made a game of it. Sometimes the hugs turned into strength contests to see who could pick the other up. But the tradition is set now and and we still do it when we go back to visit.

  57. I hesitate to make this comment because I don’t want to offend anyone. I think hugging, handshaking and other touching are great and very appropriate in church situations. For some people, however, hugging is simply not safe. I have a disease that has permanently compromised my immune system, so touching others is problematic for me. When I am well enough to attend church, I usually wear a face mask and keep my distance from people, with my hands behind my back to avoid being offered a handshake. Some people are offended by this, even when I explain why. Sometimes someone will tell me what I need to do to fix my immune system so that I can be more sociable. What I really appreciate are those close friends who stand back from me and carry on a conversation as if nothing were wrong with me. Their loving attention makes me feel hugged even when it isn’t possible.

  58. I’m a fairly demonstrative person by nature as well. Hugs, a touch on the arm or shoulder, a good firm handshake, all good…. MOST of the time. There have been times when I was “Hugged-out”. When everyone knew we were going through things and wanted to comfort one thing they could give was a hug. I appreaciated the feeling, I did. But it was a LOT of hugging and it reached a point where it was actually draining.

    There are still times when, if I’m feeling really stressed a hug won’t be what I need. What I really appreciate is someone who asks “Do you need a hug?” or “Can I give you a hug?” before they give me one.

    And I also understand Catherine’s predicament as well. There are situations where a hug can’t be accepted or distance needs to be kept.

    I would wager, in a majority of situations where a hug isn’t accepted, that no offense is intended. However, some people equate personal rejection to you saying “Please don’t hug me.”

    It’s just as important to show love by being sensitive to one another needs as it is to demonstrate it when they’re open to it.

  59. Faith not Fear mentioned the people who aren’t used to being hugged or touched, and it made me think of a wonderful story from my mission. I served in Japan, which is not a touchy-feely country. After teaching a first lesson to an investigator, my comp and I (both American, both very huggy people) gave her a hug. She just stood uncomfortably still. And we expressed verbally our love for her (also very taboo in Japan) But we kept hugging her and telling her we loved her as we were teaching her anyway. ANd wouldn’t you know, she warmed up to it, grew to love giving hugs (perhaps to us only? but still…) and frequently would tell us she loved us. She really grew to love the open expression of our love for her, and expected it of us. It really changed her demeanor… It was a wonderful transformation in this sister, and truly her countenance changed. It was amazing. This happened a couple of times with me. It was fun to see. The church as a whole in Japan is more touchy than the general population… Probably because the Western influence of more touching. It was amazing to see her change, perhaps because she truly felt the love behind those hugs from us.

    Not to say that everybody reacted that way with our hugs. In fact I had a Japanese Comp that would try to force the affection and hugs and it came across just as that. Forced. But when the feelings were genuine, the investigators and members really felt it and soaked it in. And when it was real, it changed them. They learned the gospel better, because they knew we were teaching out of love.

    I love hugs.

    My brothers used to call me the hug monster. I’m sure my kids will call me that. And the kiss monster too… :)

  60. I much prefer a hug to a handshake. I loved living in Sweden, because men and women hugged one another. Here, that would cause a breakdown or speculation about adultery, which seems rather ridiculous.

    Also, I wish we would rethink this firm handshake thing in church. I’m still quite young, but suffer from inflammatory arthritis. A firm handshake is horrible and causes a lot of pain. So I kind of avoid it.

  61. there are of course appropriate accomodations for individual needs, desires, and constraints – maybe we should have name tags with our desired form of greeting
    Sister Graff: hugs, handshakes, cheek kisses (close friends only) acceptable

  62. I am more of a hugger these days than I used to be, thanks to a dear friend who sort of got me over the hump with her own affectionate behavior. Now I often hug my friends, where I never used to.

    Having said that, I’ve always hugged family members…I just didn’t used to be comfortable hugging friends.

    Now I like it!

    =)

  63. Coming in very late here…
    I think for me it depends on my mood. I’d imagine I’m likely to give off a pretty good vibe of whether I want to be hugged in any given moment. I don’t liked being hugged by people that I’m not super close with; it makes me feel uncomfortable. The first Jenny that posted mentioned that she sometimes questions the authenticity of a hug. I am right there with that.It is has to be real and meaningful. I have no problem with handshakes, but am NOT a fan of kisses on the cheeks even by family members. Kinda tough that my extended family is italian! I like to give small pats on the back and touches of that nature. Subtle, but allowing someone to know I am thinking of and am aware of them.

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