Relationships are so important and they need to be communicated. There is definitely kindness and energy expressed in our words, written or spoken. There is a wonderful surge in our emotions as we receive a gift. But there is incredible power in our touch.
Consider the impact when Jesus touched men and women: He put forth His hand and touched a leper saying, “I will. Be clean.” And immediately the leprosy was removed (Luke 5:13).
“So He touched her hand and the fever left her. And she arose and served them” (Matthew 8:15). “So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him” (Matthew 20:34).
Doctors tell us that a touch does amazing things to our bodies. It lowers our blood pressure, decreases the level of stress hormones and triggers the release of all kinds of good chemicals that impact our mood. Touching, appropriately is such a powerful thing.
One study indicated that sports teams who encouraged each other at half time with lots of back slapping and high fiving actually had better scores the second half of their games. Premature babies who are sweetly massaged in the NICU, gain weight. Older folks with dementia who are hugged and appropriately stroked are less prone to outbursts and depression.
Businessmen shake hands. Teenage girls hang on each other. Moms grab a squeeze whenever they can. Children hug stuffed animals and grandparents. The mailman appreciates a high five. Friends at church expect a hug.
All of us need to be touched.
Touch is universal. We all do it a little bit differently, but we do it. I read where the Congolese touch each other on the temples and kiss foreheads. In the islands of the South Pacific, they sniff each other’s cheeks. The French kiss both of those cheeks. In the Middle East, men hold their hands together as they greet a friend.
Some cultures are more touch deprived than others. One study (S. Jourard, 1966) observed couples sitting in coffee shops are all around the world. In Puerto Rico, the couples touched each other (hand-holding, back-stroking, knee-patting) an average of 180 times per hour. In Paris, it was 110 times. In Florida, twice and in London, no touching.
But touching was our first and most important means of communication. So even if you are shy and reserved with your affection, this week would be a great time to improve your appropriate touching. When you greet a someone, touch their shoulder, shake their hand or give them a hug. Hold hands while you pray with a friend. End a meeting with a friendly high five. Just find a way to show you care.
When we hug (or use any other socially acceptable kind of touch) we are squeezing someone with our heart. That is a good thing. For them and us!