Tag Archive: Hugging

We’re Not Huggers

no hugsI grew up in a home where my parents rarely, if ever, showed affection to each other or their children. The Gerencsers weren’t huggers or kissers, and I can’t remember a time where my mom or dad said to me, I love you. I can’t remember a time when I was praised for doing well in school or in sports, nor can I remember being challenged to do better. The reasons for this are many. My mother was mentally ill my entire life. Mom spent two extended periods of time in the Toledo State Mental Hospital. She was prone to manic fits, and tried to kill herself more times than I can count. One time, I came home from elementary school to find Mom lying on the floor in a pool of blood. She had slit her wrists. She survived, but two decades later she pointed a Ruger .357 at her heart and pulled the trigger. She did not survive her last attempt, dying at the age of fifty-four. My dad was involved in all sorts of less-than-legal behavior, including fraud and illegally selling firearms. Fortunately, he avoided prison. He died at the age of forty-nine.

My parent’s fifteen-year marriage dissolved during the spring of my ninth-grade year. The only conversation my parents had with me about their impending divorce was Dad telling me that he and Mom no longer loved each other. Mom? All she said on the matter was to tell me that she would never speak poorly about my father. Life moved on without either of them ever giving an honest accounting to their children about why they divorced, leaving us to come to our own conclusions about why they were no longer married. It was Mom who filed for divorce, yet I don’t know why. I suppose Mom’s mental-health issues, Dad’s nefarious financial dealings, and our Gypsy-like moving from town to town to town led to their divorce. That, and whispered allegations of Dad’s affairs with other women.

I can look at my past and understand why I am not outwardly emotional. For good or ill, I passed this on to my children. Does this mean that I am, in some way, broken or defective? I don’t know. All I know is that I try to be more emotionally engaged with my wife and children. I’m not afraid to express my love for them, but I’m never going to be the person that hugs everyone or wears my emotions on my sleeve. That’s just not who I am. For the longest time, I let happy-as-a-seal-with-a-ball emotional speed freaks badger me into being more emotional. For such clap-happy people, being emotional over everything from regular bowel movements to your daughter getting married is the standard by which everyone should live. Thus, when someone like myself doesn’t show the proper level of emotion for a given circumstance, I am viewed as being indifferent or not caring. This, of course, is patently untrue. I do care, about things that matter anyway. However, I’m never going to be the type of person who jumps up and down praising people for every life moment. I currently have five grandchildren who play public school sports, including a seventeen-year-old granddaughter who plays high school basketball. I attend ninety-nine percent of their games. Win or lose, play a lot or ride the bench, I am there. By attending their games, I am lending my support in ways my parents never did when I played baseball and basketball. From my perspective, presence is more important than superfluous words of praise. I try to encourage them, especially when they spend most of the game sitting on the far end of the bench. I’ve been there, so I understand how they feel about not playing. I remind them that there are two ways of looking at not getting much playing time. First, you can gripe and complain about it, or you can work harder at practice, and through your efforts force your coach to play you. Second, you can remind yourself you are actually on the team. You made it, and not everyone can say that. I might tell them things I noticed during the game and how they might improve their skills. But what I’ll never do is slobber all over them in praise. That’s just not the kind of guy I am. If they have a good game, they can expect to hear me say, good game. When they lose or strike out four times, they can expect to hear me say, tough game, you’ll get them next time.

i need a hugOne former member of our family is quite excitable, much like our cocker spaniel (who circles our dining room table half a dozen times every time we come home after being away for the day). She has what I call a woo-hoo! personality. She has many commendable qualities, but she and I have clashed over the years because of my refusal or inability to be as emotionally effervescent as she. When Polly asks about the meal she just cooked, I will often say fine or it was good. Polly knows that these words are the highest form of praise from me. They mean that she can put the meal recipe in the yes, make this again folder. Polly also knows that if I don’t like something I will tell her; not in a critical manner as much as saying, I‘m okay with you never making that again. This behavior of mine drove the ex-family member nuts. Why, if the meal was good, according to her, I should heap mountains of praise on the cook. No matter how many times I explained to her that that’s just not the type of person I am, she still expected me to all jacked up on Jesus and Mountain Dew (her Evangelical church has emotion-infused services that fuel her addiction to praise). When I take family photographs, repair computers for people, or fix this or that in our house, I don’t expect to be effusively praised for my efforts. A simple thanks is good enough for me.

We Gerencsers don’t hug, and that’s okay. We don’t need public displays of affection to know that we are loved by our spouses, parents, children, and grandchildren. The most hugs I’ve ever received from my children came when I was going in for testing for a lesion on my pancreas; a lesion, by the way, that is still there. I feared that I might have pancreatic cancer, and I expressed that fear to Polly and the children. Prior to the day of my testing, I received lots of hugs and expressions of love. In the minds of my children, perhaps for the first time, they saw their father as mortal and frail. Their hugs were greatly appreciated, but going through that every ten years or so is enough for me. I know my children love me, not by their words, but by their actions. And that’s all that matters to me. My wife and I’ve been married for forty years. We are not given to outward displays of affection. No one’s ever going to say to us, get a room. Yet, we have a passionate love life. Maybe it’s our age or the era we grew up in. I don’t know. We just prefer to keep the physical aspects of our relationship behind closed doors. Our lack of public physicality might lead people who don’t know us to think that we really don’t love each other, but nothing could be further from the truth. Polly and I have a deep abiding love for one another, and as long as WE know what we have, that is all that matters.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Hugging Women (and Men) in Church

hugging in church

Last Christmas season, I had an interesting interaction with a female stranger at one of my oldest granddaughter’s high school basketball games. As you know, I have a white beard, ruddy complexion, and a portly figure. As a result, people often think I am Santa Claus. Children give me long stares, whereas adults tend to tell me that they have been real good this year, so they are expecting lots of gifts from me. As I was leaving the aforementioned basketball game, I heard someone say, “Look, Santa’s a Bengal’s fan” (I had my Cincinnati Bengals hat on). The woman came down from the stands and asked if she could take a selfie with me so she could show her husband that Santa roots for the Bengals. I said, sure. I thought that we would stand next to each other as she snapped the smartphone photograph. Instead, she put her arm around me and drew me close, acting as if we were best friends. I am certain the woman meant nothing by her warm, affectionate embrace, but it sure embarrassed me and made me feel uncomfortable. I quickly exited the gym, glad to be free of the woman’s perfumed embrace.

The sexual harassment of women has been in the news lately. I, for one, am glad that this issue is getting the attention it deserves. Part of the sexual harassment discussion has to do with understanding boundaries and treating others with respect. We should never lay our hands on people without their permission; even if we are innocently doing so. We should never behave in ways that cause others to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

This got me thinking about all the women (and men) I have hugged in church over the years. I hugged hundreds of people during my time as an Evangelical pastor. I viewed the hugs as a sign of love. Hugging is a common practice among Evangelicals. I suspect most former Evangelical readers know what I am talking about. It was assumed that everyone was okay with being hugged by non-family members. After all, the church was viewed as our real family, and families hug each other, so it was deemed appropriate for congregants, without permission, to hug one another. I wonder, in light of current discussions about sexual harassment, if it might be time to take a closer look at hugging in church.

I am not overtly emotional in public. I don’t hug my children, nor do I tell them that I love them every time I see them. My family knows I love them, not because of words or outward displays of affection, but because I am there for them no matter what; because, when they need help, I am always available; because when they ask me to do something for them, I always say “Yes.” I am, emotionally, very much like my parents. This drives some people crazy. People who are clap-happy seals needing verbal pronouncements of love tend to think I am uncaring or indifferent. For a long time, I felt guilty about not being emotionally exuberant when it was “expected” of me. Finally, I reached a place in my life where I realized that it was okay for me to be who and what I am; that the clap-happy seal crowd doesn’t have the right to demand from me certain emotional responses.

I hugged people in church because I thought it was expected of me. I never felt comfortable doing so, but I viewed hugging as part of my job description. I now wonder if there were congregants — especially women — who felt as I did. I wonder if these women felt they were being sexually harassed/assaulted in Jesus’ name. At the very least, the hugging violated the personal space of others. People should have the inviolate right to not be touched by others without first giving permission. While most church hugging is benign, I have no doubt that there are some men who are sexually stimulated when hugging female church members. I wrote about his several weeks ago in a post titled, Beware of Deacon Bob.

We have reached a place culturally where people have a right not to have their persons violated. In the case of women, in particular, many of them have had to endure inappropriate touching out of not wanting to make a fuss in public. Perhaps, it is time to make a fuss. Perhaps, men need to be taught how to properly interact with the fairer sex. The rules are quite simple: no physical contact without permission. Want to hug someone? Ask first. Years ago, when Polly and I were looking for a church to attend, we were repeatedly assaulted by well-meaning Christians who were way too familiar with us — people we had never met before. From hugs to interrogations about where we lived and worked, we often felt we were being mugged. On more than one occasion I wanted to tell the person interrogating us, I’m sorry. I don’t have sex on the first date. Of course, I was too polite to say this. I wonder if I am alone in feeling this way. I suspect I am not, that many readers have had their personal space violated time and again by well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) people. How about we all agree to respect each other enough to keep our hands to ourselves. If you want to hug people you don’t know, ask them if it is okay for you to do so. If they say “Yes,” then, by all means, hug them, keeping your hands where they belong and not hugging them in a way that turns from friendly to sexual. In other words, learn what boundaries are and practice them.

Did you attend a hugging church?  Were you hugged without permission? How did this make you feel? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Hey Girlfriend, When You Feel Tempted to Hug Your Boyfriend…

jesus hug

Hey Girlfriend, when you feel tempted to hug your boyfriend, hug your dad, brother, sister, or an old lady in the church. Nothing quenches sexual desire like hugging a male family member or ancient Sister Bertha, right?

Paula Hendricks, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe website, had this to say to young women who doubted an invisible Jesus could meet their sexual longing and desire:

 Apparently I’m not the only one who has wondered how God can satisfy when all I want is a pair of strong arms to hold me close. Here’s what Rebecca wrote me:

“The biggest thing I think my crush can give me that God can’t is his strong arms wrapped around me. Although my crush has yet to hold me in his arms, his physical closeness sends shivers throughout my body. I know that God is always there for me . . . but sometimes my feelings get the better of me, and all I want to do is be wrapped up in my crush’s arms and attention.”

Grace added:

“I think what always gets me is that God isn’t physically there like a guy is. He can’t wrap his arms around me. Sometimes I just want that.”

And finally, Isabella said:

“I have often thought, I wish God could come down here and give me a big bear hug. Then I would really be in love with Him.”

But here’s the thing . . . He has come down! And while He was here, He picked up kids and cradled them in His arms. (You have to admit, that shows a tender heart—few guys walk around doing the same thing!)

I know He’s not physically here now…But one day soon, we will see Him. We will be with Him.

When Christ comes again to “marry” the Church, His Bride, He will likely hold us too…

…Now that is something to look forward to! Jesus Christ is not an idea; He is a Person. A Divine Person with arms and legs and beautiful probing eyes. He loves you. Enough to spread His arms wide in order to bleed so you might be healed. And if you have put your trust in His death and resurrection on your behalf, you will soon see and know Him fully.

So in the meantime, as you wait for Him, by all means, hug! No, not your crush. Hug your dad. Hug your mom. Hug your brothers and sisters. Hug your friends. Hug those old ladies at church…

I wonder if Hendricks has heard about the Christian side hug, a type of hug sexually aware young people can give one another without causing lust?

Video Link

Rational Wiki describes the Christian side hug this way:

The Christian side hug is a means by which young Christians can show affection for each other without engaging in possibly tempting and impure front-to-front contact.

Instead of hugging face-to-face, the huggers stand side-by-side, and can be facing either the same way or in opposite directions. Unlike frontal hugging, side hugs minimize the risk of an eternal damnation which could result from possible incidental contact with a boob or penis of somebody to whom one is not married.

For extra affection, the side hug may be accompanied by a few non-contact blessing pats. If even the side hug is too intense, you can work up to it coyly with this elaborate sequence of gestures. There’s even a Christian side hug rap, which attracted the attention of The Young Turks. The degree of parody and satire intended in the rap version is unknown, but that doesn’t make it any better.

Recently, I wrote about the Six Inch Rule, a regulation used at the college Polly and I attended to keep young adults from touching one another. It proved to be a dismal failure. I don’t know of one couple who lived in the Midwestern Baptist College dorm when Polly and I did that didn’t violate the spirit and the letter of the six-inch rule. Something tells me, oh like common sense, that teenagers and young adults are still failing at keep the touching prohibitions of Evangelical moralizers like Paula Hendricks. Why, you ask? Simple. We are sexual beings and we desire physical, intimate contact with others. All the Jesus in the world won’t quench sexual desire. When it comes to choosing between sexual intimacy and Jesus, my money is on sexual intimacy.

What makes writers like Paula Hendricks so harmful is that they encourage teen girls and young women to act against their nature. They encourage them to repress their sexual desires. Sadly, when these girls later marry, they often bring a warped view of physical intimacy and sex into the marriage. (and men can do the same)  Marriage is tough enough without starting life with sexual dysfunction. Instead of teaching teenagers and young adults to repress their sexual desires, they should be encouraged to responsibly act on their desires, starting with a hug or a kiss. If there is more to the relationship, then they can determine where to go from there.

Contrary to Paula Hendricks’s horrible advice, hugging is not a gateway to sexual intercourse. Teenagers and young adults can sexually experiment without having intercourse. And if they decide to slide into home base, the best advice to give them is on how to be sexually responsible and use birth control. Of course, this advice must be given to them BEFORE they are rounding third and heading for home. In fact, before they even get to first base, wouldn’t it be better to prepare teenagers and young women for their sexual future?