Monday, March 17, 2014

hugging it out

I am not a hugger.

This is not a rigid statement about how I live my life. This is just a statement of the truth. I can't really help it.

In fact, it's genetic. My whole family consists of nonhuggers. Sure, we hug at family events and when we say goodbye after a day of pelting eachother with Nerf guns (our true love language, and I wouldn't have it any other way), but it's not a bearhug that screams "I love hugging." Instead, it's a hug that says, "I love you but I am not that fond of being this close to you."

There's NOTHING wrong with that. My family is extremely generous and awesome, with tons of love to share. But hugging is not a way in which we show that love. To us, speaking the hugging love language is the equivalent of speaking Swahili.

To be perfectly clear--just so you get a good picture in your head--watching my family hug is like watching an armadillo hug a porcupine. It just doesn't come naturally.

And then there is myself, with all of my awkwardness and hard edges. I've embraced my awkward introversion my whole life, but throw in the mix the lack of hug-love, and you have quite an odd package. Not only do I have hard edges in the metaphorical sort of way; I also have literally hard edges. You will hardly find a soft curve on me. Even my face is lined and angular.

In fact, I've been called out for being a bad hugger. (How is that even possible?) Our great--albeit insulting--friends have made fun of me for years for being such a bad hugger when I offer only a lean-in and stiff hand-pat at best. No hard feelings, Doug and Mandy, I have recently received plenty of hugging practice. And I think I might have finally mastered it.

But my recent mastery of hugging is not my point of concern today. I have a hypothesis to share: Hugging increases extroversion and joyfulness. That's my understanding, if nothing else. I'm not sure if there have been any scientific studies on this, but there should be.

Here is how I came to understand this: The other day I was starring in a movie, and I had to hug someone over and over to get the scene right. (Did you see what I just did there? I slyly implied that I am a movie star, which is blatantly misleading and false. In reality, part of my face will be shown in a 5-second clip for something at our church, which is absolutely not a big deal.)

The real star in the mini-movie is Meagan Hardwicke, and in the shooting of the short clips I had to hug her over and over again. Then I had to hug her some more. I know I make it seem like Meagan smells like a gorilla or something, but I assure you, she doesn't. She actually smells quite pleasant. And she is super sweet. (And did I mention that I had the privilege of coaching her in volleyball her senior year of high school, and now she is married to our church worship leader? Full circle, people. After being her volleyball coach, I probably owed her a few hugs, anyway.)

Anyway, we hugged over and over and over. Then we hugged some more. It was all for the sake of the camera angle.

And I noticed something: I was happier. Not just happier, more joyful. And more outgoing. And more of everything I wanted to be: fearless, giving, talkative. The list goes on an on. I even sang a solo in our jam session. (Well, no, that didn't really happen. But there was a jam session. Maybe I just enjoyed it more.) We continued filming that night, and when the camera got close to me, my sometimes-painfully shy self was ok with the possibility that "the world" could see me up close (because, you know, whenever there's a camera there's always that chance).

I'm not going tell you to go around hugging perfect strangers, but if you haven't experienced a good hug in a while, I suggest you find someone to help you out by hugging it out. And allow yourself to be hugged back. It just might change everything--including your perspective--at least for a bit.


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