In the movie Tommy Boy Chris Farley’s character says to Rob Lowe’s character as they are introduced as brothers, “brothers don’t shake hands. Brothers gotta hug.” This is of course followed by a very awkward moment as Farley’s youthful innocence meets Lowe’s disdain.
In the Church, as well as society as a whole, we have a touch problem. It’s real, and we need to actually start addressing it.
A few month’s ago I wrote about The Snuggery. This is literally a place where you can go and pay money to have someone snuggle with you. No lie. Look it up.
As crazy as that sounds, it makes perfect sense. We live in a world more and more devoid of proper touch. There is a lot of abusive and sexual touch. There is very little good touch, if we can even figure out what that means.
But the value of touch in our lives can not be understated. It is vital and we can’t hide in a corner as the Church and just tell people no. We need a different answer.
As a guy touch is even more complicated because touch is also a strength thing. Here’s what I mean. A lot of times as a young boy or teenager, touch means getting pushed around. Are you tough enough means can you take a hit. Are you strong enough means can you dish one out. We get all sorts of answers to these questions growing up and those answers stay with us, even if they aren’t true anymore.
I was never a wrestle around kid. I didn’t really know how to get hit or hit back. Looking back, I wasn’t really weak over all, but I thought I was. That affected how I viewed touch as I got older. How you interact with other men physically matters and affects your confidence.
Then there is the touch of the opposite sex. This is also all jacked up. And in the Christian circle we are basically told don’t touch each other. That sounds good, and I get it, but at some level, with no physical interaction at all, we just end up pushing people into a weirder and more awkward place. If we accidentally equate all touch with shame or sin, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
When you throw in how isolated we are in daily life as singles this can be a disaster that just continues to build. It hurts. Touch matters. The reality is people are doing something with their need for touch. Touching the wrong way, burying the desire in escapism or fantasy, or just falling into isolation and awkwardness.
Many of us basically work alone. Then literally half of us go home alone, eat alone, go to bed alone, and then get up alone and do it all again. That does not lead to healthy touch. That leads to isolation. Is our advice to single people going to be don’t touch?
We need a different answer than that. The Church, and we as single people, need to engage this issue. We need to talk about a right thinking about touch and then we need to live it out.
Touch is all over the Bible. Jesus is constantly touching people. This is actually one of the amazing things about Him. He became flesh. He lived in a place and at a particular time, just like you and me. He sweat and smelled, and got tired and sore and He touched people – literally. The leper, the blind, heck, even the dead. And he was touched. Women of ill refute, came and touched him – with their hair and kisses. Scandalous.
I’ll admit to not having all the perfect answers to this but I believe it starts with something Zack Eswine writes in his book Sensing Jesus. He writes, “in the New Testament, two kinds of physical touch are set in brutal contrast”. He points out that the misuse of touch used “to consume or preserve it’s own selfish wants, lusts, desires or agendas” and in contrast a different kind that “envisions a way for Christian community to recover in Jesus how humans were originally meant to touch each other. Physical touch is meant as a holy act.” He goes on, “Jesus touched people. He touched bodies. But his was not the sexualized touch of a pornographic mind, a controlling cling, or a predator heart. The way of Jesus’s touch graciously intends to reform our own.”
Here’s my take. As the Church (and especially if we are going to reach out to the half of the country that is unmarried) instead of running from touch, we need to reclaim it. In other words we need to own the discussion and do it well. We need to freaking lead instead of reacting in fear.
This will mean confronting wrong touch and helping both the wrongly touched and the toucher deal. As men it means dealing with our insecurities and learning our strength and then offering it – physically. With the opposite sex on a date it means reaching for her hand without thinking about reaching into her pants and realizing that they are not the same thing.
What we can’t do is say, don’t touch, don’t experience that or grow in it, and then if you get married don’t worry, it will just turn on. That’s ridiculous and irresponsible.
What do you do with your need for touch? What would holy touch look like? What have you learned about touch in your life?