The powerful duality of hugging in the classroom, relationships, and faith

You can listen to the Podcast version of this post on here.

He smiled and walked towards me, his arms outstretched, going in for a hug.

I immediately raised up my hand to stop him, telling him firmly, “No, sorry. I don’t give out hugs.”

This was about six years ago, on the last week of my student teaching at a local high school. It just so happens that this was the last time I saw this student. I felt a tug of regret for refusing a hug. He was a good student, but I had my rules. And school policies have their rules also.

Hugging is a very tricky situation in the school setting. I do see teachers giving students hugs, but, even to this day, I personally still maintain my no hugging policy. The most I would do is tapping a student on the shoulder. That’s it. That’s the limit of any physical touching for me.

Now, I am actually not much of a hugger in my personal life either, unless I am very close, and very comfortable with you. But, even with those I am close with, I do not hug too often. Even when I was first dating, I still felt touching or hugging was just overall, very awkward. I also maintained physical distance with good friends from elementary school to college years. The most I would do, would be the awkward side hugs. Yes, very awkward.

I seem to have always felt this way.

In third grade, I became a Christian, but never really started going to church until my mom took me and my sisters regularly in high school. I was always on high alert with the guys–I avoided them mostly. I put on an extra shield around me when any boys went near me. There was also a very clear divide between the girls and guys in church at certain times.

However, there was this one moment in college, where I truly felt deep comfort and love from a hug. I was in a women’s bible study at a Christian fellowship in college. I remember sharing a sad story that I do not remember at the moment. I started crying and one of the bible study leaders came over to me and just hugged me. It was a long, tight hug. And it felt so nice. A wave of warmth, joy and safety of God’s presence washed over me. I never felt this way before. Growing up, I don’t even remember my parents ever giving me a hug.

Recently, I came across an article on Psychology Today, “4 New Scientific Findings About Hugging,” where I learned that “Getting hugged by others, but also hugging yourself, reduces stress hormones.” Hugging in the right moment is like magicking all the stress away.

Now that I am married, I actually enjoy hugging my husband all the time. I want to hug all my stress away. I think I should also start hugging myself.

There is this one class period that I teach where a handful of students are constantly hugging each other all the time. And we are in the pandemic! We only just recently relaxed our mask rules, in which it is now optional to wear masks outdoors on campus. I have never seen so many students hug each other in the classroom as much as this year.

I am sure after 1.5 years of learning online, isolated in their homes, may have caused this yearning for physical connection.

Hugging is a very special form of physical affection. It took me many years to enjoy hugging. I constantly wavered in the dualities of hugging, and showing and accepting physical affection, that may have cost me some friendships. Nevertheless, I will still tread carefully on this path in the classroom, my relationships, and my faith.

5 thoughts on “The powerful duality of hugging in the classroom, relationships, and faith

Add yours

  1. Hi, Thank you for reading my post. The key to your hugging problem lies at the feet of your parents..I really believe that. How very sad. I was so lucky with mine, as my mother was the most loving, warm person imaginable but, while loving, my father was slightly more restrained. To this day, my middle brother (one of three) was the shyer in this respect. I blame that on WW2 as he was separated from us during evacuation for a while and emerged a tad confused briefly. We are all so different, aren’t we! I firmly believe our upbringing must have an effect on us, sometimes for good, other times for bad…Great to learn that you hug your husband. Me too… (whoops I mean my husband, of course!) Best wishes.

  2. I understand your principles around hugging… especially between teachers, and students… youths are impressionable, and can take a simple hug from a favorite teacher to be other than a mere hug… and this can lead to unasked for problems…!

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