When you have a child, one of the popular phrases is “skin to skin contact.” Basically, as much as possible you’re supposed to hold your new baby so that he’s actually touching your skin. This goes along with the holding, cuddling, cheek-pinching and snuggling that happens pretty much by instinct. (Think not? Watch a group of kids around a baby, even if they haven’t been exposed to babies before– even pre-verbal kids will want to pat the baby or “snuggle” their head on the baby’s belly, usually with excessive force, but that’s neither here nor there.) Fathers are encouraged to take off their shirts, lay down and have the baby lay on their chest in a diaper to help with bonding.
At the other end of the spectrum, the least touchy-feely folks I can think of are businessmen. Those I know tend towards either agriculture or military, but they are similar to those technology businessmen I know in that they are not prone to casual contact with those they deal with. A handshake means a personal assurance. They may not all offer it, but when they do, they don’t offer it lightly.
Touch is incredibly important, usually more for young than old, usually more for female than male, usually more for ill than those at the peak of health, but “more” doesn’t mean “only” or it shouldn’t.
People have a basic need for physical contact of one sort or another.
I think that’s part of our current problem.
I don’t know why, I don’t know when it started, but at some point the culture started to reduce physical contact to sexual contact in all but the most basic of cases. I’ve even heard of parents that feel “strange” changing the diaper of their opposite sex child. I know girls who have decided they’re “really” lesbians because they like hugging girls. Or bisexual, because they like hugs from anybody.
Being a woman, most of my examples are from females– one of the saddest refrains I’ve picked up on is “it’s better than being alone.” Girls drink themselves silly so they can stand to go “home” with whatever guy is willing, because it’s better than being alone. Sticking with guys who use them, because it’s better than being alone. They’re looking for love, but only get sex. Still, it’s powerful enough that they keep searching.
I have far fewer confidants who are male, but their stories are somewhat similar– they put up with obvious abuse from women they don’t even especially like, because they get contact out of it. Sometimes it’s sex, but sometimes it’s just someone to be with.
I’ve got theories, of course. Some of them I got from others, some I came up with myself. Is it because families are so much smaller? Because we’re more scattered, few children living near their parents or siblings as adults? More broken families? Larger communities, so there are more victimized children, meaning a higher alertness to the risk, making casual human contact less acceptable?
I don’t know.
I just know that the human touch was important enough that Jesus became one of us, and that at a time when we really need to be turning to God, the human touch is being reduced to only one aspect– a very important one, but that reduction also damages sexual contact by removing it from its rightful place.
I don’t have a solution, but maybe this is part of it: be aware, please, of the human need for contact.
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