The Importance of Showing Affection
“HUG them a lot!” said a professor of child psychiatry to a first-time mother who had just given birth to twins. She had asked him for advice on the best way to bring up her children. “Love and affection have to be shown in numerous ways,” the professor added, “such as by hugs and kisses, by expressions of warmth, understanding, happiness, generosity, and forgiveness and, when necessary, by reasoned discipline. We should never assume that our children know that we love them.”
Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, Florida, U.S.A., seems to agree with the above recommendation. “Touch is as essential to the growth and well-being of a child as diet and exercise,” she asserts.
Do adults need physical expressions of affection too? Yes. Clinical psychologist Claude Steiner concluded from his research that verbal and physical encouragement are essential for our emotional well-being, whatever our age. Laura, a nurse who cares for a large group of elderly people, says: “I have seen that expressions of affection toward the elderly really make a difference. When you treat them kindly and touch them, you win their trust and they follow your instructions willingly. Furthermore, such affectionate treatment shows respect for their dignity.”
Moreover, expressing affection benefits the giver as much as the receiver. As Jesus Christ once said, “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) It is especially rewarding when affection is expressed toward those who are worried, depressed, or insecure. Many incidents in the Bible describe how such ones received this kind of help.
Think about how much stronger the elderly prophet Daniel must have felt when an angel of God fortified him with warm encouragement and touched him three times. Those loving touches and upbuilding words were just what Daniel needed to help him recover from his physical and mental exhaustion.—Daniel 10:9-11, 15, 16, 18, 19.
On one occasion, dear friends of the apostle Paul traveled about 30 miles [50 km] from Ephesus to Miletus to meet him. There Paul told them that they might not see him again. How encouraged the apostle must have felt when his loyal friends “hugged him and kissed him good-bye”!—Acts 20:36, 37, Today’s English Version.
Thus, both the Bible and modern research encourage us to show affection to one another. Satisfying this need brings physical and emotional benefits. Clearly, sincere appropriate expressions of affection are not just for children.