I have a friend who hugs people spontaneously. For her, it's second nature. Not long ago, I watched her giving a hug to a teenager, and I thought he'd be resistant or embarrassed.
Instead, I watched his face light up. It occurred to me that a small act like a hug, if genuine, carries a far-reaching power.
Not everyone is so comfortable about physical symbols of caring. But to hug really means "to embrace or enfold, as in affection." And so, we can all give what you might call a "spiritual hug" to someone - by just thinking of him or her with love, gratitude, mercy, or forgiveness. And this isn't necessarily limited to people we know or are with physically. It could go around the globe from Detroit to Borneo.
The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, often referred to the power of unselfish love to bless and heal people. She wrote, "Of this we may be sure: that thoughts winged with peace and love breathe a silent benediction over all the earth, cooperate with the divine power, and brood unconsciously o'er the work of His hand" ("Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 152).
What can a spiritual hug do? First and foremost, it can make a person feel cared for. But it can also offer another type of comfort - a sense that we are loved by God no matter what. It's interesting that the root of the word hug means "comfort." I remember a friend who gave me a feeling of unconditional acceptance. In her presence I felt I was appreciated for my real value, without thought for any mistake I may have made or any stupid thing I might have said. And this enabled me to drop any feeling of burden or guilt.
Perhaps you feel incapable of giving this kind of love - or just don't know where to start. But this is actually a natural activity for you, because you are the child of God, and God is Love. God made you to express His love.
The Bible has a description of a hug in the book of Luke. It's in a story Jesus told about our relationship to God - the parable of the prodigal son, in which a young man ruins his life by making bad choices. With nowhere else to turn, completely out of money and working in the lowliest of jobs, he determines with a spark of humility to return to his father's house as a servant, not daring to think he could be accepted back as a son.
As he nears home, "The New English Bible" describes the father's actions this way: "He ran to meet him, flung his arms round him, and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). What better way to describe God's love for each one of us than as a big hug. The importance of this verse is not in the description of a physical act, but in the symbol of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and comfort that this act imparted.
We can each find ways in which to follow this example. When hearing about people who are hungry, or burdened by war, misunderstanding, hatred, or violence, we can respond - mentally - with Godlike affection. We can actually embrace those individuals. This isn't a case of looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. It's much more. It is a concrete expression of a desire to heal and bless the world. It is upholding the fact that our nature is inherently good. It is impelled by God and has behind it the healing power of God.
There is evidence that this act of mentally reaching out with love in response to a tragedy, a war, a drought, has far-reaching and beneficial effects. We can trust that there is a response to these efforts because they are really prayers for the world. We may never be able to calculate the good they do. Like ripples in a pond, sincere thoughts of love will keep going out, bringing blessings in a widening circle.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. Isaiah 40:1, 2
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