Practice “safe hugging” in church

  • Man hugCertain churches are hug-rich environments. It’s one thing for very close friends to embrace, but in some congregations it’s customary for relative strangers to enfold. I once attended a church with an older gentleman who was a serial hugger. If he made eye contact, you were finished. He’d make a beeline for you, wrapping you in a bear hug before you could escape.

    One man wrote columnist Judith Martin (Miss Manners) to say he’d stopped attending a church “where everybody seems to have developed a hugging addiction. Before the greeting period, the minister or lay leader stands on the platform and virtually orders everybody to get some hugs. People I hardly know run up to me and say, ‘How about a hug?’”

    So is it ever appropriate for men to hug in church? Of course. When greeting a close friend, a hug is appropriate. If a friend is upset and seems to want a hug, go ahead and offer one. If a man in your small group is going through a divorce, and he’s dissolved in tears, then a hug is the best gift you can give him.

    But what about hugs during the worship service? That’s a little trickier. Here’s my advice:

    1. Don’t suggest that people hug. If people want to lock up, that’s their business.
    2. Don’t hug people you’re not close to. Male or female. It’s creepy.
    3. Practice “safe hugging.” There are two acceptable forms of man hug: the one-arm reach, and the handshake-and-hug combo. These hugs are safe for men because there’s no possibility of genitals touching.

    Man hugs should be brief and accompanied by a pat on the back, preferably one that stings a little bit. Man hugs should feel brotherly, not romantic. I have a video on safe hugging on my website, (It’s part of my DVD preview video. Enjoy!)

    This blog post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, WHY MEN HATE GOING TO CHURCH: COMPLETELY REVISED. Look for it in September at a bookstore near you.

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    April 29th, 2011 | David Murrow | 9 Comments |

About The Author

David Murrow

David Murrow is the director of Church for Men, an organization that helps congregations reach more men and boys. In his day job, David works as a television producer and writer. He's the author of four books. He lives in Alaska with his wife, three children, three grandchildren and a dachshund named Pepper.

  • Yesterday2_2

    Awh come on, Really? I am totally with out words on this one, maybe after my BP goes back to normal, or maybe it just isn’t worth the time or energy to bother with such a ridiculous topic, you are using a shotgun on a subject that calls for a BB gun. I think addressing this in such a manor you will cause more hurt than good.

  • Jfieri

    Aw come on, really? A shotgun? I think someone needs a hug…

  • David Murrow


  • awkward hugger

    I agree with David here. Hugging can be awkward for some men (me included). That goes for both man/man hugs and man/woman hugs. I don’t want another man to hug me the way that I hug my wife – period. End of discussion. I don’t care how upset I might be at the time and/or if he is my best friend in the world. The hand-shake combo, or the one-armed method are preferable. MAYBE a quick two-arm hug with bending at the waist so that nothing touches but our upper chests/shoulders. If I’m so upset about something that I’m balling my eyes out, I still don’t want any man to touch me more than that. Now with hugging women: Even with bending at the waist, it’s awkward because they have these things called boobs (David, feel free to edit that to “breasts” if you wish). With anything other than the one-arm side hug, it’s very difficult to hug a women without making contact with her boobs, even if you both bend at the waist. And that can be awkward for a man. Probably much more so than for the woman it seems. I once had a young women friend hug me, and it felt like there was a baseball poking me in my chest. Now, we were just friends, and it didn’t seem to bother her. Some women seem to give chest/chest hugs to their male friends on a regular basis. For some reason they don’t seem to mind. I guess they are used to them being there and maybe they kind of forget about them. As a married man, I find friendship with other women to be difficult/awkward anyway.



  • xDDDD


  • Joel

    I totally agree with everything you said here, but would just like to add that it needs to be three pats on the back instead of one.  That’s the sign for “I’m….not….gay.”  

  • Robert Bruce

    I’m trying to figure out if this is satire or not. If it is, really well done.

  • Anne Johnson

    Except me. If a strangers comes up and hugs me I will hate them forever.