Don’t Touch

Is a touch always welcome? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“And how would you like to respond when someone pats you on the back and you don’t want that?” my therapist asks me.

“Ideally, with a judo throw across the room.”

It would certainly get the point across!

Touch is a very important matter. If you can have a hard time with someone you don’t know saying words to you, touch can go a step further. Naturally, we all know there are ways that you shouldn’t touch certain people that are definitely inappropriate. That tells us that touch is nothing simple. It’s important and can convey a message.

When people ask my love languages, I tell them I have found them to be words of affirmation and physical touch. I tell a story on the latter about how when I was engaged to my ex-wife, we went to an event at SES that was to get donors. I told her we should go because if I’m in ministry, I could need to know these donors as well.

So we’re at a table before anything has been brought out laughing and sharing with the people and then the servers come by. They come to my table and say to me “And what will you have sir?”

At that point, it was just me and him in the world. I was a deer caught in the headlights. I was in absolute terror. I don’t want anything. This is a social situation. This is giving me anxiety. What do I do? What do I say?

Then I feel a warm hand under the table on my leg.

“He’s not having anything, but he’s fine. He’s just finicky.”

That touch meant so much. Throughout my marriage, I came to love that touch. It is still something I miss.

Even still, there are some exceptions. Sometimes when I go back to see my folks, my mother wants to clean my glasses and will attempt to take them off of my face on her own. I always resist this. This is something I wouldn’t even let my ex-wife do.

As I think about it, it can be that while I love words of affirmation so much, words of condemning are extremely hurtful. In the same way, if touch I want is cherished, touch I don’t want is rejected. It is crossing a boundary.

I know people mean well by it, but I wince whenever I’m walking through a crowd and someone wants to be friendly and pats me on the back. Not only do I not like that, but keep in mind I have a steel rod on my spine. That’s sensitive.

Sometimes, I have told people to just not touch me. I am now thinking to tell them to wait. I need to get to a place of trust with someone before I trust them. At the same time, there are times I think I do need some friendly touch. I just want to make sure it is from people I can fully consider friends.

Be careful with people in the spectrum in your life. Just because you think a touch can be loving doesn’t mean they will receive it as loving. It can never hurt to ask something like “Can I give you a hug?”

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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