I started on my journey of offering free hugs to people almost two years ago. It started as a way to build trust with other humans, to have them understand that I was trustworthy. It has since opened up into so much more than that. And, with every encounter that I have, I learn something new. Not about other people so much, but definitely about myself, my expectations, and what I am really looking for.
Two weeks ago, my wife and I were out on the town; it was a beautiful night, and it felt like spring was right around the corner. We felt celebratory and open, and went out to dinner, and then out for drinks. I was feeling warm, toasty and a bit tipsy, but happy and open to the world around me. In the bar that we were hanging out in, there were a few people around, most of which I did not know. I decided, after three glasses of wine, that I wanted to offer hugs to some of the patrons of the bar. I wasn’t sure what the response would be, but without wanting to make assumptions about whether people would accept or not, I decided to start asking.
I hugged a couple of people, and a couple of people graciously declined. Then, I saw a man at the end of the bar, who appeared open, with a big smile on his face. To me, that meant that he would definitely be available to what I was offering. I went over to him, and the people sitting with him; the two persons sitting with him took me up on my offer for a hug. However, he told me that pushing hugs on people was an aggressive action, and he wanted no part of it. I felt pretty soft and open, but as soon as he said the word aggressive in reference to what I was doing, I felt my defenses go up. He saw that in my face and responded to that. I walked away feeling angry, hurt, rejected, and a bit confused. I was also drunk, mind you.
I attempted to approach him again, just to talk it through, and he waved me away. Now, I know enough about myself and other people, to know that how other people impact me has nothing to do with them, it only has to do with me. I don’t need to take others personally. However, I do feel compelled to heed what someone says and to learn from that. There was something about what I did or said that felt aggressive to that person. It didn’t matter if I felt aggressive or not; yet, there was learning in there for me about how I approach people and what I am looking for from them.
If I am being completely transparent, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking for something from people that evening. I wanted people to take me up on a hug; I wanted people to show their admiration and appreciation by accepting my genuine offer. So, I understand where he was coming from. When I approach people in that way, which is not always the way in which I offer hugs, I am invading their personal space; it doesn’t make it wrong to do so, but I need to get honest with myself that not everyone wants that contact with me. I have to be clear about what my intention is. If my intention is to change other people and who they are by offering hugs, I am setting myself and that person up for sure.
Yet, I don’t think that is my true intention with my hugging. My intention, when I am of clear thought, is that of being a light in the world. To connect with other people that feel ready to take that risk and open themselves as well. I have to be understanding of where someone else may be coming from, not just what it is that I think that I have to offer that is of value. That man helped me to gain a great lesson that evening, even though neither of us knew it at the time. I don’t need to change the world; I can just be aware of how I want to stand in it and see what unfolds.