Friendship and Physical Affection are Dying

My son, seven years old, had not seen his friend in weeks. After church services ended, his friend was beside our pew faster than I thought possible and they both embraced in one of the most sincere hugs I have ever seen.

They yelled each other’s names. They jumped up and down. Then they ran off to play.

Physical affection comes natural to most humans, especially young boys. It is an outward expression of their genuine emotion. Of their excitement.

It’s a shame we grow out of it.

How would you feel if a man you loved and respected ran up to you, giving you a huge hug, his excitement to see you brimming over, uncontained? You would feel like a million bucks.

And if that is the case, it is in your power to make someone else feel like a million bucks.

But we don’t. To paraphrase Chesterton, we have sinned and grown old. We no longer have the courage to show honest enthusiasm for anything, let alone another person. And we train our kids out of it.

What’s worse, nowadays suspicion is cast on such displays of affection between males. “Looks a little gay to me,” would be the whisper in many people’s minds. This is one of the most tragic casualties of the sexual revolution: the recontextualizing of any signs of affection between male friends.

It has literally crippled us.

Anthony Esolen, in his prescient article A Requiem for Friendship, makes the powerful case that the sexual language of our culture has made male friendship nearly impossible. I cannot overstate the importance of the concepts Esolen describes. You need to read it.

Examples abound of men who showed great affection for one another and knew how to express that affection. From David and Jonathan to Shakespeare to Abraham Lincoln. None of them were gay.

The article concludes with

Know then that your tolerance for the flambeau, which is little more than a self-congratulating cowardice, or your easy and poorly considered approval of the shy workmate’s request that he be allowed to “marry” his partner, means that the unseen boy will not find that friend, and that the idea and the love will die.

The next time someone tells you “They just want to live their lives as they wish” or that it does no harm “to let them live their private lives as they wish” or that “same-sex marriage doesn’t affect you,” keep this article in mind.

At a minimum, it should destroy any notion you have that the sexual politics of a culture is a “private” affair. It is anything but. And they know this. Deep down, you know it too. You just don’t want to admit it.

Why do you think there are loud, bombastic “pride” parades? Because they want to live a quiet, private life?

There is no easy way out of this. We have made our mess and now we must wallow in it. But we can glory in the honest excitement of children. We can learn from them.

God forbid we squelch that excitement because of our own cowardice.

At a minimum, continue to hug your children and provide other physical signs of affection, especially in the teenage years when they might want to start pulling away. Ruffle their hair. Put your arm around them. Show excitement when you see them.

Do not let them lose that physical vocabulary. Keep it unsullied from the world as long as you can.

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