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Embracing others


The holidays are a time when we are around friends and family, many of whom we may not have seen for a year or even more. When we first see them, we are quick to give them a hug or embrace them in some physical way or another. It is a wonderful sign of acceptance and an expression of joy for their presence.

I wanted to write about the benefits of embracing those around you and in my research I came across one of the best explanations I have ever read in my life regarding this subject. So, rather than trying to wordsmith and summarize this great work, I decided to let it be the principle content of this article, so as to not dilute its meaning.

The author of this work is Miroslav Volf, a professor at Yale University Divinity School. This is an excerpt from a paper titled, A Spacious Heart: Essays on Identity and Belonging. This complete work was co-authored by Judith M. Gundry Volf.

An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing. I open my arms to create space in myself for the other. The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other. They are an invitation for the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me. In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness. I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become a part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not.

I found this to be quite profound and extremely pertinent to, not only this season, but every season of our lives. Reflect on this small excerpt as you meet and greet your friends and family over the next few weeks. Reflect on this when you are hugging your kids or your partner; remember that you are accepting them for who they are and acknowledging that they give to you what you do not have. It is a place of genuine humility.

Let this new understanding influence your actions and reactions towards those you love and hold close to your heart. If you hug or embrace them, then you can gain a deeper understanding of your responsibilities regarding your behavior towards them as well. They have something you do not, you are acknowledging that you don’t have it all and that together you are collectively better than apart. Enjoy this holiday season and all the seasons that are yet to come. Don’t fall into the trap of only adjusting your behavior for a few weeks; let the change be that of perspective for the better on a more permanent level. Behavior follows perspective, always. Life is all about becoming better each day. Enjoy life and love those close even more.