What would you do?

free hugs Every time I think that I just cannot be more shocked than I have been in the past…something else happens that just TOPS it.

J was contacted by an autistic man from our last church… they were just targeted by “them” in the church because he HUGS people.  He was told in no uncertain terms that he was to shake hands, and that’s it, unless the person was over 70 (how’s he supposed to know that? card them before he hugs??) and that people ONLY hug when they LOVE the other person.  He told J, “I’ve seen plenty of people hug people they weren’t in love with so I think he’s wrong. They were making more out of it than there was.”

The moral of this is, ya’ll need to remember the church can thrust it’s objective on anyone, and KNOW that they can modify the behavior of even the mentally challenged.

Here’s the letter to the editor of this man’s wife (yes, it’s not a matter of a young single autistic man hugging women, it’s an OLDER MARRIED HIGHLY FUNCTIONING AUTISTIC MAN. she was in a terrible car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, so keep that in mind while reading it.)  sent to local newspaper. since it was published I know she won’t mind me sharing it: 

Brotherly Love:  What Today’s Church Is In Desperate Need Of!

My sweet, dear autistic husband and I have been to several churches in ________ County.  We were looking for a church that would accept him for who he is.  He is a wonderful autistic man who loves people.  He shares the love of Christ with people by giving them an innocent little hug.  A hug to him is not a normal wrap your arms around someone hug.  He hugs people by pressing his ear to their cheek.  I asked him why he does that and he told me he liked the softness of their cheek against his ear.

Many of the churches we have been to accepted my husband’s odd need to hug the people he likes at first when we were just visiting. When we join the church and the newness wore off, we become the recipients of church discipline.  It’s the same thing each time.  We are told that it is not proper for a grown man to walk up to young women and hug them.  He doesn’t only hug young women.  He hugs old and young women alike.  Instead of asking the “normal” church members to use their God given ability to understand my husband my husband is expected to understand social rules of our world even though God did not choose to bless autistic people with the same ability to understand these social rules of the “real world.”

Many police officers arrest autistic adults because of misunderstandings that resulted from the autistic person’s lack of comprehending the social rules of the world we live in.  Most autistic people get in trouble with the law at least once in their adult life for this reason.

When talking with one of my pastors about my husband’s lack of understanding why he cannot hug the people that he likes, he told me that my husband was offending some of the church members by hugging them.  To offend is to commit any sin in thought, word, or deed.  Is it a sin to share the love of our Heavenly Daddy by giving hugs?

The church doesn’t notice that my husband hugs the elderly females as well as the pretty young females in the church.  His motives are purely innocent.  He is not your average 40-year-old man.  He is autistic.  Socially and emotionally he is just like a child.

If he does not choose to hug you, it is because of one the following reasons.  You are a man.  Most men scare him.  Or, you are not happy-go-lucky.  He doesn’t feel comfortable hugging a grouch, who would?

The bible says in Romans 12:10, “Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love in honor preferring one another.”  The most innocent way to show kindly affection is to give someone a hug.  In my husband’s eyes he sees himself innocently giving people he likes hugs.  In the church’s eyes they see a grown man hugging on all the pretty girls.

He was asked to shake hands instead of hugging the people he likes.  How would you feel if your child ran up to you and stuck out their hand for a handshake instead of hugging you?  That is not being kindly affectionate.  In fact, that is a very impersonal way of greeting someone.

I Thessalonians 4:9 says, “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.”  Paul wrote this to the church of Thessalonica, which applies to all churches.  We are to love one another with brotherly love.  Hebrews 13:1 says, “Let brotherly love continue.”  I Corinthians 13:5 says, “Doth not behave unseemingly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;” The bible is talking about the greatest gift of the spirit which is left to remain; charity or love, something I believe the church is in desperate need of.  The church is supposed to be a place of refuge not a place of condemnation.

Christians who have brotherly love one for another are not to be easily provoked.    To provoke is to excite to some action or feeling, to anger or irritate, to stir up.  The church doesn’t need to be irritated by someone who is autistic.

I will never understand why churches are not understanding of special or autistic people. Jesus died for them too.   Wake up church!  Lets learn to be more like Jesus, love everyone even if they live in their own little autistic world and are different than you and I.”

———————

Would you receive a hug from this Autistic man?

 

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0 thoughts on “What would you do?

  • July 8, 2009 at 5:12 am
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    I  know people, male and female, who hug everyone.  It’s just who they are.  People need to be more understanding.

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  • July 8, 2009 at 12:21 am
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    i’d just like to add, that in special education the goal is to teach the students to function in socially appropriate manners, and that’s not something that you see most grown men doing. it should not be frowned upon, and he definitely should not be shamed by others, but in a respectful manner should be taught something that is more socially appropriate. and most churches certainly are not places known for tolerance (yes, they should be, and yes, jesus would hug your husband and probably not let go of him).

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  • July 8, 2009 at 12:17 am
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    as a public school teacher of special education, i love kids with autism (minus the challenging behaviors aspect), and having worked in life skills classrooms, we teach the kids it’s not OK to hug everyone, and we teach a replacement behavior of a hand shake. right now i am finishing up a phd in special education, and hands down, it’s just not appropriate for a grown man to have to hug everyone – that is definitely something his teachers should have worked with him on, and shame on the teachers for letting it go on for so long. I am sure your husband is sweet and awesome, but unfortunately, he can get into trouble doing that.

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  • July 7, 2009 at 10:33 pm
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    everybody just needs to ask the age old question…What Would Jesus Do? He wouldnt turn away this man..he would hug him back…and i would most definitely too :]

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  • July 7, 2009 at 2:58 pm
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    I hate being touched, so…. I’d feel uncomfortable with the whole situation. 

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  • July 7, 2009 at 12:26 am
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    I could understand why some people in the church would be uncomfortable at first, but I feel they should get over that quickly. The man is autistic and is just being nice. 

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  • July 6, 2009 at 10:41 pm
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    I wouldn’t mind getting a hug, but there are people out there who don’t like to be touched by people they don’t know. It might be okay if he asked first, you know? So that those people who wouldn’t want one don’t have to be made uncomfortable. Because his right to hug people goes along with other people’s rights not to be hugged if they don’t want to be. So maybe suggest that he ask first, although it sound silly. It would probably prevent problems.

    xX Ame ~*~ Hana Xx

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  • July 6, 2009 at 6:59 pm
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    Of course I wouldn’t mind, I think it’s sweet, really. The church(es) are being unreasonable. I hear stories like this, variations of them, and it makes me sad, and greatful at the same time for the lovely church that I belong to. Goodluck with your search for a more accepting church.

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  • July 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm
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    of course i agree and think the church is being ridicilous, but i don’t really understand if he hugs people at first sight. because when a 40+ man i didn’t know would walk up to me in church (or anywhere, for that matter) and hug me i would definately feel weird.

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  • July 6, 2009 at 5:09 am
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    Yes I would And I don’t get why people would have a problem with that. Thank you for sharing this story!

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  • July 6, 2009 at 2:46 am
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    Great post. It would not bother me to be hugged by an autistic man.

    I must point out thought, that either I’m not reading straight, or the first two paragraphs of your entry are extremely difficult to understand. 

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  • July 5, 2009 at 11:16 pm
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    I would definately receive a hug from someone who is autistic. My brother in law has a mild form of autism. His is managable with diet though. And of all people, “christians” should be the first to want to hug autistic people, or anyone for that matter.

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  • July 5, 2009 at 10:50 pm
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    I would let this man hug me. It would be cruel to turn him away. But that doesn’t mean what he is doing is acceptable. I would only be tolerating it. I don’t understand why you keep repeating that he is not only hugging young women, as if that makes his behavior okay. Everyone has boundaries that need to be respected. It doesn’t matter if they’re a 15 year old girl or a 50 year old man.

    It’s not your husband’s fault that he is autistic, and it certainly doesn’t make him any less of a person. But the fact remains that some people are made uncomfortable by close hugging like his.  We wouldn’t blame a child for hugging or touching random people, because his motivations are innocent and he is just ignorant of social boundaries, but we still instruct him and keep him from doing it when others become uncomfortable. If your husband is really like a child then he should be disciplined like one. Not punished, but taught.

    If he really does have such severe autism that he can’t be taught not to hug others, then that’s a different story. Still, I would be made uncomfortable by the fact that I had to accept his hugs no matter what. I’d do it, because you have to accept the mentally ill, but I would not be gushing with the love of the Heavenly Daddy about it.

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  • July 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm
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    I would hug him!
    My sister’s autistic and we had a hard time with one church we went to a while ago. It didn’t have anything to do with hugging, though… she was younger then, and didn’t behave to their expectations in Sunday school or something.  
    The church we’re at now loves her and accepts her for being a child of God =]

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  • July 5, 2009 at 7:07 pm
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    Absolutely, we need more hugging in this world.

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  • July 5, 2009 at 6:04 pm
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    @Lestat9Moriquendu@xanga –  I think you must have been at an American university on one of the islands, as I don’t know any West Indians that would hug and kiss freely but perhaps inside a university they do. My son goes to the local tertiary college and its all high-fives, wa’ boo? and w’appenin?  

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  • July 5, 2009 at 5:53 pm
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    I am not religious in any way, but that is just terrible. Churches should be more understanding. If this man wanted to hug me, I would hug him back.

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  • July 5, 2009 at 4:56 pm
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    @SavonDuJour@xanga – Where in the Caribbean did you live? I experienced the exact opposite when living there; almost everyone kissed me in greeting and hugs were quite prevalent. Or maybe it’s different outside of a university? 

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  • July 5, 2009 at 4:27 pm
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    @Czolya@xanga –   I’m Welsh originally but have lived in the Caribbean a long time. The Caribbean is even more formal than the UK. We never kiss or hug when greeting people who are not family, we don’t even use first names to someone of an older generation to us (even in the family) unless invited to do so.  It took me a long time to get used to the fact that Americans use first names from first introduction and hug everyone.  The friendship isn’t less deep or less warm from a West Indian or a Brit, just expressed differently. 

    Perhaps it makes a difference that I am neither an American nor a Christian.

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  • July 5, 2009 at 3:43 pm
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    @SavonDuJour@xanga – I agree.  We Americans are very particular about our personal space.  We don’t kiss on the cheek when we meet but shake hands.  I’m fine with either (because I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe) but any physical interaction, even as innocent as a hug, must be acceptable to both the giver and the receiver.  If those who do not want to hug find the husband’s intrusion too much then he should not hug them.  I think that is something which should be respected so long as those who do not want to be hugged are not trying to get him to stop hugging those who may have no problem with such.  

    Maybe the writer should think it best to let her husband know that he can convey just as much love and compassion for those he cares about by shaking hands rather than hugs.

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  • July 5, 2009 at 1:21 pm
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    Hugging makes him feel comfortable and warm inside, that is good. But some people feel uncomfortable and fearful when touched by others, it just feels like an invasion of body space but worse.  I don’t really know how the two viewpoints can be reconciled without someone feeling hurt. 

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  • July 5, 2009 at 11:40 am
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    Sure I would.  I don’t think he should hug people who don’t want to be hugged, but people in general need to recognize that it’s completely innocent.  Here in Quebec, people greet each other with a ‘bise’ (kiss on two cheeks, ok more like touching cheeks and making kissing noises in the air) which sounds a lot like the man’s hugging style – and no one thinks twice about it.  This church really needs a remedial education in ‘brotherly love.’

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  • July 5, 2009 at 11:36 am
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    Wow. That is confusing and crazy. I’d keep fighting for that man’s right to hug others. If whoever he hugs is uncomfortable, then fine, let them tell him and he can try to stop embracing them. Who knew a flippin’ hug would cause so much controversy?

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  • July 5, 2009 at 11:24 am
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    I wouldn’t mind at all.  You should come to my church, no one would mind.  Whether you were members, or one-time visitors.  Any church that is more interested in rules & regulations than the Spirit of Christ is not one you want to stick around – and that has nothing to do with whether someone is autistic or not.

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  • July 5, 2009 at 10:18 am
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    I think it is fine. He should be allowed to hug and the church should understand

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