How can “physical touch” be an effective way to minister to someone in the hospital?

The effective use of physical touch is not dependent upon whether you are a ‘touchy, feely’ kind of person.  Appropriate physical touch can many times communicate a love and care that words cannot.  Those who are sick can easily develop ‘leprosy syndrome’.  In the first century, leprosy was the disease that caused one to be banished from the city limits and totally ostracized.  Imagine what that must have felt like, to be treated so badly and unloved, all because of a physical stigma.  The sick, especially those in a hospital context, can develop this syndrome very easily.  Therefore, one of the most effective ways to communicate love to those who are suffering is appropriate physical touch, such as touching a hand, arm, or foot when praying, giving a light hug, or physically helping them move to a chair.  These efforts break down walls of insecurity and can open greater opportunities of trust and ministry.

There is, however, a need for great wisdom, caution, and discernment.  The perception that physical touch brings can be mixed.  So then, we must assess several issues to know what is appropriate and what is not.  The age, gender, and type of relationship you have with the person determine how you should engage with him.  For example, I am very comfortable holding the hand of the eighty-five-year-old widow, whom I know very well and who sees me as her grandson.  I am not comfortable, however, with physically touching a female church member who is close to my age (married or single).  Physical touch can be incredibly effective or damaging as you visit.  Be very wise with how you use it.

Posted in Hospital Visitation

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