Loving On People And Hugging Your Kids

What does it mean to "love on" someone? Why is that even a thing? It sounds weird and awkward, and I don't know whether to appreciate it or be creeped out by it.

I hear it a lot, especially in church when people describe what they do in their small groups.

"We get together, do life, and just love on each other."

We'll ignore the "do life" thing for now. You know, the phrase that means "to live" or "spend time together." It's an empty phrase that doesn't actually express anything.

You're "doing life" right now. You were "doing life" when you got up this morning and made coffee. You were "doing life" when you went to work. And you were "doing life" the entire day right before you met with the small group of people you "do life" with.

"Doing life" is not any different from what we've been doing all along: living. It just sounds so. . . California.

But we're ignoring that part, remember? I'm still stuck on "love on each other."

It makes me think of being grabbed by a particularly loud and gregarious aunt who clutches your arm, hug-smothers you in her ample bosom, and then plies you with food and hovers nearby while you eat.

I asked friends on Facebook what they thought it meant, and got a variety of responses.

For some, it means embracing or caring for someone deeply. Giving hugs and kisses, like a parent or grandparent. For others, it means just paying attention to someone, letting them know you're thinking of them.

One Facebook friend said it best, "Youth pastor with a soul patch and a tattoo, who isn't afraid to be XTREME. 'Somebody's gotta love on these kids, man. I love Creed probably.'"

A few people said they didn't like the phrase. They found it off-putting, like when someone you don't know very well hugs you too long.

Personally, my only complaint is with the additional "on." Since when did love need a preposition?

Other than being "an appalling lack of grammar," as another friend said, it doesn't mean anything. No more than "loving toward," "loving near," or "loving around," although that last one sounds a little slutty.

I did learn that "loving up" is another prepositional phrase that means something not suitable for this newspaper.

Still, "loving on someone" is not so terrible. I can live with it, even if I still silently judge people who say it.

No, the thing I hate is being told to "go home and hug your kids extra hard" any time there's tragedy in the news.

Major car accident in your city?

"Go home and hug your kids extra hard tonight."

Terrorist attack?

"Go home and hug your kids extra hard tonight."

Simon Cowell taking Howard Stern's place on "America's Got Talent?"

"Go home and hug your kids extra hard tonight."

Constantly being ordered to hug my kids makes me want to shout, "You know what? Screw you, and screw my kids! I was going to hug them today until you ruined the moment. Now my kids won't get a hug today, and it's. All! Your! Fault!"

I hug my kids several times a day, every day. I don't need to be reminded to do it just because something bad happened in the world. Something bad always happens in the world, every single day. Does that mean I have to go home and hug my kids extra hard every single day?

Being told to hug my kids extra hard, willy-nilly, raises more questions than it actually answers. Like, are there rules to this kind of thing?

For example, what if I work from home that day? Do I need to leave and come home again before my extra-hard hugs? Or should I just do normal hugs? Can I just give a normal hug, but make it twice as long?

What if I really do hug them extra hard every day? Doesn't that level of squeezing become the new norm? When that happens, do I have to squeeze even harder the next time something bad happens? How hard can you squeeze a kid before the authorities are called?

And what if I'm a back patter? Should I pat their backs extra hard too?

I don't understand what extra hard hugging is actually supposed to do. Sure, I'll feel better, but it doesn't do much for the people involved in the original tragedy.

"Steve was in critical condition after the car accident, and we weren't sure he was going to make it. But then Erik hugged his kids extra hard, and Steve pulled through. He's going to be okay!

"Now we can love on him."

(Special note: That's our friend, and Maddie's old youth pastor, Josh Reynolds. This is the only photo of any youth pastor I have. As far as I know, Josh does not like Coldplay.)

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