Sooo, it’s almost the end of Month Two of the new year. How are y’alls new year’s resolutions coming along? Good? Bad? Didn’t really make any?

Well, this is the two-part story of my new year’s resolutions for 2019 — on how I thought it was going to be one of the most loving, fun years of my life but turned out to be a very painful one; on how I’d formed a certain understanding for expressions of love and how it turned out to be completely different.

In the year of our Lord two thousand and nineteen, a fun idea came to mind. Instead of coming up with a new year’s resolution that would require me to exert some striving effort or discipline, I thought of a fun goal for the year instead. Better to have a more fun-oriented and #StrengthsBased approach, right?

This is an entry from my prayer journal dated 12th of January 2019; it’s a prayer that became my goal for the year.

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But what did “To love more affectionately and not robotically” actually mean? Reading it back now, I realize it’s a somewhat weirdly phrased sentence.

Well, to explain, we need to go back to the depths of the primordial chasms of time and space.

Cultural Upbringing

I’m unsure if it was the general culture growing up in the Philippines or just my particular family, but I grew up in an environment where love wasn’t really expressed through words or physical affection.

From a young age, I was taught the Filipino concept of pagmamano. Pagmamano (noun) or mano (verb) is a greeting gesture of taking someone’s hand, normally an older person like a grandparent, and placing it against your forehead as a sign of respect, as if to gain his or her blessing.

Basically, a mano was the closest thing to physical affection I experienced growing up. My family also didn’t talk much, whether general things in our daily lives or deeper things like our feelings.

The only things my family talked about, beyond all the shouting, were things like: “What’s for dinner?”; “What time are we leaving for church?”; and “Why are you a gay?” (okay, maybe not that last one).

Essentially, my family only talked about the absolutely necessary things we needed to talk about whilst living together.

As a result, I grew up a socially awkward introvert, not knowing how to navigate social situations. But I determined that to be a personal benefit rather than a setback.

Growing up in a Christian environment and realising I had same-sex attractions (SSA), I found my stoicism to be helpful:

Not having physical affection = experiencing less gay temptations = getting more love from God


Not having deep emotional attachment = not needing to worry about getting into relationships with men = being more loved by God

Cultural Adjustments

After moving to the big city of London a couple years ago, my socially awkward little bubble started to shake up. The city naturally forced me into social situations that I’d never experienced before, and I loved it!

I started meeting new acquaintances at church and eventually established deeper relationships. I had to navigate these new, more intimate relationships within a hodgepodge of cultures.

It was initially weird for me when people from my London church, especially other guys, greeted me with a hug. It was such a new thing for me!

At my church in the Philippines, we just greeted each other or said goodbye with nice Asian waves. I remember visiting back home after living in London for a couple of years, and I started offering hugs to people, forgetting where I was.

The women cringingly swerved into side hugs, and the men awkwardly deflected with a “hey, don’t be gay, bruh” joke, or a low-five, or an awkward back-pat (without their arm touching any part of my body, of course).

After moving to London, I started seeing my friendship circles not just expanding but growing deeper. I established relationships with people who actually cared for me — people with whom I could do everyday life.

My Goal for Affectionately Loving

I’d entered this new era of deeper, more intimate friendships, and so this was the motivation behind my resolution/prayer to start 2019.

I’d felt many internal changes, but they hadn’t been expressed externally yet: changes on how I viewed friendships, how I viewed the church as my family, and how I viewed the concept of brotherhood (and sisterhood!).

I wanted those internal changes to start manifesting externally. I wanted to give more and longer cuddlehugs, give more personalised gifts, spend more intentional time with friends, and say “I love you!” more.

It was going to be my year of metamorphosis — from Robotic Stoic Stump to Cuddlesome Care Bear.

A vision for my whole year started forming: a cosy, snug year, bundling up in the warmth of other people’s bosoms. I imagined hangouts, dinner parties, day trips, and trips abroad.

My mind even went into Christianese mode as I imagined recreating Jesus’ dining with his disciples, including his bro/bae John reclining upon him, enjoying an intimate meal together.

I laid out a couple ideas for certain months in my calendar, and I just brought the other months to God. I prayed:

God, I want to love people more affectionately. How I’m going to do that the rest of the year, I’ll leave it all to your perfect plan. I want to be able to love how you loved. To have the same kind of healthy, intimate relationships you had with your disciples. People from both sexes.

Simple and fun, yet dramatic and Christianese. What more could I ask for?

Well, hunny bro me of 2019, be careful what you wish for!

And so the year started with ecstatic expectations . . .

Loving the Dream

May 2019 was a very affectionate month. I took a trip to the U.S. and had a long overdue catchup with the guys and gays of the YOBBERS retreat. I also took an American road trip and caught up with one of my closest girlfriends who used to live in London.

I gave and received lots of love that month: memorable once-in-a-lifetime moments, long and deep conversations, and lots of warm cuddles.

In June, I went on another Christian SSA men’s retreat in the countryside of the Czech Republic. It was another amazing time with lots of personal reflections and new bonds made. We cooked together, hiked together, and talked about all the boyz whose beauty we admired.

Some of those men experienced such vulnerability with others for the first time.

Right after that retreat, I headed to Prague to meet with some of my closest friends and celebrate my birthday. We rented a boat and cruised the Vltava River whilst soaking in the summer sun. We ate, we drank, we laughed — all in such a picturesque city.

July is my best friend’s birth month; like me, he’s also a little extra, so we decided to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with one of our best gal friends. We went around the Old City of Jerusalem, floated on the Dead Sea, and trekked the Jordan Valley in Jericho under the scorching heat.

We also walked the powdery white beaches of the Mediterranean Sea and ended up half-naked in a little bathtub together needing to soak in hot water because of jellyfish stings.

My best friend and I had amazing revelations, shared our deepest fears, and formed a deeper bond. He also asked me to baptise him in the Jordan River!

So, these were the fun things I’d had in mind from the beginning of the year, my specific ideas for loving others more affectionately. Those three summer months were filled with love, affection, and adventure — just the way I wanted them to be.

As for the rest of the months that year, well, I learned God had another side to loving than what I’d considered, and he sure taught me this side.

To be continued . . .

Have you ever made any goals to love others more intentionally and affectionately? Does physical/external affection come naturally to you or not so much?

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  • Awesome post! I also grew up in a family in which I felt like I couldn’t express my feelings. Most of all what I related to in this post was becoming stoic as a reaction to having SSA. For me, I became stoic because it helped me compensate for my lack of feeling masculine and also helped me defend against my fear of rejection; people could no longer hurt me if I didn’t have feelings. I never let my friends/family give me hugs or have emotional conversations with me, and vulnerability in any capacity was out of the question. Over time, this majorly backfired as I still had a deep human need for affection and intimacy but wouldn’t accept it from those who were close to me. Eventually, I sought affection from strangers instead. Thanks to God, I am on the path to reforming those behaviors and beliefs.

  • Excited to see where this story leads, brother! I’ve been on a similar journey this past year — leaning into physical affection more. Definitely has good and bad sides to it.

  • It’s awesome to see such a specific resolution manifest in some pretty impactful ways for you. I’m glad our little YOBBERS retreat could play some role in that endeavor last year!
    Interestingly, I’m in a process of “de-touching” my life somewhat as it’s clearly become an obsession/idol in years past. It’s been a hard process at times, but also revitalizing as I seek connection with other men in alllll the other ways. Still learning to lean into that. It’s fun to see how our inverse journeys unfold from here.

  • Thank you for sharing your story Daniel! Its interesting to see how the cultural differences are between the Philippines and London. Heck, it sounds about equal to the differences of affection between London and the United States! Such an interesting parallel.

  • It was heartwarming to read this and see how the Lord has blessed your life with many terrific opportunities! Expressions of physical affection come difficult for me. I had the joy of being an usher for a long time at my church back home. The head usher gave out many hugs and kisses to people of both sexes, but I was not comfortable doing that myself. Even a handshake was something I didn’t do a lot of as i tried to be sensitive in this area and not violate a person’s “space.”
    Even verbal affirmations came hard as I didn’t want to send a wrong message. However, I would give a smile and share a laugh. A favorite memory I have is a lady at church that I appreciated and I would laugh myself nearly comatose from having a mirthquake with her. She had so much “ginger.” One Sunday morning around Christmas, I mentioned as she came through the door that it sure looked a lot like Christmas. I’m not sure what came over me, but to make a point, I took a piece of evergreen in my mouth and said it even tastes a lot like Christmas around here. I don’t think she ever forgot it…I know I haven’t.
    I need help in this area…I’ve always appreciated getting hugs or other forms of physical touch or verbal affirmations from others but I tie myself in knots trying to cautious in giving such myself.

    • Awwww, interesting stories WaveDave. I had an interesting encounter the other day when visiting my friends church.
      An usher, as I was leaving the service asked me, “Oh are you leaving now”. I was like “Yeah.”. And she was like “Have a nice day! Can I give you a hug?”.
      I found that, her asking me if it was okay really cool. Cause if she just did it, I’d be like whuuuuttt. But when she asked, I was more happy to get a hug from her. I guess asking makes a difference. Hahah.

  • Hi Daniel, I loved your article. I also grew up in a family environment where there was zero physical affection. In retrospect, my parents did love me and my siblings but their way of showing it was by providing for our basic needs (shelter, food, clothing,education, etc) and harshly chiding us when we erred (I think they inadvertently adhered a little too strictly to the spare the rod, spoil the child Bible instruction). I therefore grew up keeping my feelings and emotions to myself. Giving hugs freely was something I always felt awkward giving and receiving until I had children of my own. As the 4 of them grew up, I was intentionally very affectionate with them (hugs, head rubs, shoulder squeezes) almost compensating for what I did not receive when I was growing up. Now that they are teenagers (I guess like most), they cringe if I lay a hand on them in public especially if they are with their friends they only allow me to hug them in the house but I am glad I got in as much as I could when they were younger. I also have a gay friend who gives strong long hugs. I was initially embarrassed about receiving them but as we became better friends I relaxed as I realized that his intent was just a demonstration of caring. The person I have trouble being affectionate with is my wife. My current relationship with her is more of a co-parent, practical partners in life one and I find it difficult to be lovingly affectionate when I am not “feeling” it. I give perfunctory hugs and kisses (and even sex) when required/requested for as I think that it is my responsibility as a Christian husband to give of myself to her as she has authority over my body (1 Cor 7:3-4). It bothers me, however, that the one relationship in my life that should be the most lovingly affectionate (my marriage) is the most robotic so to speak or obligatory when it comes to physical expressions of love. I have also noticed that recently that she seems to have lost interest (maybe she senses that my heart is not in it). Anyway, we have stuff we need to work on in our relationship generally so it is a regular prayer item for me…

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