Hug O’ War

In Shel Silverstein’s poetry collection, Where the Sidewalk Ends, there’s short but powerful little poem called “Hug O’ War” that is so sweet and so poignant.  Written for and loved by children,  it’s actually quite a mature way of looking at our relationships…

Hug O’ War

by Shel Silverstein

I will not play at tug o’ war
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

James 3:16b-18 says it like this:

Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats… Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (The Message)

The idea of treating each other with “dignity and honor” might seem incongruent with Shel’s idea of rolling on the rug and giggling and hugs.  But what a beautiful picture it is to imagine our souls relating less like a competition – an invisible tug of war – and more like children just enjoying one another’s company.  What is more dignified than being loved for who we are and loving others for who they are? What is more honorable than a heart that isn’t afraid to interact playfully, in a spirit of joy and humility?  Certainly we don’t build community by digging in our heels and towing the line for the sake of some cause. Who wants to go down fighting??  Love isn’t about competition.  It’s about humility.  It isn’t a tug o’ war, it’s more like a hug o’ war, where everyone wins.

6 thoughts on “Hug O’ War

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  1. Love it, love it, love it. Thanks for your insight and for sharing it. I love those that I haven’t even met because of the amazing gifts God has given them to share and to help us and each other to grow in Christ love. I also love to hug and be hugged it’s much more pleasant than tugging. God bless


  2. Emily, I LOVE Shel and our collection of his works are worn ragged from years of use at our house. And I love your thoughts on “hugging” instead of “tugging”! I think you’ve just described Heaven.

    Shouldn’t the church be a hugging zone instead of a tugging zone? We have a lot of work to do.


  3. Amen and Amen Emily! This is exactly whats been on my heart for several weeks, I just can’t convey my heart in words like you have here. It saddens me to see “Christians” hurting one another. We all know that this is not what Jesus wants for His children. Takes me back to that scripture that says, we kill each other with friendly fire.

    Thank you so much for sharing your uplifting writings.
    Love you girl,


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