What I Learned from Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner died last week.

The publisher of Playboy Magazine was hailed by some as a pioneer of free speech and sexual liberation. Others have castigated him as one who made a career out of objectifying women. His legacy will be debated for years to come. Few will disagree, however, that his Playboy empire paved the way for our current pornography-soaked culture. So what could a Christian possibly learn from a man who contributed to the sexual chaos we see today?

Reading a recent article about his life reminded me of something I had read years ago. Hefner was actually raised in a Christian home but one that he described as puritanical, as there was no hugging, no kissing and no affection of any kind shown. His response to that kind of hypocritical upbringing was a promiscuous lifestyle and a magazine that became visual eye-candy for generations of young men.

I remember as a high school sophomore in 1967, walking home from football practice with a friend when we stumbled across a Playboy magazine lying in the middle of the street. We quickly walked to my friend’s house where we “read” the magazine. Then again, maybe “gawk” is a better descriptor.

No doubt many Playboy-devoted men believed Hefner to have the ideal lifestyle, one surrounded constantly by beautiful women. Sadly, Hefner admitted in a 2010 interview that the key to his life was the need to feel loved and that “I think I’ve been searching to fill that hole that was left there in early childhood.” He further confessed that despite having countless lovers, he had “never known a fulfillment of love.” So much for the Playboy lifestyle!

So what have I learned from Hugh Hefner?

I learned the importance of demonstrating appropriate physical affection to my spouse and children. That while hugs and kisses are not the solution to all of life’s problems, a family that knows how to show affection is more likely to be one where healthy attitudes toward sexuality are embraced and neither repressed nor indulged.

Christian Psychiatrist, Ross Campbell, has said much the same in his book, How to Really Love your Child. Here he emphasizes the role of appropriate physical touch and focused attention with children and how that fills up their “emotional tank”, allowing for better communication and bonding.

Ironically the day after Hefner died, I listened to a Focus on the Family radio broadcast where Christian therapists Clifford and Joyce Penner also emphasized the importance of hugging your spouse. An extended hug of 15-30 seconds can trigger the release of the brain chemical oxytocin, an important bonding hormone.

So while Mr. Hefner may have never experienced real affection within a loving family, his life story taught me that hugs and kisses are good things. Hugs say you matter, they say I love you. And one thing all my grandchildren are learning from an early age is this – if they have just been hugged like a bear, then they have just been hugged by their Poppy.

Now pardon me. I need to find my wife. I think she needs a 30-second hug!

Note:  Inspired by an article at corproject.com titled “A Compassionate, Christian Reflection on the Death of Hugh Hefner”

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