(If you need to know what this is all about, start with the first post in the series and click through the succeeding links. Also, as posts are added links will be placed in that first post to each one.)
Today, I want to…
Cry Tears Worth Shedding
I was 13 when I first learned crying was the wrong thing to do. I had gone fishing with some friends. As we climbed a hill so steep it was more like crawling than walking, one of my friends above me kicked loose a rock (at the time it appeared to be a boulder to me). The rock scraped across my hand removing the left side of my left-hand middle finger. It removed a strip of skin about a quarter inch wide and two inches long. It hurt like nobody’s business. It bled like crazy; I remember thinking I was going to bleed to death. And I cried and cried and cried. However, what I remember most was the younger girl, whose name I don’t even remember who also was hit by the rock, although the rock merely rolled across her hand leaving no damage whatsoever. She hardly cried at all. On the ride to the emergency room, I couldn’t quit crying. I remember her making fun of me because I cried and expressing how much better than me she was because she wasn’t crying. I hardly cried at all for more than 20 years following that day.
In our culture, we teach that crying means someone is spoiled, immature, weak, manipulative, insignificant. Women are afraid to cry in front of men because they fear they will be seen as weak. Men are afraid to cry in front of anyone because they are afraid they will be seen as failures. We are told to keep a stiff upper lip. We are told we need to be brave. We are told we need to be strong. Even when people are understanding of our tears they still do their best to get us to stop, letting us know it will be okay and there’s really no need to cry. When children cry we threaten, bribe, cajole, and distract them so they will stop.
With that in mind, I don’t feel shame or guilt that I stopped crying for so long. I know it was simply how I was trained. But over the past two years, I have worked at crying. I encourage you to do the same. Our culture is wrong when it tells us not to cry. Our culture is wrong when it tells us to discourage others from crying.
Sadly, even Christians have bought in to the “no cry” policy. Too often we act like the only emotionChristians should have is joy and happiness. We are afraid we aren’t being spiritual enough or trusting God enough if we cry. But Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to weep. Jesus wept (John 11:35). The apostle Paul cried more than any of them (Acts 20:19, 31; II Corinthians 2:4; Philippians 3:18). Tears are part of a healthy life. Tears are part of a spiritual life.
Like the hugging we learned about a few weeks ago, crying is actually good for us physiologically. Scientists have learned that emotional tears carry toxins out of our body that are increased due to stress, emotion, and pain. When we repress our crying, we aren’t showing strength, we are actually weakening our bodies. Some theorize that is why women in general live longer than men, they cry more readily getting rid of those toxins.
Why is it that hugging and crying, two extremely positive things are stigmatized by our culture? Why do men in particular want to hang on to failed stereotypes to express a terrible view of manhood?
Perhaps the Bible passage that has helped me the most is Romans 12:15. Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” He didn’t say distract those who weep. He didn’t say threaten those who weep. He didn’t say laugh at those who weep. He didn’t say stigmatize those who weep. He didn’t say ostracize those who weep. He didn’t say mock those who weep. He didn’t say stop those who weep. He didn’t say entertain those who weep. He didn’t even say comfort those who weep. He said weep with those who weep.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the shedding of tears. In fact, instead of trying to stop someone else, we should let their tears prompt our own. We need to empathize and feel the pain and sadness so that we too may release our own emotions. Their tears are worth shedding and worth shedding some of our own with them.
So which tears are worth shedding? Every single one of them. This resolution does not tell us to limit our tears to only those worthwhile. It encourages us to cry tears because they are necessary; they are worth shedding. Granted, you may, like Joseph in Genesis 43:30, need to get in a more appropriate location. You may not want to cry in front of your boss just because he shot down your proposal. But if it makes you sad, go somewhere and cry. It’s okay. You’re not a wimp or a loser; you’re living longer. If you’re children are crying because they broke a toy, don’t try to get them to stop by promising them a new one. Let them be sad for the loss of their old one. If one of your friends starts crying for some unknown reason, don’t push them away. Draw them close and let them know its okay.
If you need to cry, shed the tears. They are worth shedding.
(Come back next Wednesday. We’re going to talk about Doing Something Worth Watching.)