“Is it all right for men to cry?” he asked me, his eyes misty, his chin trembling.
“Of course it is,” I replied. “You’ve read the Psalms. David wept. Think of the shortest verse in the Bible, two words, ‘Jesus wept.’ (John 11:35 ) If Jesus cried, you can certainly cry.”
I told him how I have cried – a lot, it seems, lately – over diagnoses and pain. No, I’m not a man but I’ve usually taken bad news in my stride and bounced right back. I used to compare myself to the Bozo bop bag my older brother had when we were kids. You could punch it all you wanted, but it had a weighted bottom and it would always bounce back upright, with that silly grin on its face. That was me. Hit me with bad news and I bounce back, same silly smile on my face. Until lately. I think it surprised my friend to hear that I have been crying. He still saw me as the Bozo bop bag.
There’s something in our culture that says we’re not supposed to cry. We’re not supposed to show that we’re hurting, or weak. But that’s not Biblical. It seems like we’re always reading about people tearing their clothes or wearing sackcloth. In the New Revised Standard translation of the Bible there are 122 uses of the word weep, and 78 uses of the word wept, including Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, and, of course, Jesus. But somehow in our culture we’ve been led to believe that strong people don’t cry. This is so wrong!
Crying really does make you feel better. Scientists have found there are three types of tears: reflex, continuous, and emotional. Reflex tears allow your eyes to rid themselves of irritants like smoke or chemicals. Continuous tears keep our eyes lubricated and produce a chemical called lysozyme, which functions as an antibacterial and protects our eyes from infection. But emotional tears – those are special. According to Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota, they contain stress hormones which are excreted through the body by the act of crying. Those hormones and other toxins which have accumulated are eliminated. Emotional crying also stimulates the production of endorphins, our “feel-good” hormones and natural pain killers.
Most of us have been hit, and hit hard. It has been a diagnosis, an accident, an injury, a condition that has tried to sideline us. Maybe it has, temporarily. We have fought to continue on with our lives as best we can. We have put on a strong face to the world. And we have been taught that tears are not part of that front. If we have cried at all, we have cried in private. I am here to tell you that Frankie Valli had it wrong. Big girls (and boys) do cry. It does us a world of good; physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Thank you, Lord, for the healing gift of tears, and for the examples you set for us to follow. Remind us we need never be ashamed to weep. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
“This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.” Psalm 119:50