Is Crying Okay?
(Column: Ask the Peer Specialists)
Question: Does crying necessarily mean that I am less than a man?
Paul: I know it’s common for people to believe that it is a weakness to cry or that we are in crisis, out of control or going through something. But crying can also be a natural response of the heart to the moment’s truth. Isn’t this one of the sick attitudes of civilization that makes for alienation? What can be done to undo the damage?
Jack: You avoid doing it. Regardless of the intensity of the pain, you do your best to hold it in. You put up barriers. You do everything in your power to prevent yourself from exposing your anguish. As a result of holding it in, your head becomes cloudy. Your face aches. Your breathing is altered. You know that any sudden change will initiate your breakdown. As men, we’re brought up to cry in the privacy of our own space. We confine it internally, and if we let it out, it is done so that nobody can see. However, there are many ways that can be shattered. In the midst of melancholy, you may hear a kind word. You may hear words that console. You might hear words that are meant to heal. It inspires a solitary tear, which then escalates into your face showered in saline. You want to kick yourself from failing to hold it in, but inside you realize that you needed this release. You have an easier time breathing. More oxygen enters the brain. Your face no longer aches. Eventually the tears subside. Your eyes feel ten times lighter. This paves the way for the road of healing.
Jessica: Real men cry. This is the way I feel. Does it make us more of a man when we don't cry? Does it make us more of a man to eat steak? My answer is no. Crying connects us closer to God. Human beings are created in God's image. Only human beings, not animals, can shed emotional tears. In addition, tears bring excitement and a certain pleasure. Shakespeare wrote of the famous ruler Julius Caesar, "When the poor had cried, Caesar hath wept." If Caesar, a powerful, male ruler can cry, then doesn't that show you that crying doesn't make you less of a man? In this day and age, violence is linked to being a real man. Real men watch boxing or wrestling. Real men eat steak. Real men have many girlfriends. But in reality, the true real man cries and is at peace with his surroundings. The true real man is a strong man who is created in God’s image. True real men cry and shed tears.
Mattie: My feelings are that crying is a human response to the desire of one's heart to express itself without words. Some pain is too deeply felt to describe or to put words to, so one may cry. Joy often is too overwhelming to be shared with mere words, so again, one may cry. The crying allows for the outlet of the emotion that can't be uttered. It allows one's soul to be free of expression while full of emotion. That is why we shouldn't attach the emotion with that of a male or a female, but rather to a human heart. Jessica put it best when she stated that "Crying connects us closer to God….Only human beings, not animals, can shed emotional tears." Even Jesus wept. There are tears for practically every occasion. Why limit this beautiful and special release to women only. When we were babies, we all cried, male and female alike. When did we outgrow this most basic function and become less of a human in order to be called a man? Was it at the age of 12 or perhaps 13? Let me dare to say that we will never outgrow the need to cry whether male or female. The basic human instinct that we were born with never goes away. People who are able to cry when it's appropriate experience less stress and therefore less stress-related illnesses such as heart attacks or strokes. Let's all laugh and cry together for in God we are neither male nor female, but spirit beings living in a flesh body.
Lynn: I have a hard time crying in public, and I am a woman! If I feel like crying at work, for instance, I feel that it will make me look less professional, less "in control." I don't think that it is only men who suffer from this taboo against crying. Women are also taught that crying is a "weakness." When I was a child, my father teased me mercilessly when I cried. I only tend to cry when I am alone or with people I know very well.
Another thing, I also think that when men feel angry, they act angry. When women feel angry, they often just cry.
Dee: One of the things that I miss is the ability to cry. Besides weight-gain, the Abilify has leveled me off to the point that I rarely get overly emotional anymore. Not that I don't cry occasionally, but nothing like I used to, especially tears of joy, which flowed so freely. I never get elated to that point anymore. I miss those intense emotions, but I don't miss the suicidal ideation that comes with them. As far as worrying about crying, I never do. I'm with Mattie: tears cleanse our souls. But I agree with Lynn too. When I worked at the paper mill and had to be seen as physically and emotionally strong, crying was a big no-no as I wouldn't represent the fairer sex as their ambassador among the 400-plus men. I already was fair game for many remarks, so being a cry-baby was not going to head the list. Back then, I had to work at not crying. Today, sad to say, I have to work at crying when it is appropriate. I often seem cold and distant because things don't move me to cry like they once did. I attribute this to the medication, Abilify.
Paul: Crying is sometimes “carrying on.” Sometimes it is manipulating people or situations. We intuit that there's something “superficial” about it then. Yet, in its righteous forms, it is the holy response of a soul in pain or joy (or a mixture). If you truly believe in your tears, then you are likely in touch with yourself in a way that many wish they were.