The Tracks of Our Tears

17 Mar

As I sat down with a dear friend earlier today who was tremendously sad and needed a good cry. I couldn’t get my friend to cry, which almost made me cry except I choked back the tears, as that would be weakness shown and I wanted to be strong for this friend. Then I decided to drive home in my rental car for the week (which should be a post of its own) and turned on its satellite radio (another post also) to the sappy channels.

As I heard the song, “Don’t Cry out Loud,” I felt it hit a little too close to home and I changed it over to the 60’s station. There I heard, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and I thought God was directly speaking to me through the radio, like the aliens in The Greatest American Hero. Then I went to the country stations, where I heard a couple lines like, “I know I’ve never seen him cry in all my fifteen years” and “Real men Never Cry, They Never Shed a Tear.”

At this point I was drawn to consider this culture’s view of crying. I had a friend in high school who refused to cry ever. In fact when he was around people crying, he would walk away to show his disapproval. I also remember a discussion with many people in college, most of which stated that they had never seen their father cry.

Fortunately (I believe), these are foreign concepts to me. My father was exceedingly willing to let us see him cry when the occasion called for it. My mother was very much against whining, but that was largely so there would be value in our tears. We were raised to allow our tears to show when the occasion was appropriate, but I firmly believe that my family was correct, but not normal. And this realization leaves me sad for our culture, in general and specifically for those I know who are afraid to cry when they should.

I cannot understand why our culture criminalizes the crying, but I really dislike it. The fact is that there are times where we will be sad. There are times when we will have such over-riding joy. There will be times of immense disappointment. There will be times where we marvel at the greatness of the gifts that are given to us. There are times where the best, easiest, and most accurate way to communicate our feelings is to shed a tear (or many tears).

In my humble opinion, we have taken away this natural, helpful activity as an option for many in our society. As a father of children in their formative years, I want to make sure they have a healthy view of crying. I want to teach them that false, deceptive tears are an abomination, and being overly weepy and whiny is a sign of a loathsome person. On the other hand, someone who bottles in tears is someone who will burst eventually. While my children may learn what I believe to be the correct theology of crying, they will almost certainly exist in a world that does not.

So how do we deal with our friends who need to cry and won’t? What can I say to my dear friend who needed to cry and felt like he couldn’t? I think I would have been a better friend by empathising with him, crying with/for him and telling him I was there for him. And beyond that I think I am not powerful enough to overcome decades of societal ingraining, but we certainly can hope, eh.

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2 Responses to “The Tracks of Our Tears”

  1. JRR Tolkien March 31, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    “I will not say ‘do not weep’ for not all tears are an evil.”

  2. Jenni September 1, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    I. Love. This. Wonderful post, Matt! Probably because I love to cry. 🙂 I am so glad too that our dad was willing to cry, and I think that tears are an immense gift to us. Crying can really cleanse the soul. I really, really liked reading this.

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