Cry Me A River

Yesterday’s post entitled Goat’s Crying elicited some interesting responses.  Many of you contacted me in various ways to make sure I was okay.  Thank you;  your concern was thoughtful.

And yet, those responses have me pondering further my point:  we have become so conditioned to believe that tears and sorrow and grief and all those hard feelings are “bad” that when we say “I cried,” or “I’m crying,” others perceive it is as if we are sounding an alarm for help.

I suggest it would be helpful if we started to accept tears as a normal part of life that are not reserved only for the eyes of those suffering horrific pain.

Case in point:  you’re driving.  You hear a song you suspect will make you cry.  Do you listen…or turn the channel?

You’re at the dinner table, and a story is told that triggers a memory for you that is painful.  Tears creep to the corners of your eyes.  Do you let them fall or excuse yourself quietly to the restroom until you have them under control?

I often find myself choked up when I am preaching.  The Spirit is so palpable, the good news of which I speak so…needed…even by, or maybe especially by me, that I feel my heart being massaged to the point of grateful and awe-inspired tears.  And when this happens, later, I feel slightly embarrassed and wonder if the people in my congregation are now worried about me.

The Fault In Our Stars
The Fault In Our Stars (Photo credit: Im Kelsi)

In John Green’s brilliant new novel, The Fault In Our Stars,  three teens, Isaac, Augustus Waters, and Hazel, become fast friends after meeting in a support group for teens with cancer.  There is a scene in which Isaac is anticipating necessary and horrific surgery that will leave him blind.  He is playing a video game with Augustus even AS he sobs and shouts.  When crying does not quite suffice, he moves to pounding on a pillow, at which point Augustus, Isaac’s best friend, says, “here…it needs to break if it’s going to help at all,” and hands Isaac a trophy that has no meaning to Augustus.

When I read that, I felt like I was being schooled.  Like someone was clearly helping me see and remember:  THIS is what we need to do to help one another with grief.  So often our impulse is to rush in and say something like, “hey now…here, have a kleenex…there,’s going to be okay.”  And while we certainly mean well, the truth is what we are also saying, without words is this:  please stop crying, your tears are making ME uncomfortable.

I wonder how much healthier we all might be if we accepted one another’s tears in the same way we accept their laughter.  What if we really believed and embraced the idea that to experience life fully one has to be free to just…emote.  In whatever way works for the one emoting!

Ironically, I think it might help relieve the collective sad that we all share by continually trying to swallow our tears.  Because, as Smokey Robinson so memorably taught us:

…There’s some sad things known to man

But there ain’t too much sadder than

The tears of a clown

when there’s no one around


  1. I have to admit I was slightly concerned when I read Goats Crying, but as a woman whose tears fall whenever I feel a strong emotion, I certainly understand. I enjoyed both pieces and I’m glad you’re OK.


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