By Reba Phelps
Crying is a sign of weakness. Shedding tears means you are not in control of your emotions. No use crying over spilled milk. Real men don’t cry. There’s no crying in baseball. Big girls don’t cry.
We have all heard the analogies and can probably agree that crying is one of the most judged responses to human emotion. In most cases, It is perfectly acceptable to be mad, silent or aloof but If you cry you are labeled as a “cry baby” or a “basket case.” On the flip side, if you never cry you may be labeled “hard hearted” or “detached.”
Personally speaking, I was always a self proclaimed Tin Man. I was so detached and uninformed that I often truly felt like I had completely overcome whatever tragedy was at hand…. as long as I did not shed a tear. I always assumed that crying made you weak. In my opinion, crying made you appear as if you could not cope with the ups and downs that life threw your way.
No tears. All must be well with my soul. Right?
In April of 2011 I received that one phone call that no child ever wants to receive. My mother had suddenly passed away while at home. I remember the phone call and feeling immediate hurt and sorrow but there was no time for a breakdown. I was tasked with assisting my father notifying family members and then planning a memorial service that would be fitting of her exceptional life.
The days that followed were crammed with meeting with the funeral home, ordering flowers, writing the obituary, coordinating family coming in and fielding phone calls from friends and church members.
There was literally no time to dwell on how my life would be forever changed without a mother much less having time to cry about it. I was in robot-business mode and it was working for me. I had this completely under control. The funeral came and went. The family came and went. The tears never came.
I returned to work the next week and anticipated a normal day. The first item of business that morning was a good friend visiting my office with a beautiful orchid and sweet card. She apologized for not making the service and told me she loved me. I cried and I cried and I cried. She apologized for catching me at a bad time and began to really feel bad for making me cry. I didn’t even have the courage to tell her I didn’t cry at the funeral so I let her think she made me cry.
What kind of weird heart of stone robot doesn’t cry at your own mother’s funeral? I even cry at other people’s mother’s funeral.
Fast forward to January 2019 as I sit in my Aunt’s lovely home in Shreveport surrounded by my amazing cousins and aunt’s from my mother’s side of the family who were raised with her from birth. They were sharing story after story of their childhood that included my mother. Touching stories of them shelling peas together, attending Mass together, running and playing on my great grandparents land. Hilarious stories of my mother being called “money bags” because she always had money. Stories of the cousin hierarchy that had them separated by age classes. They also shared sidesplitting stories of cousin bullying and practical jokes.
Guess who was focused on the floral wallpaper with blurred vision due to tears filling her eyes? Guess who had to excuse herself from the table and retreat to the bathroom to save her dignity?
You probably guessed correctly. It is the same girl who thought she was a champion of controlling emotions because she didn’t cry during the one time it was perfectly acceptable and expected to cry. So now, she cries during the most inopportune and unexplainable times.
Folger’s Coffee holiday commercials. New born baby photos on Facebook. Sappy movies. Conversations with friends. Daily Devotionals. Every Sunday at church. Beautiful music and beautiful scenery.
Yes, big girl cries all the time now.
I can almost hear my High School Typing Teacher, Coach Trahant, uttering the words, “pay me now or pay me later.” I never understood that much until later in life. But, when we deny ourselves the most basic instinct of crying it builds up over time and spills over into every area in our lives. His saying could easily be interpreted into, “better cry a little now or a whole lot later.”
There is strength in tears. There is healing in tears. There is wisdom in tears. There is peace in tears. There is stress relief and toxin release in tears. Listen to your body and cry when you need to cry.
The shortest and most simple scripture in the Bible confirms that it is okay to cry.