Monday, November 24, 2014


Maybe no one told you there is strength in your tears.
(Kelly Clarkson, If No One Will Listen)
I once heard a Christian pastor explaining how it is that all people have sinned, as Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans. Anticipating his practitioners’ questions, he also explained that even babies sin. “Have you ever heard a baby cry when it’s hungry?” he asked. He then went on to explain that, when a baby cries in this circumstance, it’s actually a lie, because…
…actually, it’s hard to say exactly why he thinks it’s a lie—maybe because the baby doesn’t actually need anything, I think was his point(?)
At the time, this struck me as odd. I didn’t necessarily have an opinion on it one way or the other, but it sounded peculiar. Could it really be a “sin” to cry?
Now that I have a son, I have a more solid opinion on this pastor’s idea.
And I think it’s bananas.

Never have I thought Emerson was trying to lie to me when he was crying. When he cries, it’s because there’s something he needs or wants, and he doesn’t have the words to communicate it in a more appropriate, agreeable, effective, concrete way.
Crying is a form of communication. In fact, it’s our first form of communication. Before we have words—before we even have smiles*—we have tears.
Tears, then, must be important.
It was then that I realized that forever is in your eyes
– the moment I saw you cry.

(Mandy Moore, Cry)
Not only is crying a form of communication for babies; it is for you and me as well. It was true then and it’s true now.
We cry when words fail, because crying is more primal. It is more intimate, and it expresses what words simply can’t.
All this to say:
Why do we tell people to stop crying when we’re trying to comfort them? Maybe they have something they need to express, and there isn’t any other way.
Why is crying considered a sign of weakness, or of being overly-sensitive? Crying is more real and more raw than language. What is “weak” about this?
Don’t apologize for all the tears you’ve cried
– you’ve been way too strong now for all your life.

(Mat Kearney, Closer to Love)
Maybe, conversely, we would do well to cry more often. Not that we need to look for opportunities to cry, of course, but…maybe we shouldn’t be so judgmental or annoyed or put-out when the people around us cry. And maybe, just as importantly, we shouldn’t be so adamant about fighting back our own tears.
Maybe crying is just a way of asking for empathy.
I saw my tears are in your eyes.
(Michael W. Smith, Everybody Free)

* * * 
*This is true—maybe I was naïve, but I didn’t realize that babies don’t know how to smile when they’re first born. I didn’t learn this until Emerson was born, and I had to ask why he wasn’t smiling.

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