Posted by: wordofexcellence | May 16, 2011

O Mary Don’t You Weep


Why do we weep? Sometimes, we weep at simple things; sometimes sentimental, touching scenes in our lives lead us to cry. In uplifting circumstances, we find ourselves teary-eyed. Then again, there are those times when, for no apparent reason, the tear ducts begin to flow.

There are three types of tears. Basal tears flow continuously from our lacrimal glands, and they clean and lubricate our eyes, thereby making vision possible. Reflex tears occur when an irritant affects our eyes; the most common reference is to the slicing of onions, but a speck of dust would trigger reflex tears as well. Finally, psychic or emotional tears, which are believed to be unique to the human condition, are what we are most accustomed to – the physical reaction to emotion.

As we know, “a good cry” often relieves us of most or all of the stress we put upon ourselves (remember stress is man-made, after all). It is quite common that we feel a sense of relief after a bout of crying. Generally, the number and type of stress hormones released from our bodies increases significantly when we cry.

It’s good for us! Is this news to anyone? It ought not to be; after all, newborns wail with the best of them upon arrival. And guess what – we don’t ‘shush’ them.

This is not a scientific study on tears, nor is it intended to be the last word on the topic. I know that I’ve cried at a variety of times in my life, and it’s interesting to think of the reasons and the circumstances under which the teardrops fall. Our society seems to be obsessed with crying and tears, in fact.

Roy Orbison wrote a song, “Crying,” which ends: “Yes, now you’re gone and from this moment on, I’ll be crying, crying, crying, crying; Yeah, crying, crying over you.” One of the best-ever organ riffs was in the song “96 Tears” by? and the Mysterians. Smokey Robinson told us about “The Tears of a Clown,” Elvis Presley was “Crying in the Chapel,” Jackie Wilson had “Lonely Teardrops,” Little Anthony & The Imperials left “Tears on my Pillow,” The Everly Brothers were “Crying in the Rain,” Lisa Lisa was “All Cried Out,” and Leslie Gore claimed “It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To.” And how can we forget that Prince told us what it sounds like “When Doves Cry”?

For me, I well up at the outcome of sporting events…not necessarily when “my” team wins, but often when an underdog is successful. I suppose that my emotions are higher when a team is not supposed to be victorious, and, in watching, I get enthused at the impending success. Often, in fact, I’ll anticipate that success that ultimately gets dashed by the favored team.

I’ve cried at weddings, births and birthdays, deaths, funerals, elegies given, memorial services, in church while we pray, in church while we worship, in church when the speaker says something so cogent as to stir us up, at movies, at sporting events, along with all the “regular” things that bring forth a crying jag. I vividly remember an episode from my childhood when my mother was hospitalized for the purpose of varicose vein stripping. It may have been only one night, or maybe two, but I wept uncontrollably in her absence. I know that I was no more than 9 or 10 at the time, and I missed her so greatly, I must have drenched my pillow with tears.

One of the major benefits of our cries is that people pay attention. People pay a great deal of attention, in fact. My son, Caleb, and I were playing dominos recently. As we finished our first game, it so happened that I won. He argued the point with me, as it turned out that he misunderstood the scoring. As I explained the scoring to him, his eyes filled with tears. My natural reaction was to embrace him and try to calm him, as it was apparent he was upset.

After the flow of tears stopped, he explained the reason for his tears. “When we finished, you didn’t tell me, ‘good game;’ that’s why I started crying.” We had begun to make a habit of doing so when playing a competitive game, and I’d been so caught up in teaching that I’d forgotten the importance of this small gesture.

When we are upset, we often cry. Caleb was upset, and my first instinct was that it was due to his losing. He isn’t a good loser (then at the age of 4!), but of course that wasn’t the case at all. I’m sensitive to his tears. They come when he is hurt – either physically or emotionally – and although he isn’t a sober, parental instincts rush in to cause me to hover over him and comfort him. Stoic and manly, Caleb will dismiss me quickly on most occasions, letting me know “I’m okay, Daddy.”

Having expressed the thought that he is “manly” in dismissing the comfort I offer, I recognize that many of us have been taught that it simply isn’t “manly” to cry. After all, “big boys don’t cry.” We learned this as small children – our parents trying to make us big before our time (but Frankie Valli’s song told us it was “big girls” who didn’t cry).

If he follows my example, Caleb will have no fear of tears. He’ll recognize the myth that exists regarding men and their behavior. There is therapy in crying, there is mirth in crying, there is an enormous release. Without the desire or ability to cry, we would likely be apt to resort to “macho” methods of resolving our emotional conflicts. We see this type of behavior all too often in society.

Have a good cry one of these days – it’ll do you good.


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