Is it okay for men to cry? Occasionally? Constantly? What sort of message does that send about sensitivity, emotionality, or mental strength? Surely, in the face of tragedy or great suffering, crying is acceptable. But what context can our Faith provide for the idea of weeping as a reaction to life’s events?
Recently on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale talked about the idea of expressing emotion through tears and the Biblical precedents and examples we can observe.
A blog post came out a while back by Father Damien Ference about St. Ephrem. In his blog, Father Damien said that he couldn’t remember anything about St. Ephrem for his homily on that Feast Day, so upon looking for information in a Catholic magazine, he discovered that St. Ephrem was “deeply sensitive”, and he wept “constantly.” Father Damien wondered if perhaps that was more acceptable back then and if it would be permissible in these days. Would a man like that be rebuked for crying all the time? Would he be considered weak?
Upon thinking a bit more, he considered the Biblical passages that referenced the emotions of men. In Psalm 6:6, the psalmist said that he cried all night long and his couch and bed were soaked with tears. In the New Testament, we see Jesus Christ himself cry. Hearing that his friend Lazarus had died, and even knowing that He would resuscitate him, Jesus cried. The shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 reads, “And Jesus wept.”
And again, in Luke 19:41, we see Jesus cry again, this time over the city of Jerusalem for He knows what awaits it in the coming years. It reads, “As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it…” Jerusalem would be sacked by the Romans forty years later and he wept, for none of that needed to happen. The Jewish people didn’t need to be slaughtered and the Temple didn’t need to be toppled and burned, if only they had accepted Him for who He was.
Jumping centuries forward in Church History, we come to St. Augustine and his Confessions. In it, we read that Augustine cries and laments intermittently. Throughout the book, we can observe his discovery of Our Lord and his spiritual growth, but we are also privy to his obvious growing pains. Cale points to the moments right before his big conversion, “Before that ‘Take up and read moment’, Tolle Lege, he says this in the Confessions, in Confessions VIII, 12: ‘When deep reflection had dredged out of the secret recesses of my soul, all my misery and heaped it up in full view of my heart, there arose a mighty storm bringing with it a mighty downpour of tears.’” His life of immorality had finally dawned on his soul that had been cloaked in darkness for so long and it felt like a mighty storm.
We are no strangers to feelings of misery or sadness, especially in the face of difficulty like the feeling of failure, the death of a loved one, or the realization of a grave mistake. In other words, we have all born witness to the overflowing of emotion. We understand that tears are an accumulation of great pain that we can no longer contain and they are a form of therapeutic release. St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “A hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up. Whereas if it is allowed to escape, the inner sorrow is lessened.” Crying is a method of reducing sorrow, and he went on to say that it is befitting of a man in pain.
St. John Vianney was once asked why he was crying all the time and he responded, “Because you don’t cry enough.”
Listen to the full talk below:
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