I grew up learning that men should never cry. It was ingrained in the culture and burnt into my psyche. Songs and movies are still filled with references that men need to be tough and not cry. But what if that’s a lie? What if crying is actually good for you?
There’s plenty of research that backs up this idea that crying is good for you. Check out these amazing benefits:
- Being vulnerable helps you make connection with other people.
- Confronting feelings helps you move forward.
- Expressing emotions increases creativity.
- Tears help flush out toxins.
- Letting go of excess baggage reduces suffering.
- Crying can relieve stress.
That’s just a short list. But why did it become the cultural norm for men to hold back their tears?
Blame it on the Victorians
It was during the Victorian period that emotional repression became the norm. Discipline was used both in public and private that was designed to reinforce unyielding strength. Crying was seen as a lack of strength.
Things have been changing. It’s becoming a little more acceptable for men to cry, but we still have a long way to go. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying men should constantly go around sobbing like babies. But there are times you should let yourself cry.
- When you lose someone or something you dearly love: I remember watching the Milwaukee Bucks sweep the Baltimore Bullets in the 1971 Championship. I was just a kid, but I cried my eyes out. I grew up in Baltimore, and I loved the Bullets. Later in life, I suffered a greater loss. My firstborn daughter was stillborn. I hadn’t cried for years. I gave myself permission to cry and let loose. I still cry each year when I visit her gravesite. Crying has been a healthy part of my healing process.
- When you make a terrible mistake, and you’re truly sorry: We all know people who cry to manipulate a situation. They try to use tears to get their way. That’s not what I’m talking about here. If you’ve done something to hurt someone and you truly feel remorse, it’s okay to show your emotions. When you are sincere, others are more likely to forgive you.
- When you’re so stressed out you’re at the end of your rope: Sometimes life can throw a fistful of challenges at you in a short period of time. We’ve all lived through periods of time where one crappy thing after another seems to happen. Stress has a breaking point. You have to deal with it in one way or another. Exercise is a great option, but sometimes it’s not the right time and place to exercise. It’s okay to cry. It’s usually a better option than anger. A good cry can actually relieve the stress and help you to refocus.
- When you’re so happy that you don’t know what else to do: I never understood this one until I had a kid. After losing my first daughter, I was blessed with a second. That in itself was reason enough to cry. Now, I often find myself choking up at my daughter’s milestones. Next time you’re overwhelmed with joy, go ahead and cry.
- When you’re sharing a sad story: I’m a public speaking instructor. I’ve got to say that some of the most powerful speeches I’ve seen have included tears. I remember one young man who gave a speech about his driving and drinking experience. He cried. He was truly sorry that his behavior had led to the suffering of others. His speech had 20 times the impact as the speaker who just gives us the facts about the penalties for driving while under the influence.
So go ahead and man up and cry.
Next time you’re overwhelmed by something in life, don’t repress your emotions. Shed some tears. Of course, there are times you should probably hold the tears back, too. The point is that we’ve been sold a lie. Men don’t have to hold back tears to prove their strength. In fact, expressing our emotions through tears from time to time, might just make us stronger.
Photo: Flickr/ Kat N.L.M.