Washington Irving said:
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.
Contrary to some beliefs, tears are not a sign of weakness or unmanliness. Authentic power and humanity lie in our tears, for all of us. There is profound meaningfulness in our tears.
On Sunday, January 26, 2020, the world lost Retired NBA Superstar and Oscar Winner Kobe Bryant in the helicopter crash in Calabasas. Nine people were killed, including Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna who, like her Dad, loved basketball.
When Los Angeles Clippers Coach and NBA Champion Doc Rivers found out about the tragic death of future NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant in the helicopter crash, he cried. Doc said:
The news is just devastating to everyone, who knew him. You know he (Kobe) meant a lot to me, obviously… He had that DNA that few athletes ever had… There’s so many people he touched… He had so much more to do.
Doc Rivers is a strong, good man and a leader of men. In his illustrious career, Doc was Coach of the NBA Champion Boston Celtics, and now the Los Angeles Clippers. Doc’s tears for Kobe represented his deep love and respect for his dear friend and valiant opponent on the basketball court.
In the sad aftermath, ESPN “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith, who had a very close personal friendship with Kobe, spoke of his late friend. Stephen A. had mad love and respect for Kobe, because he inspired the best in people, not just on the basketball court, but in life, as well.
The distraught Stephen A. acknowledged, “It’s just hard to put [Kobe’s death] into words. That’s the best I can do.” He wiped away tears from his eyes on camera. Kobe’s life was that meaningful to him.
Normally, brimming with swag and bravado, Stephen A. spoke his love for Kobe. Stephen A. is a strong, good man, as well.
Strong, good men of character do cry for something meaningful. Whatever arcane stereotypes exist expounding that all men hide their emotions is just utter bullshit. Over the years, I’ve gotten that good men are as authentic as they can be. That means crying when it’s right. That means expressing our loss as authentically as can be.
Years ago at the Dojo after Sunday morning Aikido practice, I walked outside the Dojo to ask Sensei if he wanted to get some lunch. I was tired and hungry.
Outside, Sensei had tears in his eyes. He told me, “Alyce [his wife] is sick.” She had collapsed earlier in the week while playing golf with her friends. Alyce was in observation at the hospital. Sensei didn’t know when Alyce would be able to come home. I got it: Sensei was afraid and sad; Alyce was the love of his life.
So, I sat outside with Sensei. That was the least I could do. We did not say a word. That was sacred. When Sensei was ready, we took off from the Dojo.
Alyce recovered later that week. She eventually went back to playing golf. She would outlive Sensei, who passed away about 7 years ago. Yes, good strong men cry. My hero cried.
A few months ago, I went to see “Downton Abbey” at the theater with my dear friend Cheryl. Cheryl wanted to see a movie and spend some time away, given what she was going through at the time. The movie was great, all things considered. I had not seen the PBS TV series the movie was based upon, so Cheryl had to kind of clue me in. Fortunately, she was a fan.
After the movie, we had dinner. I shared with Cheryl what made Aikido so meaningful for me. You see: Growing up as a boy at home, Dad scared me a lot. I got in my head that “I’m not good enough.”
Fortunately, for me, I met Sensei in Aikido. Sensei gave me permission to make him my dad, the one I needed to become a good man. I said, “With Sensei, I could just be me, and I am forever grateful for him.” I had tears in my eyes. So did Cheryl.
Crying our tears can be our most authentic self-expression. Tears yield our amazing power for good in the world. Tears teach us humility, compassion, and the meaningfulness of just being human. More than just saying.
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