I love to cry.
When the tears roll down my face, I experience a pure sense of myself—my presence—thinking, feeling, and hurting. There’s a stillness that takes shape inside me.
I cry when I’m sad, tired, hungry, angry, frustrated, and when I’m overtaken with joy.
I cry when I see a newborn baby ripe with the freshness of new life and when I hold a sweet, little puppy in my arms. I cry at the crescendo of a heartfelt musical piece and I cry when someone else is crying too. I’d say, I cry all the time and pretty much on most days.
When my sons were little, I encouraged them to cry whenever they felt like doing so. Unless they were having a tantrum or were disruptive to others, I didn’t stop them from crying.
Crying, I told them, was healthy and natural. They cried when their team lost a ball game, when they injured themselves, and when their feelings were bruised. Mostly, though, they cried when they were depleted and needed to sleep.
They didn’t cry loudly or without control either. They just softly expressed themselves through tears.
I’ve never felt either ashamed to cry nor ashamed about crying too much. Sure, there have been times I wish I hadn’t cried as I had: I wish I hadn’t sobbed when I was scolded at work, or when my friends criticized me. I lost the respect of my colleagues and friends and had to work double time to regain it.
Many said I gave my power away by crying. Even so, I’ve always felt that I have to be true to my feelings, regardless of the consequences.
So I received a lot of criticism, of the same kind I was familiar with, mostly from male family and community members about letting my sons cry. Coaches told me to “toughen my kids up” and “not to let them act like babies.”
My tolerance made my husband uncomfortable at times as well. He’d say, “They’re going to get killed if you keep telling them it’s okay to cry over everything.”
But they didn’t cry over “everything.” They cried when their bodies were emotionally processing their feelings, whether it was sadness, overwhelm, or tiredness and they cried for short periods.
They rarely cried if they didn’t get their way.
Yet these tears still made adults visibly uncomfortable, much more so than when the girls their age cried.
And my boys soon got the message.
They learned that crying was “offensive,” and that by doing so they appeared “weak,” “fearful,” and “unworthy.” Girls, they learned, are permitted to cry (but not often) or they, too, may suffer similar but less severe consequences—as I had.
Once my sons started school they sucked all their tears back into their tear ducts. And they cried less and less.
Eventually, my boys hardly cried at all.
My sons learned (as many men have) that their “masculinity” is somehow directly linked to their lack of tears. It is implied during socialization that crying is a “feminine” attribute and something “strong” men should not do.
Yet, it isn’t clear why a natural human expression must be stifled, hidden, or allocated to a gender.
We wouldn’t expect men to hold back a desire to dance or sing—nor would we expect only women to scream when they become frightened or laugh when they’re amused.
Understandably, we need to learn to manage our emotions, especially when we are in public. But our tears of joy, pain, or unhappiness are not violent emotions like anger or rage. There has never been any harm caused by another’s tears.
On the contrary, crying is beneficial for us, reminding us to be present in our bodies and enabling us to feel our feelings—fully. It can be a release of our heaviest and most uncomfortable emotions and offer us closure and renewal.
Men are entitled to the full spectrum of their emotions and to experience the benefits they offer too.
Here are seven reasons why I hope men will want to let go of social constructs and welcome their tears more often—freely, openly, and without restraint:
1. Men who are comfortable with their own tears are comfortable with others’ tears. They are more likely to show up during difficult, tense, and highly emotional situations to help diffuse, comfort, and care for others’ needs.
2. Men who can cry with another have learned the gift of empathy and tend to make better lovers, partners, and friends.
3. Men who allow themselves to cry in front of other people are perceived as more approachable by many. They open themselves up to receiving love and support and feeling less alone.
4. Men who give themselves permission to cry understand self-compassion and are more likely to be compassionate individuals.
5. Men who aren’t afraid to shed a few tears have the opportunity to know themselves deeply and be in touch with their own emotional needs and desires.
6. Men who cry often may experience the release of their densest emotions and make space in their hearts for lighter, happier emotions. They can move through feelings of vengeance and resentment before they occupy space in their bodies and minds.
7. Men who have embraced their tears have recognized the beauty of the divine feminine that lives within them. They have the opening to intertwine the influences of the divine feminine with the divine masculine and live with a sense of emotional balance and wholeness.
There are so many more good reasons for everyone, especially the men in our lives, to cry. We can open our hearts to ourselves, grab the tissues, and let the tears roll.