Tears and strength

I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m crying.

I’m sorry I can’t hold my tears. They just seem to come out of me and I have no control over them.

I’m sorry. Do you have any tissues?

I’m sorry I’m crying. I know I should be over this by now.

I’m sorry.

Women tend to cry more than men and I don’t know if there is a biological reason or if we have been programmed for generations to understand that tears from a woman is more acceptable and to be expected. The prevailing patriarchal thinking is that women are weak and women cry, therefore, crying is weak. Since men are strong and, therefore, shouldn’t cry. As a result, they don’t. 

But from what I have seen, tears have nothing to do with weakness.

Tears stream down a mother’s face as they are giving their body over to childbirth. The tears come as they use all of their strength to push new life into the world.

A father cries when he watches the undertaker carry away his little child, leaving him to face the unimaginable.

A parent cries when they are too exhausted to do anything else. Tears come after they drive from one school to the next to collect their children, knowing once the little ones are in bed, the parent will leave again to work another job because they must work three in order to support their family.

A person cries out of anger and frustration at the injustice of watching a loved one suffer the pain of a terminal illness.

A rider cries in pain and anger at being thrown from the horse, yet gets back on to try again.

Tears stream down a viewer’s face as they see the chaos unfolding in our world.

I have cried, while wiping up my own blood, only to get right back to work because the work had to be done and I couldn’t bear to stop.

We don’t need to apologize for our tears because our tears are not weakness.

I have been with families, mourning the loss of a loved one, and when they apologize for their tears, I simply tell them that those tears represent the deep love they have for the person who has died. The tears are not weakness, but honor the memory of the person they lost, and how important the deceased was to them. I tell them each tear is a prayer of gratitude for the time they had together.

Weakness is telling a little boy not to cry because of your own toxic and unstable sense of masculinity.

Weakness is telling a little girl not to cry in the store“because people are watching” when, in reality, you are afraid of what other people think.

Weakness is telling someone in the throes of grief not to cry and that it will all be “OK;” not because you believe it but because you are uncomfortable and don’t want their grief to infect you. 

The weakness comes in our own insecurities, telling us not to allow others to cry, because we too might admit that we cry and, therefore, are weak. This admission reminds us we are human and somehow less than.

But that is all a lie.

Tears merely flow when we need them. They have nothing to do with how strong or weak we are. In fact, often the people I have witnessed crying are at the same time exhibiting a tremendous amount of strength. 

Even crying in the throes of emotional disarray is a show of strength because it is an act of vulnerability displaying trust and a willingness to be open. It means the person no longer wants to hide anymore. Often the choice no longer to hide is pure bravery.

Sorry. I am not sorry about the tears I shed. I am not sorry about showing others how I feel in the moment I feel it. I will not let the shame, the false shame, of shedding tears get in my way of showing my true strength, because sometimes my strength is actually in my tears. Or, at least, I am committing myself to this lofty goal.

I promise to hold space for your tears too, even if we are not together when you shed them. When you find them streaming down your face, remember my words and offer for care, and push against the urge to apologize or feel weak. Stand strong and don’t hold back. You are stronger than you ever imagined, to which your tears testify.

For those interested and willing to explore these themes more deeply, my next book discussion and retreat on my book Phe and the Work of Death will be Saturday, July 15. You can register following this link. Online and In-Person available.

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