“Are you okay with letting people see you cry?”
This question fries me. Crying is such a profoundly personal thing, a window into your soul. Even if you’re crying from happiness – yes, it is possible – every time you cry, you tell the world that something has touched the very center of your being, you put your soul on display for public consumption. You might as well stand naked in the middle of Times Square.
The worst part, for me, is that inevitably, people want to make you Feel Better. There’s this assumption in this culture that crying is a sign of sadness, and people want to know what’s Wrong. And sometimes – nothing’s wrong. Everything is right, so right that you’re awestruck, touched at the core of your being, and the only possible response is tears. Or you’re so proud. Or, okay, so disappointed. I have even wept tears of anger – I was so angry that I was literally trembling with rage, and the tears spilled over. It only happened once in my life, and it was something to do with one of my children. What, you think I get that bent out of shape over things that happen to me?!
One of the chief things I prize about being Orthodox is that you can cry to your heart’s content in church, and nobody says a thing. In Orthodoxy, tears are actually considered a gift – there are so many comments in Orthodox literature about the “gift of tears” that you almost feel deprived if you can’t cry. (Which makes me one of the wealthiest women on the planet…)
We know that tears are healing – even the most ardent atheist will admit that, if he reads any kind of psychology literature – so why, as a society, do we consider public tears so taboo? Why do we look down our noses at people who “can’t keep it together,” “break down,” “lose control”? Heaven forbid you should lose your self-control. Heaven forbid that anything in life should matter so much to you that a response is not only called for, it’s inevitable. Do we seriously believe that it’s better to walk around in a permanent state of spiritual illness?
Still, even knowing that – I hate to let people see me cry, even my nearest and dearest, probably because they always want to make me Feel Better. And actually, I’m not all that crazy about crying itself, either. I hear so many women talk about how much better they feel “after a good cry.” All I feel is a headache. Not to mention all that wetness.
There is one exception. St. Paul tell us to “weep with those who weep,” and, I’ve discovered somewhat to my horror, that seems to be a talent I have. When someone is in real distress, tears well up in me, as well, and somehow, that does seem to help them feel better. I guess it validates their pain. Interestingly, I don’t cry when somebody else is crying tears of joy – only when they’re hurting, and I hurt, too. Then I don’t mind.
But otherwise – no, I don’t like for people to see me cry. It’s like hangin’ out there nekkid.