For most of my life, I have tried not to cry.
Somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that crying was a sign of weakness or manipulation and the idea of “don’t’ ever let ‘em see you sweat” took on a broader meaning. I thought I needed to choke it back, push it down, stifle it so that everyone could see that I was strong. When I was 15, I stopped eating because emotion has to be dealt with. If I couldn’t cry, something had to give. And it gave. I lost weight until my mom was frantic. And then slowly, I recovered enough from the emotions that plagued me and I got back to normal, without having to spend time in an eating disorder clinic. My “strength” took a toll.
As I have gotten older, I have turned into a total sap. I can cry at just about anything, happy or sad. I have shed more tears over internet videos than I ever have for myself, my own pain, my own joys and sorrows. Crying for others highs and lows is so much easier than crying for me.
When I cry, I cry alone…in hotel rooms or when everyone is gone, or in the dark when everyone is asleep. I still can’t release with others, even though I can release for others. Every once in a while, I cry in church, and hope nobody notices.
Even though I know that tears are healing, I think I will always struggle to embrace them. This is not a good thing.
So for you and for me…it’s ok to cry. It. Is. Ok. To. Cry.
There are times when the enormity of a place, a moment, a time will overwhelm you. Whatever emotion that brings is healthy and good. It often will reveal your humanity, your compassionate heart, your love. When you cry for others, you love. When you cry in front of others, you allow them to love.
This week, I visited the 9/11 Memorial with 120 high school students. One of those students was overcome with the enormity of the place. She cried. Her tears revealed her compassionate soul, her care for the world that was forever changed when she was just 4 years old. She cried for people she had never met, and all that grieved because of that day. And as her friends tried to distract her and cheer her with hugs and words that would make her smile, I thought to myself, “Cry.” In her tears on that day, I saw her heart in a new way and I saw her friends have the opportunity to love her and it was good. Her tears revealed her humanity and the humanity of those who care about her.
Sometimes it takes a kid to teach us something. In this case, it reminded me that the thing I have spent a lifetime stifling is the thing that heals, that shows love, that is good.
It is ok to cry. With your help, I will try to remember that.