“I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.” (Sylvia Plath)
I commonly declare that “I cry about everything!” However, while that is overwhelmingly true, I think I say that as a guarantee that should I fail to hide me crying from someone, I am assured that they have been warned. As if that protects me from the deep embarrassment I feel when someone “catches” me crying, or when I simply can’t withhold my feelings in a social situation. Truly – I cry at commercials, at YouTube videos, at babies and at every movie imaginable. The only thing worse than that is when someone shares something difficult and I find myself tearing up at the thought of what they must be feeling. I am so aware that everyone cries, and that even if someone is made uncomfortable by my easy tears, that I can’t hold myself responsible for it.
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” (Charles Dickens)
I find that to be so true. My defense against crying requires me to harden my heart towards the things that affect my feelings. And that is very tempting, for sure. I would face so much less awkwardness in my relationships if I could hold back the tears “better”. And yet, I find some beautiful freedom in the few people with whom I feel comfortable enough to cry. I often tell the story of one friend, who, in the midst of my terrible breakup, simply showed up at my house with a flower and a candy bar and sat with me while I cried. She made such an impact on my life in that moment, and in my constant fight with vulnerability.
“It is a grave injustice to a child or adult to insist that they stop crying. One can comfort a person who is crying which enables him to relax and makes further crying unnecessary; but to humiliate a crying child is to increase his pain, and augment his rigidity. We stop other people from crying because we cannot stand the sounds and movements of their bodies. It threatens our own rigidity. It induces similar feelings in ourselves which we dare not express and it evokes a resonance in our own bodies which we resist.” (Alexander Lowen)
Finally, as expected, it is one of the most intimate parts of my relationship with Christ – that He is never overwhelmed or opposed to my vulnerability. He welcomes it, as one who suffered, cried, and was betrayed in His time on earth. I feel like a bit of a drama queen in writing this all out, but to crying, I raise my figurative glass – not as a woman, as the categorically more “emotional” vessel (that’s crap), but as a human being, an image-bearer of the God who wept. I wish that I could pledge that I wouldn’t hide my tears continually, because I know I will, nor will I pretend there aren’t instances when an element of discretion and spiritual strength are asked and given. I do desire to embody truth, not simply in the emotions that I feel, but in the ones that I reveal, that I trust Christ enough to manage my own security, so that I don’t have to base it on other’s perceptions of me.
“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalms 116:1-2)
Sarah, A Frequent Crier