To receive e-mail notifications of new articles, please leave your e-mail address in the subscription box below or visit our FaceBook page and click 'Like'.

Jul 18, 2010

Do Real Men Cry?

When the anti-hero of Pink Floyd’s classic The Wall was finally sent to stand trial before a judge, the first accusation levied against him was that he showed his feelings.
Good morning, Worm your honor.
The crown will plainly show
The prisoner who now stands before you
Was caught red-handed showing feelings,
Showing feelings of an almost human nature.
This will not do.
In our society, we often struggle with the question of whether a man should ever show his emotions. Many would agree that "This will not do."  Some women wonder if their man actually can show his emotions. We ask, can real men cry, or are we expected to stoically go through life in full control of our emotions, or better yet, without any emotions at all? Does crying make us less manly, less masculine, less Godly?

In my family, we like to kid my younger brother about his seeming lack of emotions, at least the weepy sappy kind. We have a running joke that my parents had to pay for my sister’s braces so they couldn’t afford my brother’s tear duct implant surgery, and as a result, he’s never been able to cry.

Truth be told, real men can and do cry. If we can agree that Bible heroes like David, Joseph, Jacob, Jeremiah, Peter, and Paul were all Godly, manly men, then we have to conclude from Scripture that real men sometimes do cry. And if you’ve ever answered the Bible trivia question of what is the shortest verse in the Bible, then you already know that Jesus wept. The more important question than ‘Do real men cry?’ is ‘Over what do real men cry?’

Just like the similar questions of ‘Do Godly men get angry?’ or ‘Do Godly men fear?’, the important things to look at is what can move a Godly, otherwise strong and self-controlled man to tears? We should be asking, ‘When and why does a Godly man cry?

We don’t want men who weep and cry over just anything in life. We don’t need men who sob during chick flicks and sentimental love songs. There’s no place in an army for a wimpy man who cries in paralyzed fear. We need strong men who can control their emotions and hold it together when they need to.

But there are occasions when the Godly response of a real man is actually to weep, to cry, even to lose it. In the Bible, we see men visibly showing their emotions in many situations:

Anguish over their sin (Luke 22:54-62)

Anguish over the sins of others (Psalm 119:135-136, Lam 1:16, Luke 19:41-44, Hew 5:7-9)

Loss of a loved one (Gen 49:33-50:1, 1 Sam 20:41-42, 2 Sam 1:11-12, John 11:32-36)

Return of a loved one (Gen 43:29-31, Gen 45-46)

Death of a child (Gen 37:32-35, 2 Sam 12:15-23, 2 Sam 18:32-33)

Trials and suffering in God’s service (Psalm 6, Acts 20:18-19, 2 Cor 2:4)

In none of the passages cited above do we read of any rebuke by God for these men’s blatant show of emotions. We don’t see any apologies or shame from the men themselves after such emotional displays. We don’t even see anyone else mocking or chiding them for their embarrassing, undignified loss of control. No, it would appear that these Godly men in Scripture were allowed to cry, at least in the right circumstances.

Personally, I’m probably more sensitive and emotional than my supposedly tear-free brother, but even so, my emotions are usually shown in similar situations as those above. I’ve completely lost it over my sons, with both tears of joy and tears of anguish. The first time was when my oldest son was born premature, whisked away to the ICU before I could even hold him, and the doctor could not give us an assurance that he would even live. When I went home later that day, I cried my heart out in the shower and prayed the prayers of Job and David to spare my new son whom I didn’t even really know yet. Since then my eyes have swelled with tears of pride many times as both of my sons have performed and accomplished many things to make their dad proud. But in the last few years, I’ve also cried over and over for my sons who are now rejecting me and I fear, the Lord as well. When I remarried, and all three children were in our wedding, my wife and I read vows to the children, to express our love and wishes for them as part of this new family, and I couldn’t make it through the words, overcome with emotions from so many good and bad experiences related to them. I’ve cried out to God in repentance over my own sins, for intercession to save my first marriage, and now to bring my children back. I’ve cried over lost loved ones and for those left behind to grieve. I have wept in prayer and Bible reading when considering what Christ has done on my behalf and how good and faithful he is to me. I have been overcome with awe for God’s power and glory and when I look forward longingly to Heaven.

Just like when a normally quiet man finally speaks up, everyone listens attentively to see what he has to say, so it is with men and their emotions. A real man should normally be strong, steady, and controlled. So when he occasionally breaks down in emotion, determining the object of his tears gives you insight into his heart and soul. When you look at what brings a man to tears, you see a glimpse of what he values, who and what he cares for, and even how he views God.

A man who has never cried is a man who has never fully lived. He has not loved deeply or lost greatly. He has not fully dealt with his own depravity or fully considered the free grace of the God who can save him. A man who has not wept is a man who has not been fully human.

Nobody wants a man who cries at the drop of a hat, over sentimentality or superficial emotionality. No real man cries simply when he’s injured or afraid. Any man who does so is not much of a man. But a man who can’t feel and occasionally show his emotions over the right things is not a real man either.

As always, our Lord Jesus provides the best example for us to follow. There is no indication of Jesus crying or whimpering during his unbelievable physical torture, up to and including the cross. He took his undeserved punishment on our behalf like a man, as the expression goes. He didn’t fall apart in depression over the betrayal of his friends, being falsely accused, or any of his physical hardships in his life. Yet we do see our Savior weep. He cried when his friend Lazarus died. He cried over the lost sheep of Israel. And he cried in intercessory prayer for us! We would do well to follow our Lord’s example as men.

So yes, real men can and do cry. But watch for what and for whom they cry and you’ll see what kind of man they really are. Men, it’s okay to cry, just make sure you’re crying over something worthy of a real man’s tears.