A loved one of mine posted recently regarding her son scrubbing his tears away and saying “boys don’t cry”. She was appalled by that, and I suppose I might have been, had I been in her shoes, but as a man myself, I have a slightly different perspective. Don’t get me wrong — I love her for her perspective, and value her as the wonderful mother that she is becoming. I just don’t entirely see a boy’s tears the same way.
We’ve all heard the saying — big boys don’t cry. For ages, that was the standard. Then in recent years, we’ve seen this role reversal, where conspicuous male emotion was seen not only as “acceptable”, but admirable and even attractive. Male crying went from a reality that remained unspoken to a fad seemingly overnight.
I grew up in the latter generation, where boys were SUPPOSED to cry, and a man crying was a sign that he was “in touch with his feminine side”. And while I agree that boys — and men — should feel like they are able to cry, I also feel that there is a balance to be struck, and like so many other things in this modern world, we’ve swung the pendulum from one extreme to the other, skipping right past that balance to trade one error for another.
In our efforts to “humanize” the male role, to push ourselves away from the stoic, uncrying, seemingly uncaring men of our grandfathers’ days, we’ve overlooked the very roles that men are DESIGNED to play — in our families, and in society as a whole.
We recognize that the woman’s role is one of nurturing. She is naturally a comforter. Her tears are often a note of sympathy, a visible sign that no matter what trial we are in, we are not in that trial alone. Even if she is unable to do anything substantive to help, her presence is help enough.
But while we recognize that in our women, we often forget that men have a natural role to play as well.
Where a woman gathers you in for comfort, a man charges out — to conquer, to defend, to “fix” things, to stand between his loved one and whatever they are facing. A man is supposed to have shoulders strong enough to bear any burden that might be too much for the rest of his family. He’s supposed to be able to stand tall and take life’s toughest swings on the chin — not only for himself, but for those who are unable to do so themselves. He’s supposed to be chivalrous, valiant, worthy of admiration but humble enough to deflect it. A man of honor and integrity is supposed to be able to stand firm on what he believes, even when he knows he’s going to suffer loss because of it — ESPECIALLY when he knows he’s going to suffer loss because of it. A man isn’t supposed to shrink back from difficulty, but rather is built to gird himself up, to square his shoulders, to set his feet, and to meet a challenge head-on.
…because if he doesn’t, who will? Would he be able to live with himself if somebody else had to shoulder his burden, because he was unable or unwilling to do so? Would he be able to live with himself if that somebody BUCKLED under a burden that was rightly his to bear?
In short, a man IS supposed to be able to shed tears, but in my opinion those tears are to be special, not shed for any ol’ hurt or any ol’ accomplishment, but reserved for those times when the hurt CANNOT simply be muscled through and that accomplishment was hard won. A man’s tears are to be a mark of solemnity, of honor, falling grudgingly from his eyes, as saltwater trophies of those landmark times when a man’s life has made a DIFFERENCE. They are to be a salute to someone WORTHY of those tears, drawn from him by immense love and admiration or beaten from him by a worthy adversary — not so common as to lose their meaning, nor giving honor to an adversary that simply made him quit. A man’s tears are supposed to be his essence, a vulnerability that he doesn’t share with just anyone — a vulnerability that must be earned.
Yeah, boys — and men — should cry, but those tears should be special, and should make YOU feel special for having caused them to fall.