A TIME TO WEEP: Or, “We get angry, we don’t cry!”

(In which the value of Tears and Crying are discussed, and we discover a Poet in our midst, to the fascination & delight of the group….)

In our PPT tonight, we discuss eustress and distress, and how having too much of either clouds a person’s thinking and causes confusion.

During this discussion, the usefulness of tears comes up.  Talk begins with the notion that, for a man, it’s ‘acceptable’ to cry at certain times, but ‘unacceptable’ at other times.

An older, wiser man says:  “It has become more acceptable for a man to cry in our current culture, almost expected of a man.  But that’s not the way it was when I was young.”eustress

An angry man says: “We’re men.  What we do is get angry, not cry.  Women cry when they’re upset.  Men get angry.  Crying isn’t an answer to a problem.  Saying to a guy “Whats up?” and calling him on his bad behavior is what men do.  Crying doesn’t solve anything.”

I say:  “Do you know what comes out in your tears when you cry?”

Someone answers.  “Saline.”

“Yes, salt.  But something a lot more important.”

All goes silent.  “Hormones!  For decades they’ve known that your tears wash out hormones that are causing you distress.  It’s actually necessary to cry, to rid your system of these hormones.  That’s why you feel so much better after a good cry.  It’s a cleansing mechanism.”

Mr. Angry says:  “Maybe, but boo-hoo-ing over a problem doesn’t solve that problem.  You have to confront your problem.”

I pointed to the PPT slide showing a chart of all the bad consequences of heavy stress.  “We just saw that stress causes muddled thinking and impairs your decision-making.  After you cry, your mind is free to think clearly again.”

“Oh.”  Mr. Angry mused on this awhile.

“So instead of acting out in anger, instead of being combative or confrontational, now you’re free of those emotions and can reason out another solution.”

“I can sorta see where you’re going with this,” says Mr. Angry.

Mr. Pun says.  “Well yeah.  Recall that emotions are often deceiving.  We think because we feel a certain way that we have the right to act out of that emotion.  In fact, emotions often lead us to to a place we’d rather avoid.  We all have the right to feel anger.  But bad things happen when we act of out anger.  What we have is the responsibility to acknowledge anger, let it wash over us, and then deal rationally with the problem.”

“But most times you don’t have the time to do that, you have to act,” says Mr. Angry.

Mr. Wise Man says: “What I do then, if violence is the only solution, I walk away.”

“But then you’re seen as weak!”

Wise Man says: “So be it.  I know I’m not weak.  I know I’m strong, because I’m the one who has the guts to walk away.  There’s where my strength is.  The ability to walk away.  And not let my emotions deceive me.”

A man in the Boston University program raises his hand.  “I have a writing assignment with me that is related to what we’re talking about.  It’s a poem.  If you want, I can read it.”  (Later, he stays behind so I can photocopy this).

He reads:


You told me
“Big boys don’t cry”
Because I believed
you wrecked me

You lied I learned
the hard way yet
to spite you I
found the truth:

I triumph by the grace of tears

With them
I connect with tomorrow
Without them
I tread hopelesswords hurt children

When I oppress tears
numbness corrupts me
people litter my way
life is a formality
I refuse to pray

When tears fall
charity embraces me
I let the Light in
I cherish Now
my soul feels its worth

Through stinging-warm salt water
at a place beyond my
shattered heart
a feather-silent whisper
that sadness is
His angel

A tranquil and reflective silence envelopes us.  Someone says “That’s really nice.”

Wise Man says, “That’s what I’m talking about.  Why we NEED to cry.  Not only that, if I may.  This poem introduces another thing we didn’t think to bring up on our own.  Faith in something bigger.”

Mr. Angry says, “Please, let’s not go there.”

Wise Man, who is Muslim, says, “Fair enough.  But that will be something you have to work out on your own.”

“I think what the poet is saying,” Mr. Pun interjects, “is our resistance to tears as people and as a society.  If we’re open to them, then it doesn’t matter who considers it ‘acceptable’ for a man to cry.  What matters is that we believe that it’s useful and necessary to cry.  Crying is like an emotional safety valve.  It’s nonsensical to break it down to men and women.  Human beings need to cry.  That’s why men were given tear ducts.  We’re supposed to use them.”

Wise Man say:  “I’ve been in a lot of these programs.  I’ve heard many men admit that they were told as boys not to cry.  A show of hands — like me, how many here were told that growing up?”crying

About half the class respond.

“OK. Now, also like me, how many were BEATEN for crying?”

The same amount of hands go up.”  “Thank you.  OK.  Something I’ve also learned, because it happened to me, is some were beaten until they learned to shut down and not give the abuser the satisfaction of seeing them cry.  How many in here, the same as me?”

Several hands go up.

“OK.  Now that you’re men, you’re angry about it.  And rightfully so.  Just like I used to be.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Hear me out.  Now we have the the responsibility to do something positive with that anger.  We MUST get in touch with our feelings.  And for a lot of us, that means going in your cell, close the door, put up the Do Not Disturb sign, and let the tears come.”

“Anger is physically and psychologically draining.  Tears let you lose a lot of that negative energy,” say Mr. Pun.

Mr. Angry:  “I still say you can’t walk around crying every time something happens to you.”

“You just missed the point,” say the Wise Man.

Movement is called.  8:15PM.  Time for us to part.

To be continued….