Famed author and renowned lecturer Leo Buscaglia championed the cause of how we seek happiness and create loving relationships over the course of our lifetime. He once told the story of how he was asked to judge a competition in search of the most caring child alive today. To the surprise of many, the young boy who won did so based more on his actions than on his words.
The young boy had an elderly neighbor whose wife had recently passed away. Upon seeing the old man crying, the little boy made his way into the neighbor’s yard, climbed onto his lap and just sat there silently with him. When he returned home his mother asked what he had said to the old man while he was there on his lap. The boy replied, “Nothing…I just helped him cry.”
Humans are the only animals positively known to cry emotional tears of sadness or joy – though young mammals have been known to use similar sounds to gain aid or attention from their mothers. A study by University of Minnesota biochemist, William Frey, found that people reported feeling better after a good cry with the average length being no more than one or two minutes.
When we’re young, crying is a natural, almost expected reaction to a scraped knee or a bad dream. But as we grow older, there seems to be a divide, with the act of “crying” only being acceptable to the female gender. Today in fact, the art of suppressing one’s tears during difficult times has become ingrained into the hearts and minds of young boys all over the world – some even stating how essential it is for one’s masculinity.
Middle-school teacher and freelance writer Tierney E. Hunter had this to say when he dealt with his mother’s death as a teenager. “I recited in my mind, like a scratched record, my proclamation for manhood: Don’t cry. Gotta be strong. Gotta be strong for everybody. Gotta be strong for me too. There was no denying her presence, and I couldn’t accept her absence. In an explosion of emotions, I broke down and cried. I accepted that my tears didn’t undermine my masculinity.”
The measure of one’s manhood goes well beyond the strengths we deem so very important in our society. The preconceived notion that men simply do not cry only further alienates us from dealing with emotions and feelings that eventually wind up plaguing our lives. A man unafraid to cry, who possesses the ability to feel and be compassionate, will always hold more strength and courage – if for no other reason than being able to rise above antiquated stereotypes. Crying is a healthy and necessary part of dealing with loss, tragedy and fear. Only a true man is able to acknowledge pain, to accept it and to find ways to continue living. Sometimes, that might even require you shedding a few tears.