There is a time for everything . . . a time to weep . . .
To weep is to make less the depth of grief.
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
Not only are you going to laugh about a lot of things that happen in life, you are going cry about a lot of things as well. At least you need to cry about them. Losses, failures, setbacks, and disappointments frequently come our way while we’re here, and our tears are the way we express the sadness we feel about it.
Tears are a normal part of life, and I don’t want you to apologize when you cry about things that are worth crying about. Author Elizabeth Gilbert is right when she says, “Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.”
One of the keys to emotional health is to cry about the things we’re supposed to cry about and not about the things that don’t warrant our tears. I didn’t allow myself to cry over my mother’s death when I was in my twenties, something I was supposed to cry about and is ungrieved to this day. But I’ve “cried” far too often about all kinds of things that don’t really matter, like my favorite football team not winning a game.
Given that it’s important to cry about the things we’re supposed to cry about, I want to suggest that you cry about the following:
- Death of a loved one (especially me when I pass away)
- Failing to achieve something that you worked hard on
- Any human being, you included, being treated unfairly, unkindly, unjustly, and abusively
- Being laid off from a job you love
- Someone you love being unwilling to work on improving the relationship
- Sins you commit that hurt the heart of God and harm others
- Suffering from a chronic illness
- Not having emotional support from others
- Not finding someone to be in an intimate relationship with
On the flip side, may I suggest that you not cry about the following:
- People not making you the center of their universe
- Life not giving you everything you want
- Not achieving unlimited success in life
- People not agreeing with everything you say
- Not getting your way all the time
- People calling you on the carpet when you’ve done hurtful, selfish things
- People ending a relationship with you when you won’t stop treating them badly
- Being made to pay the consequences for your bad actions
- People being smarter, more talented, and more competent than you
What I’m trying to say here is that there is a time to cry and a time not to cry, and you need to be discerning about the difference. The same thing is true when it comes to other primary emotions—there’s a time to be happy and a time not to be happy, there’s a time to be angry and a time not to be angry, there’s a time to be afraid and a time not to be afraid, and there’s a time to feel guilty and a time not to feel guilty. Wisdom and maturity involve knowing the difference.
If you’re not sure if your feelings about a particular event or situation are appropriate, ask around. The Bible says, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22, NASB). I’m going to tweak that a little bit and say, “Without consultation, you aren’t likely to understand if what you’re feeling is appropriate. With input from many wise people, you will know.”
One final thought about being sad and crying. Make sure you pull up alongside others when they’re sad and help them cry it out (if they want you to—don’t ever force yourself on others about it). If we are going to be a good friend to others, we need to “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, NLT).
On this side of heaven, there are a lot of things to be sad about—lots of losses, failures, setbacks, and disappointments. When you slam into these things, I hope you will allow yourself a good cry. Make sure you do, because stifling your tears can make you an emotionally unhealthy person. Susan Tamaro wisely observed, “Unshed tears leave a deposit on your heart. Eventually they form a crust around it and paralyze it, the way mineral deposits paralyze a washing machine.”
Don’t let unshed tears form a crust around your heart. Don’t let unshed tears paralyze your emotional “washing machine.” When it’s time to cry, give it all you got. As Charles Dickens noted, doing so “opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper; so cry away.”