No Weakness in Crying

I don’t know when the idea that it is okay for men to cry stopped being cool but I know that it goes back at least since the time I was a little boy. I never saw my dad cry, not even once. And when we, boys,  cried, for whatever reason, the first words out of the adult occupying the same space with us usually were, “Stop crying!” Fell off your bike? “Stop crying!” Cut your finger? “Stop crying!” Lost a game? “Stop crying!” Had to say good-bye to grandma? “Stop crying!”

This may appear really weird, but no matter how hard I try to remember, I can’t come up with a single instance when as a child I was told, “Keep crying” or “It’s okay to cry.” The result is fairly obvious: I developed a conviction that crying is not a good thing. Crying may be an admission that not all is well with the world. Crying exposes our fears, plasters our weaknesses over billboards, and intrudes with the narrative of a picture-perfect life. Crying requires too many explanations — avoid it at all cost.

Really? As I got older I had to reject such silly notions. But I never realized how hard it would be to learn to cry. Like a dried river that had to make room for a railroad, tears sometimes are impossible to recover. There are things for which you should have cried but didn’t and things that you cry over and immediately feel silly about. Crying comes at unexpected bends on the road.

Those of you who know me understand that I am not necessarily an animal enthusiast. But I used to be a lot worse. If somebody said several years ago that one day I would allow two dogs to sleep in my bed, I would say get out. But now the end of the world has come.

My first dog was a beautiful little white female poodle and her biggest accomplishment was that she taught me to cry. One of my students brought “Kaine” to the university and gave it “to your wife” when she was only one month old. I named her “Kaine,” from the Greek meaning “new,” because I knew it would be a totally new thing in my life. I tried to act tough, displaying little emotion toward her and keeping her at a distance. But she grew into a charming four-legged creature and found a way to just be there, far enough from my feet but never very too far from my heart even if I didn’t know it.

I kept the game up. “It’s your dog. My student said it was ‘for your wife,'” I would say, normally to get out of canine duty. But one day all that changed. Kaine went missing and we looked all over for her — inside the house, all over the big yard, everywhere. I was the most zealous among the searchers, but when I saw that she was truly gone, exhausted, I put my head between my arms, lowered my body against a tree in the middle of our front yard, and with my arms and head touching the tree trunk, I cried. No, I did more than just cry. I let out a desperate lament, letting everybody in the world know that “Kaine is missing. Someone took her and we will never see her again!”

My family was in shock. They never saw me so distraught. They offered me “sugar-water” — the medicine of choice for all creatures overcome by shock and sadness. At this, I came to my senses, tried to straighten myself, but it was too late. The “damage” was already done — my farce was revealed. Among the five inhabitants of our household, the one who despised the dog the most was actually her fiercest lover. The mask came down.

Thankfully, we later found Kaine but to this day we laugh hard and long every time we remember this story. As I look back, though, I now realize that Kaine taught me the most important lesson about crying — crying is the act that is most in sink with how you feel inside inside your heart, so when you need to, you better cry hard and not be embarrassed about it.

Jesus was fully God and fully man and in one of the most telling moments of his life, he cried when one of his best friends, Lazarus, died. He also cried as he contemplated the future tragedy of the city of Jerusalem, the town of his love. The man who picked up a whip and literally made the money changers run from the temple could also cry and did so on several occasions.

Jesus’ crying has liberated me. And crying over Kaine has rediscovered me. I am glad for crying!

Ivanildo C. Trindade