Tears are most commonly viewed as a sign of weakness, but in fact are a sign of maturity.
People often cry in the Bible: there are tears of mourning, repentance, sadness, and joy. There is the tearful David ascending the Mount of Olives, having been betrayed by his own son Absalom. There is Joseph crying with joy because he found his brothers after years of exile. There is the penitent woman shedding the tears of contrition at Jesus’ feet and Peter bitterly crying over his triple denial. The is Paul with tears of grief writing of his love to the Corinthians as well as so many others, including Jesus Himself, lamenting over Jerusalem or gripped by compassion before Lazarus’ tomb. “Blessed are those who mourn” affirms a blessing from the Sermon on the Mount, but why do some of us shrink from tears?
Hope in Christ does not take the sadness away
People avoid crying because they don’t wish to appear weak, because they’ve always been told that “You should never cry in public.” People also do not like to show how they truly feel, for fear of causing pain to their loved ones or exacerbating their own sadness. People avoid crying because they do not wish to attract attention to themselves and seem like they are exhibiting their problems. We often see tears as incompatible with hope in Christ: “Don’t grieve if you love me,” wrote St. Augustine in reference to his own death.
But if death is a tragedy, like so many other situations that break our hearts, our hope in Christ does not exclude it. Easter does not exclude Good Friday. The certitude of God’s love and the joys that result from it do not prevent the suffering caused by separation, failures, and all sorts of sadness resulting from compassion for others. On the contrary, love makes a person vulnerable. Being close to God does not protect the heart – it makes it more sensitive. Hope does not make us superhuman, floating in detachment above all pain and suffering affecting common mortals. The more we adorn ourselves with the strength of the Holy Spirit, the less we fear being touched by pain.
Don’t hold back the tears
If God has given us the ability to cry, it is so we use it. There is nothing harder than feeling pain of a person we love and seeing them clench their teeth and bear it instead of showing their distress. Crying is not a lack of faith.
So is crying a sign of weakness? Yes, and we are happy it is! It reminds us that we need God and our brothers and sisters. “We should never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts,” wrote Charles Dickens.