After an extensive hiatus that has been far too long, this blog will revive with this post continuing our study on male tears. In the last installment, we talked about all the times Jesus cried, and concluded the only thing we saw that made Jesus cry was the sin and unbelief of His people, at one time seen juxtaposed with coming judgment. In this installment we’ll talk about my personal philosophy of crying and how it fits with the Bible. In the next installment you’ll see the promised list of all the times I cried in college, which for me ended in March of 2016.
This will come as a shock to many of you, but I tend to lean somewhat right of center on some political issues. Because of this slight rightward leaning, I enjoy comedians like Steven Crowder and Andrew Klavan. One of my favorite pieces of conservative comedy is this video. As you may have noticed, his first tip coincidentally corresponds to our title today. Since you may wish to follow his tip and abandon all your principles, I will today provide you with one example of how to do so: cry, at all times, for all reasons.
All joking aside, I do have some principles for you. To start let’s define what a man is. Borrowing from a definition used by Chris Hamilton (current elder at Grace Community Church), a man is:
- A Protector,
- A Provider,
- A Leader.
We’ll unite this definition with our main principle, which we can entitle The Purpose Principle:
Actions should be done for a specific purpose that fits into the broader purpose of the individual.
So then, when a man cries, it must fit into his broader purpose of existence, his raison d’être. Westminster reminds us that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and this can be further solidified by stating that the purpose of man is to fulfill the definition above. Then even a man’s crying should aid in his protecting, providing, and leading. It should be obvious that crying can only have to do with leading. Except in rare circumstances, crying will neither protect nor provide anything. The rest of this article will explain how a man can lead by crying, hopefully answering the question, When is it time to weep?
Crying, at least when you’re not alone, is a means of communication. It’s about sending a message. One cannot lead without followers, nor communicate without an audience. So when we discuss leading by crying, we must discuss the effects of crying on those around us. These will be determined by the context of the culture. In our culture, crying usually expresses sadness, and most sadness is caused by loss, either actual or potential. (We usually call potential loss disappointment.) Thus arises the question, loss of what? Intuitively we know the difference between crying over the loss of a loved one and crying over the loss of now spilled milk. Which losses are worth crying over in general? What losses are worth communicating to others? How can we lead by communicating loss? Men can lead through their crying by communicating the loss of their highest values as determined by their objective principles. The other thing people cry over is extreme happiness, or rather greatest gain. Men can lead through crying by communicating the gain of their highest values as determined by their objective principles.
Now we must define values and principles. A principle is an ideal, usually a rule, that a person holds to at any cost. A principle is founded on what the person believes to be a surpassing truth of reality. Principles, while held subjectively, are objective statements about reality. A value, on the other hand, is anything that a person values enough to offer payment for it. Values are based on principles. When I go to the store and purchase an AR-15 or several hundred rounds of 5.56 NATO, I’m showing that I value owning that AR-15 or ammunition more than I value having that amount of money in my bank account or a similar quantity of gold or several hundred dollars of adult coloring books (frankly I pick the gun over several thousand dollars of adult coloring books). Those values are based on my principles. It is a principle of mine that I have a right to self-defense, and therefore a stewardship and responsibility in protecting life (see our definition of man). Because of that principle, I value owning an AR-15 and appropriate ammunition. But not all values are created equal. I also value not eating mushrooms. However, I’ve eaten mushrooms for the sake of more important values, like not offending the people who gave me food on a missions trip. I value not having milk and sugar in my coffee more than not having mushrooms; I’ll eat mushrooms if this will stop you from defiling my coffee. My love of pure coffee is a higher value. My absolute highest values are the sorts of things I’d die for, like Christ and the gospel, or the life and liberty of my loved ones. I would, however, also call things I’m not likely to die for as my highest values as well, such as the welfare of my nation, or my desire for companionship or marriage, or reformed theology. The sorts of things I’d cry over are my highest values.
Let’s start with a light hearted example. On Sunday, June 19, 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Golden State Warriors played the basketball Game of the Century. See the highlights if the end to the 42 year drought of major sports championships in Cleveland is news to you. In this game, justice was done after the battle raged, Lebron really fought when Curry rattled his cage, and the Warriors were sorry that they messed with the Cavs, who put a boot to their rear. It’s the American way! After the game, unsurprisingly, Lebron cried. Some people mocked him. Some of my friends mocked him! I can’t mock him. Lebron’s crying was consistent with my philosophy of crying. The guiding principle of every basketball team except the Philadelphia 76ers is, “Win as much as possible.” The highest value of a basketball player or a basketball team is winning the championship. This is felt more acutely in the case of a team like Cleveland which had never won a championship. Thus, when Lebron broke down in tears after Game 7, he was leading his team in celebrating their supreme achievement. His tears said, “It’s over! We won! Justice has been served, Evil has been vanquished. We are the champions, we have arrived, there is nowhere higher to go now!” The Cavs had achieved their highest value.
Let’s consider and example of crying interfering with leading. Let’s watch Samwise Gamgee cry (he does that a lot):
Here Sam cries and lets Frodo walk into Golumn’s trap in Shelob’s lair. This is failing to lead because of crying! Sam’s loyalty to Frodo is one of his highest values, so Frodo’s rejection is a profound loss which is worthy of tears. But here the tears interfere with Sam’s purpose as a man (man hobbit?) to protect and lead. He should have done something to prevent Frodo from being led to probable death. He fails to seek Frodo’s best good. Later he DOES pull himself together kill Shelob, but here he fails to fulfill his role by crying, and unfortunately in doing so abandons all his principles. Generally, when your principles demand you do something, crying only gets in the way. This is where a lot of comments like, “Pull yourself together! Man up!” come from.
Now let’s consider a Biblical passage, with credits given to a reader of the blog. Consider Paul’s farewell to the elders in Ephesus:
When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship. (Acts 20:36-38)
The elders expressed their loss of highest values, in this case their spiritual father Paul, in tears. This fits the philosophy of crying I’ve laid out so far perfectly. Crying can be a great way to lead and express Godly emotion.
Other examples of leading by crying would include crying over sin (following Jesus’ example from our last post) or over the sin of others, crying over lost souls, crying over a major life accomplishment, or crying when we see something that reflects our highest values, whether that be something in a book or the lives of our friends or a story we hear from abroad. Jesus’ tears showed us how important sin is to God; His tears fit the philosophy outlined here fairly well. Crying can communicate the importance and significance of an event.
So when does leading necessitate not crying? Not crying can communicate your belief in the eternal realm of higher and lasting value, that this earth is passing and trivial, and your faith in future reunification in heaven. This can include not crying at some partings, some funerals, some losses of major amounts of property, etc. Not crying in movies can communicate that some things are fake and trivial and only distract us from the real and the lasting. Not crying over many losses or your own eminent death can demonstrate your faith in God. Not crying can demonstrate the triviality or insignificance of an event.
It is clear that defining the line for when it is appropriate to weep is a wisdom issue and deeply personal. However, I still believe that the Bible, by virtue of speaking to masculinity, speaks to the appropriateness of when men cry. Let us not, then, give in to our feelings, and abandon all our principles.