Men, Women, and Crying in Public

[Updated from the archives.]

Leadership Journal humorously but pointedly addressed the stereotyping of what men supposedly really want out of church in a clever comic entitled Manly Sunday School Classes.

The comic panel depicts a bulletin board headed “Men’s Class Sign-up” with a collection of classes available. The themes of the offerings range from sports and outdoor activities (e.g., Hunting for the Kingdom taught by Jerry Blastum) to those appealing to relational and emotional aspects (e.g., The Sensitive Male Soul Winner).

The five stereotypically-named manly classes are all labeled “filled” with no room for more students. The three classes appealing to sensitivity or relational issues have notes taped to them saying, in succession, “teacher needed,” “lots of room,” and (as you might expect) “cancelled” for apparent lack of interest.

It reminded me of a pastor who was telling the church of a recent family health emergency which led to a trip to the emergency room. He started to tear up a bit, stopped talking, sniffled and then apologized, saying “It’s not good to see a man cry.”

My first impulse was to call out, Yes it is. (After all, Striving For “Manliness” Is A Fool’s Game.) My second impulse was to ask, Not good? Where’s that in the Bible? I did not follow either impulse since he was in the middle of a sermon at the time.

Men Weakening Women

The issue here is that his statement was discriminatory in at least two ways: a) men aren’t allowed to cry, and b) crying is for women, not men.

Which is another way of saying that it’s all right for women to cry and not force themselves to appear strong and stoic like men have to because, well, they’re women and they aren’t supposed to be strong.

Again I ask, Where’s that in the Bible?

Someone will invariably point to 1 Peter 3:7.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

But that verse is about the marriage relationship – not how men and women are to behave generally – and the context of the surrounding verses is concerned with a wife’s cultural position, not her physical or emotional attributes. Wives at that time (as in much of the world today) were not in as strong a position as husbands; Peter told husbands not to use this to their own advantage but to remember that their wives are just as much heirs of Christ as they are. It’s not about supposed relative strength and weakness somehow inherent in men and women. In fact, whenever someone says “Men have to be strong because women are weak” it makes me wonder if they know any women in real life.

women men weak strong.jpg

The Ultimate Crying Man

As for the statement that men shouldn’t cry, we need go no further than the example Jesus set when his friend Lazarus died.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:32-36.)

It’s not good to see men cry? Jesus was deeply moved, moved to the point of tears. And he let everyone who depended on him to be strong see those tears flow down his face.

Not good?

If Jesus did it, it is very good indeed.

***

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9 Responses to Men, Women, and Crying in Public

  1. Hi Tim, It’s been a long time since I’ve responded to your posts, although I’m still reading when I get the chance. I thought about this poem that I wrote when I read your post this morning.

    https://emotionallyrich.wordpress.com/2010/07/04/your-shoulders/

    I hope you like it. Blessings, Maureen

  2. Last week I was following along as @god_loves_women tweeted excerpts from a book called Why Men Hate Going to Church. The author’s agenda required him to paint Jesus as an armour-plated superhero rather than a human with a full range of emotions. That’s sad. I appreciate your discussion of what “weaker vessel” means in context, because it’s often used to promote unhelpful and unhealthy stereotypes like “Men shouldn’t cry.”

    • Tim says:

      Whenever I see someone teaching “Men, you have to be strong because women are weak!” it makes me wonder if they know any women in real life. Weak? Not the women I know!

  3. Pastor Bob says:

    General (four star) Noman Schwartzkopf was talking with barbera Walters after the invasion of Iraq. The General started to weep, and when she asked him if he was concerned that his men might see him crying, his response was powerful.
    “Ma’am, I would be afraid of the man who could not weep/cry.”

    We REALLY need this outlet. The one advantage that women have over men in this area (personal observation) women seem to do a better job of holding it in, and then releasing it at a better time.

    Real men CAN AND DO cry.

    • Tim says:

      It’s what men have always done, and Jesus is the most prominent. Why a pastor would announce from the pulpit that there’s a problem with it is beyond me.

      • Lea says:

        He was probably embarrassed and that’s just the first thing he said.

        I HATE to cry in public, so I get that. But this isn’t or shouldn’t be gender specific either.

        BTW, I love this: ““Men have to be strong because women are weak” it makes me wonder if they know any women in real life.” Also the Schwartzkoff quote!

  4. It seems to me that there are quite a few areas where an idea from the prevailing culture is presented and accepted as being ‘Christian’ or ‘non-Christian’. I think Americans often confuse being American with being Christian – just an observation from a non-American. I’m sure there are things about the UK that are accepted as ‘Christian’ by some of us who are believers and are actually cultural. We misidentify things as belonging to Christ (or not) at our peril.

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