it’s okay to cry.

6 Jul

I went to a funeral this weekend.  It was a small, family service held deep within the mountains of North Carolina.  It was, I suppose, one of those funerals where the mourning is focused more around saying goodbye to a well lived life, rather than angry at the universe for snatching someone from our midst too soon.  In any event, it was a sad day for our family.  So it goes.

This funeral brought to mind an issue that’s been plaguing the modern man and creating emotional volcanoes.  The problem I’m referring to is the idea that “real men don’t cry”.  Oh yes, we love spreading this lie around our culture, don’t we?  We’ve coined the term “strong silent type” and, in the rare instance that a guy does cry, it’s either celebrated as an emotional tour de force or passively scored and perceived as weak.  Both and neither of the perceptions are completely accurate – allow me to explain.

Why it should be celebrated…

Men are notorious for bottling-up good-old-fashioned, extremely helpful, emotion.  Over years and years, it’s become en vogue to keep a stiff upper lip and not allow ourselves the natural – yes, natural – expression of crying.  Crying is a physical act that enables us to manage emotion via our bodies impulses.  Isn’t that cool?  Think about it.  When you get  super scared and the adrenalin pulses, your body is naturally releasing a chemical that allows you to escape or defend the oncoming danger with super-hero-like force.  Like adrenaline, crying is a gift that your body gives you to be able to release the massive tension inside and function.

However, because we’re dumb animals, we ignore the natural impulse to cry and suck it up.  What ends up happening is that you a)never release the tension, b)work twice as hard at dealing with a situation, c)find way less constructive avenues for release, or d)all of the above.  This weekend, at the funeral, one or two tears were shed.  When men would take time to share, their voice would quiver, they’d take a deep breath, they’d apologize for showing emotion, and they would continue on.  We all know the drill, don’t we?

Imagine what a better world it would be if Hulk had just let it out?  If Kobra Khan simply allowed himself to cry? If Bebop and Rocksteady locked arms and sang a big, snotty, chorus of Lean on Me?  Joking aside, it’s helpful to cry, it’s constructive to cry, and it’s time to redefine masculinity and stop perceiving a mastery of emotions as ignoring the ones that help (crying) and celebrating the ones that hurt (sucking it up).

When crying isn’t always appropriate…

Johnny Fontane and The Godfather

Let’s examine the greatest movie of all time: The Godfather.  When Don Corleone went to view Santino’s bullet-ridden body, he cried.  Oh yes, the most powerful, manly man ever on the silver screen slobbered, snotted, and mumbled, “Look what they’ve done to my boy…look what they’ve done.”  However, and this is a big however, when freaking Johnny Fontane met with The Godfather and began to cry in his office, Vito slapped the junk out of him and said, “You can act like a man!”  What’s the difference?  Why would  crying be accepted on one hand but get you backslapped with the other?  Because there’s no room for crying in certain arenas.

Johnny Fontane was, essentially, at work.  He was upset about his job, he needed help, and he was talking to his boss.  Gentlemen, crying at work is weak.  Crying because you’re not getting enough shifts, because you just bombed a review, or  for any reason at your place of employment is not an option for a Grown Man.  At our jobs, we are hired and paid to be professional.  When you cry at work, you’re using your tears as tools to get what you want and avoiding your big-boy words to express emotion.

Also, crying with a lady-friend is okay, but you’ve got to use it sparingly.  Again, the tears as tools theory works very well on the tail end of a DTR where you feel like you’re losing the upper hand and she’s about to break up with you.  When you cry, you manipulate the relationship and that’s just not fair.  Now dont’ get me wrong, I’ll cry like a baby with my wife.  Oh lord, that woman has seen more tears than Jimmy Swaggart’s handkerchief.  But those tears are spent on times of real mourning, intense emotion, and moments when words fail me and emotion overcomes me.

The bottom line is this:  You know when crying is helpful and when it’s being used as a tool.  When it’s helpful – cry like Tammy Fae and don’t be embarrassed to let it the heck out.  Your family, friends, and society in general will thank you.  However, if you’ve got ulterior motives for crying, suck it up and be a grown freaking man about it.

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23 Responses to “it’s okay to cry.”

  1. Tyler Clark 6 July 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    Thank you for this.

    Earlier this year, my aunt and uncle were brutally murdered. I raged at work when I got the call–shaking with tears and quivering with anger. I cried a lot over the next few weeks. I cried for my aunt and uncle whose final moments were ones of terror. I cried for my mother who lost a sister. I cried for my grandmother who has been devastated by the death of her daughter. I cried for my five orphaned cousins left to wander in the wilderness. I cried out of gratefulness those who held up my family in our time of need. In moments of tragedy, tears are not only acceptable but appropriate. In my opinion, NOT crying for those things is unmanly.

    As men, we should strive to be bold in our emotions. When we love, we should love well. When we laugh, we should laugh hard. When we grieve, we should grieve thoroughly and deeply.

  2. Bonnie 6 July 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    How’d you become so wise, Grown Man? Terrific blog.

    • You're a Grown Man 6 July 2010 at 2:12 pm #

      You’re kind – thank you. I was nervous that this post jumped the shark, glad you don’t think it did.

  3. Rob Sharpe 6 July 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    Thank you so much for working to remove this most ridiculous stereotype.

    • You're a Grown Man 6 July 2010 at 2:13 pm #

      It is ridiculous, isn’t it? There’s just nothing beneficial about not expressing emotion.

      Thanks for liking the post and being kind enough to comment, Rob.

  4. Heather 6 July 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Yes! Definitely another fridge hanger (I just took the last one off yesterday–sorry, snapped a picture but didn’t get around to sending it).

    I’m hoping my he-man, tough-as-nails, never-say-cry, studying-to-be-part-of-a-swat-team, Sam Fisher disciple son will see it the next time he reaches in to get milk for his Fruit Loops and that the floodgates explode in a torrential throwing off of throttled emotions–all over the kitchen floor; cascading into his room and sweeping away all those video games and action movies–fresh flowers springing up in the aftermath… Or, at the very least, he’ll realize it’s okay to admit life leaves you vulnerable at times.


    • You're a Grown Man 6 July 2010 at 11:04 pm #

      That was literally the longest sentence I’ve ever read. Nice work.

      Good call on life leaving you vulnerable. It’s not so much an IF you ever need to cry, but WHEN you need to cry.

      Thanks, as always, Heather for reading and commenting.

  5. spiritofshizuku 6 July 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    First of all, I’m very sorry for your loss.

    I had wondered what you would think about crying; I’m not surprised to find out that this is how you feel about it. I agree with you.
    It may sound silly, but one of the things that helped me realize that it’s okay for Grown Men to cry was one of my favorite TV shows called “Supernatural”. The two lead characters have shed their fair share of tears, and they’re definitely Grown Men (at least, most of the time) in my eyes.

    I think sometimes it can really take some courage to cry. I’ve always felt sort of vulnerable when I cry, and because of that I don’t like to cry in front of people very often.

    • You're a Grown Man 6 July 2010 at 11:08 pm #

      I’ve never heard of “Supernatural”, I’ll have to check it out.

      I’m really pleased that you agree with the post. And I agree, it can take real courage to cry – especially for guys who are relative newbies at letting the volcano erupt.

      You’re great, Spiritofshizuku, thanks for reading Grown Man.

  6. Ian 6 July 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    I really enjoyed the allusion to Slaughterhouse 5: hopefully you intended it! You master not only the role of Grown Man but also the language of a well-read GM.

    • You're a Grown Man 6 July 2010 at 11:12 pm #

      You’re the winner! You win nothing, of course, but you totally got the hidden reference. Kurt Vonnegut is the best, isn’t he?

      You’re the man, Billy Pilgrim.

  7. lookingforsomethingtofind 6 July 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    First of all my condelscences. Second this is really one of the best posts, or articles I’ve yet to read anywhere on the internet, wonderfully written and heartfelt.

    What’s interesting about this, is men not crying, is a relatively recent thing in history, in the 17th century there was not a stigma in emotionality, in the ancient world, it was considered part of being a man. I read this interesting book, The Trojan War: a new history, it brings up the fact, it was considered unmanly not to be emotional.

    • You're a Grown Man 6 July 2010 at 11:15 pm #

      Thank you, looking, I appreciate it.

      I wonder what changed post-17th century that got guys panties in a wad? American and French revolution maybe? Huh, you’ve really got me thinking…

  8. Dan 6 July 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Great post, Grown Man!

  9. Niña 7 July 2010 at 2:44 am #

    First of all, my sincerest condolences. I am Grown Woman who only cries for three reasons, when someone dies, when I can’t put my emotions into words and when I am truly touched. But when I do cry, I let it all out. It feels nice afterward.

    I dated guys who refused to cry in front of me but they did cry while we were talking on the phone. In my culture, more so the more localized ones, the men are ultra-macho and they don’t let other people see it unless it’s a funeral or a truly touching moment. On the later part there are a lot of jeering that happens. But the lose of a loved one brings tears even to strangers eyes.

    Some people say that heart problems are related to this kind of keep our emotions bottled up thing. I guess that could be a factor men oughta consider when they want to suck it in.

    • You're a Grown Man 15 July 2010 at 2:45 pm #

      Wow, thank you for sharing all of that. The “heart problems” theory is interesting. For that, and a number of other reasons, it’s never a great idea to bottle it all up for to long.

      Thanks for reading, Niña.

  10. Anas Shafqat 10 July 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    Let this post enlighten many men who think it’s unmanly to cry! Keep posting such wonderful posts :] Ta-ra

  11. Tom 15 July 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Not only is this one of the flat-out finest pieces I’ve read in a while, it has attracted some commendably confessional endorsements from some beautifully like-minded people. Just when the world was looking somewhat bleak to me, you’ve allowed a heartening peek into the true compassionate nature of community. This site is an amazing resource, a fountain of honest information – rife with humanity and a healthy sense of humor.

    • You're a Grown Man 15 July 2010 at 2:48 pm #


      Thank you. What a kind and welcome comment. I’m glad you read and hope you continue to find the site amusing and possibly even helpful.

      Kind regards,

  12. Noel 6 March 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Grown Man, I am a guy who thinks I am too sensitive. I can cry at a drop of a hat, just by thinking about certain things. I even cry more than my wife. I have thought that this is not normal, that I should suck it up, be tough, and be “a real man”. Of course, I learned this from society, but my nature tells me otherwise. When I cry, I try to do it when no one is around, so that nobody sees me. I don’t like to be perceive as weak. At the same time, it angers me that I find myself pretending to be someone I am not. This is probably why I rather show my frustration through angry outbursts . This post reminded me that it is still acceptable to cry, even if I am a man. Thank you.


  1. Ask a Grown Man: Vol. IX « you're a grown man - 12 August 2010

    [...] are right.  You’re a Grown Man is a blog for all men.  Being okay with crying, loving babies, hugging each other, and everything else I rant about is universal.  In fact, I’d [...]

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