I watched the ALS Video of the man who, at 26, has been diagnosed with this debilitating disease.
I’ve been one of those people who was sick of the ice bucket challenge, and didn’t want to watch another video. But i watched this one, because it shows the reality of ALS, not just an ice bucket stunt, and this man is also a fellow photographer.
I was particularly struck when this man apologised for his tears.
My response is: Sir, you have nothing to apologise for. Thank you for your tears.
This post has been written for all of you who are so quick to apologise when you cry. We all do it. “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” we say. When really, we know exactly what is wrong, and that is why we are crying.
So for anyone who needs a good weep, or just a few tears, you go ahead. Tears are nothing to apologise for.
(Just a note before you read. One of the trends I have seen recently is that of people reading a post like this, and immediately coming up with all the exceptions. “What about this kind of weeping?” “You forgot to mention this about tears.” “I heard of a time/read a book/wrote a post/thought about this element that you did not cover.” I am not covering everything about tears. What I am covering here is my own experience of how tears have been a good thing, not something to apologise for, and this goes out to all of you who are so tempted to apologise when you cry.)
Tears make you vulnerable.
i have always hated being vulnerable before others. I am a pretty independent person….okay, fine, I am freakishly crazy about my independence and it is probably one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses combined. But before i got my illness (I have M.E./chronic fatigue and have had it for 10+ years), i could choose when to be vulnerable, and that was usually “hardly ever”, or, “alone where no one can see”. But my M.E. forces me to be vulnerable at the worst of times (in my opinion), and still does. My body uses tears as a response to anything too difficult on a bad day. Last Sunday I teared up during prayer meeting. I couldn’t finish singing in church because i was crying. The little girl sitting next to me in the pew tapped me during the prayer to ask why I was crying, and all I could explain to her was that i was sad. Tears point out to the world that I do not have it together, and I used to hate that. Now I am thankful for it, because it means that God is showcasing my vulnerability on His timescales, not mine. “For this reason i will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Rest. That is something I am so passionate about, because we as Christians do not understand it, and don’t get enough of it. We push ourselves far beyond the realms of possibility when we just need some rest. Some weeping. Some vulnerability. Never apologise for being vulnerable before others.
Tears are a release.
Without fail, after a good solid cry, I physically feel better. I am not instantly healed and go on my merry way – but I can go from being in a physically difficult place where it is difficult to get out of bed, to being able to get up and walk around. One night I was sitting at my computer finishing a project that had a deadline, when all I wanted to do was go to bed. I had been shooting some photos as a gift, and although it was voluntary and I was glad to do it, I was still shaky and exhausted and wanting to be anywhere but working at my computer at that moment. And just then I got a text from a friend saying, “Thank you for taking photographs to make this event last far beyond today”, and I just burst into tears for several minutes. After that, I wiped them away, made a cup of tea, and quite calmly finished my photo editing. My tears released a burden I was carrying, and I was able to move on. Never apologise for getting release.
Tears make you human.
People who do not cry – or only do it alone – seem like super-strong people. Superheroes, even. But we are not built to be superheroes the way the world understands them – strong, valiant, touched or broken by nothing. The greatest, most super hero that I have ever known or heard of sobbed His heart out the night before the most difficult experience of His life. The most difficult experience that any human being could ever have, because He was not just human. I am speaking of Jesus. He literally “sweated great drops of blood” and “offered up prayers with loud cries and tears”. Granted, He was alone, but that was only because all His friends had fallen asleep and left Him alone. Perhaps the verse of the Bible that points out Jesus’ humanity best is the shortest verse. John 11.35: Jesus wept. When your tears overwhelm you, never apologise for them, because the rest of us are so relieved that you are not this perfect strong person who can handle anything. You are like us. You are human.
Tears invite compassion.
In our efforts – my efforts – to remain strong and independent and capable, I can resist tears because I don’t want people to pity me. To give me “that look”, the one that says, “i feel sorry for you”. I still don’t like that look, because it is a helpless look on behalf of the person I am speaking to. But compassion I love. Compassion means to literally “suffer with” someone. When you suffer with someone, you do not just stare at them. Or pat them on the shoulder. Or say “Well, I hope it gets better”. You give them a hug. You think of something to do for them, and you do it. You weep with them. You listen – really, really listen, with your whole heart and ears and eyes, and without looking at your phone or getting distracted. That is what it is to suffer with. That is what it is to have compassion. Sometimes we don’t show our compassion very well. Maybe our own struggles are overwhelming us so that we can’t even think straight, or we can’t bear any more suffering ourselves. Maybe we are only thinking of our own problems and we are not truly connecting to the person suffering. Maybe we don’t understand. But when your eyes fill up with tears, you are giving the person near you an opportunity to show compassion. What they do with it is up to them. What you do with your opportunities is up to you. But never apologise for your tears, because they invite compassion.
Tears mean that you feel.
Believe me when I say that many days I am weary of how much I feel. I am a very emotional person, and I feel things very strongly. When I pray for friends who are struggling, I am often burdened to the point that I have no words. At times I literally feel their pain as a physical burden. I notice what people say – and what they don’t say – and it affects me. I think about it later, and mull it over. Some days, especially when unwell, I am easily hurt or troubled or saddened. I have to often remind myself that there is likely a physical reason that I am getting teary, or angry, or hurt, or sad. Oddly enough I don’t seem to zoom to the heights of happiness in the same way, but when I am having a good day I certainly feel a great deal more of it, and my laughter comes more quickly. But the alternative is to be stiff. Unmoved. Somber. A block of wood. Please know that I understand everyone has different personalities. Some people seem stiff, but they are just quiet or they mull things over in their minds. But no matter who you are and what your personality is, never apologise for your tears, because they show that you feel.
Tears are never forgotten by God.
One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible is, “You put my tears in your bottle; are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56.8) In the Old Testament times, those who were mourning would carry a little bottle around their neck with their tears in it. It was a reminder of their mourning, of their loss. Keeping tears in a bottle saw them as precious, worthwhile, not forgotten. If you are a child of God, He keeps all your tears in His bottle. He never forgets them. He never forgets you. He never leaves you to weep alone. Another beautiful verse is Psalm 126.5: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.” That is God’s promise for those who weep, that one day those tears will be done. We will not need the bottle of tears, because there will be no more. “Sowing” tears is work. It means that you continue to weep for a day, or a month, or a lifetime. But there is a harvest coming, and that harvest is full of joy.
For these reasons, please don’t apologise. Go ahead and weep. I support you.