A good laugh is one of life’s good gifts. Happiness is an emotion we like to participate in as a group, and especially so when that happiness overflows into laughter. We will gladly pay good money to sit in a theatre and allow Jim Gaffigan or Brian Regan make us laugh for a couple hours. And in the aftermath just the words “hot pockets” or “girth units” is enough to get us laughing again.
Laughter is best shared. A funny moment isn’t nearly as funny when we experience it alone. So we re-enact our favorite comedy sketches. We tell our funny stories. We recount the comedic exploits of our children. We tell the embarrassing tales from other’s peoples lives and sometimes from our own. And when we do that we share the laughter and join in it together. It’s such a pleasure.
We are all comfortable sharing laughter. But there are other expressions of emotion—even good and healthy emotions—that we are not comfortable sharing.
Take sorrow, for example. Every man knows that tears are private. Men laugh in a group but cry alone. “He is hilarious” is a compliment; “He is a crier” is an insult. “He is hilarious” praises him for being manly while “he is a crier” criticizes him for being unmanly.
Why is it that laughter is lauded and tears are shameful? Why do I share my laughter and hide my tears? Why do I laugh aloud and weep silently?
No one wants to share a good cry like they share a good laugh. I will laugh during a sermon, if there is something to laugh about; but I won’t cry if there is something to cry about. I will laugh during a funny movie, but I won’t cry during a sad one. I express my happiness for all to see and a stifle my sorrow so no one will see. I will sing my worship with visible joy, but I will not sing my worship with visible sorrow.
No one has ever told me it has to be this way. It is something I’ve picked up along the way. It’s been the message I’ve received from all around. Real men don’t cry. Not in public, anyway. Not where others can see them.
It’s pride, I’m sure. Pride that flows out of believing a lie. The lie is that a real man will allow himself to express only the happy emotions. Laugh all you want, but don't you dare cry. Express your joy but not your sorrow. Joy is a public emotion, sorrow a private one. This is what I've learned and this is what I pass to the next generation.
But then I think of the Bible which describes many more occasions of public sorrow than public laughter. But then I think of Jesus who was perfectly manly and yet perfectly shameless in crying great tears of sorrow. And I start to understand it is good to laugh together, but equally good, maybe even better, to cry together. Real men laugh, but real men cry too.